Ryan Murphy, USA's best chance of an Olympic backstroke gold? 

Ryan Murphy at the TYR Pro Swim Series in San Antonio
Ryan Murphy at the TYR Pro Swim Series in San Antonio

Ryan Murphy is a gift that keeps on giving. He proved this at the Rio Olympics in 2016 where he won 3 gold medals and also set a new world record in his debut Olympics.

Rightly called “the king of backstroke”, the 25-year-old, who specializes in 100m and 200m back events, announced himself to the world after he broke Aaron Peirsol’s world record in 100m backstroke with a split time of 51.85 in the medley relay.

Blessings from an Olympic gold medalist

Ryan Murphy still remembers the moment that made him believe he could become a star, more than 9 years ago. Ryan Murphy was in his junior year of high school and swam in the trials for the 100m and 200m backstroke for the London Olympics in 2012.

He was the youngest man in both events and managed impressive 4th and 6th-place finishes, respectively. Ryan Murphy may have missed out on medals that year, but it was very clear that this man was meant to reach the top of his sport.

This wasn’t just a general opinion as Matt Grevers, who became the fifth straight American man to win the gold in 100m back, said to a young Ryan Murphy, “You’re next”.

“It made me feel so confident that someone who went on to win the Olympic gold that year saw that potential in me,” said the 17 year old now brimming with confidence as he took those words to heart and worked day and night to make it true.

Battle with migraines

Ryan Murphy will have his eyes set on making the Tokyo Olympic team this year but he faces an even bigger battle outside the water.

Ryan Murphy has revealed that he has been battling with migraines for many years. He says these migraines get even worse when he’s under stress, which is an obvious disadvantage during any competition when the stakes are high.

“A lot of the time migraines come as a result of stress, so when I have a lot going on and then you couple that with the migraines, it is a little bit tough to deal with.”

Murphy said that the first time he had a migraine was on the way to the Olympic trials in 2012. Since then, he has educated himself about the disease by learning to control his symptoms, and partnered up with a prescription medicine sponsor on the U.S. Olympic Committee.

NCAA '16 to Tokyo '21, a change in Ryan Murphy's fortunes?

Ryan Murphy is one of the few swimmers to have bagged gold medals in the 100m and 200m events of a stroke (backstroke) for 4 consecutive years in the NCAA Championships. He broke plenty of records while competing at the NCAA Championships, the most notable being in 100y and 200y back in 2016 as he set a national record in both events.


It was therefore a surprise to see a dip in Ryan Murphy's form for at the most recent World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea in 2019. It was a hotly contested event and Ryan Murphy finished outside a podium finish by just 0.01 in the 100m backstroke, and managed a silver in the 200m version of the stroke. He again finished 0.02 outside a bronze in the 50m back.

It’s common knowledge that the U.S. has a plethora of options for backstroke with young swimmers like Shaine Casas and Justin Ress challenging for an Olympic berth. “The King of Backstroke”, Ryan Murphy will therefore need to find his form before Wave II U.S. trials that are scheduled for this month. He will, after all, be desperate to add to his Olympic gold tally in the Tokyo Olympics.

Read: Tokyo 2021 Olympics: All you need to know about swimming events

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Edited by S Chowdhury
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