Viral video showed Dressel throwing his medal into the stands to teammate Brooks Curry, who swam in the relay prelims the night before to help propel the Americans into the final.
“Class act from a world class athlete,” NBC wrote.
Curry’s racing allowed Dressel to rest up for what will be a grueling Olympics for the star.
“I had the easiest job last night out of everyone here,” Dressel said. “I got to watch it on TV. So I felt like he deserved that a little more than me.”
It was all in the gesture, though. Every U.S. relay member will get the gold medal, no matter what round they swam in.
Dressel, Blake Pieroni and Bowe Becker swam first, second and third legs in the 47-second range, then Zach Apple anchored the Americans to victory with a blazing 46.69 split.