2021 TYR Pro Swim Series: Ryan Murphy Completes Backstroke Double; Isabelle Stadden Notches Strong 200 Back

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 TYR Pro Swim Series: Ryan Murphy Completes Backstroke Double; Isabelle Stadden Notches Strong 200 Back

The way Ryan Murphy looked in his prime events over the weekend, it is clear the reigning Olympic champion in both backstroke events is ready to pursue repeats in Tokyo. One night after posting an excellent January performance in the 100 backstroke, Murphy claimed victory in the 200 back while racing at the San Antonio stop of the TYR Pro Swim Series.

“The 200 back is a little more strategy,” Ryan Murphy said. I think that is one where these in-season swims matter a little bit more. I’ve got to feel what that pain feels like and learn how to push through that as best as possible.”

Competing in a field that featured only four swimmers, due to minimal entries and scratches, Murphy pushed himself to a winning mark of 1:56.82. Murphy’s effort in the longer backstroke discipline came on the heels of a 53-mid clocking in the 100 back. At this point in the season, with most athletes enduring a heavy training cycle, Murphy looks to be in a strong position on the road to an Olympic-titles defense.

“The 100 this weekend was probably better for what my potential was at this meet. My 200 back I made more mistakes within the race and I feel like I executed a little bit better in the 100. That speed will continue to build throughout the season and with that speed, the 100 back will continue to get a little bit better.”

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Murphy won the 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke and set a world record leading off the United States’ gold-medal winning 400 medley relay. Now, following a one-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Murphy is putting the pieces together for a similar chase at the Tokyo Games. In San Antonio, he was followed to the wall by Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas, who went 1:58.04 and figures to chase bids to the Olympics in both backstrokes.

“You look at the field and that was three of the best four guys in the US right now. That was a pretty studly field even if the quantity of the people was not a ton. The quality was good. It was fun to go against those guys and it is always exciting to step up against the best.”

Just before Murphy completed his backstroke sweep, Isabelle Stadden took first place in the women’s 200 back. Stadden raced to a triumphant time of 2:09.31, with Phoebe Bacon following in 2:10.51. The race was missing world-record holder Regan Smith, who qualified third in the prelims but decided to scratch out of the evening session.

“This morning I swam a little slower on the second 50 but I tried to build into it and I think emphasizing the building aspect of my last 50 carries into the fourth 50,” Stadden said.

The 200 backstroke, as is the case with the 100 back, will be one of the deepest events of the Olympic Trials among the women. In addition to the athletes who raced on Sunday night, Smith and Kathleen Baker will be added to the field. Stadden is in her first year at Cal Berkeley, swimming for a legendary coach in Teri McKeever.

“It’s a very different style of training but I love it so much,” Stadden said of life in Berkeley. “It’s really healthy to regain my touch with the water and really focus on working with the water and working skills.”

“I was really grateful for this opportunity. I didn’t know when the next time was going to be when I would be able to race long course. We’ve had a couple racing opportunities but they’ve mostly been short course. It’s really nice to race long course and get to see and race everyone that will most likely be at Trials. It was tough getting back and trying to remember how to swim but it was fun to use prelims to remember how to swim that race and then at finals to just go for it.”