Back In Training, Ryan Murphy Targeting Paris 2024; Legendary Backstroke Status Within Reach


Back In Training, Ryan Murphy Targeting Paris 2024; Legendary Backstroke Status Within Reach

Following a well-deserved break from the pool, Ryan Murphy revealed on social media last week that he has returned to training. A six-time Olympic medalist, Murphy has officially started his quest for a third Olympic berth, Paris 2024 the target. The Cal-Berkeley product was a triple-gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and he earned three medals at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Murphy enjoyed a strong performance at this past summer’s World Championships in Budapest, where he claimed the first individual world title of his career behind a clocking of 1:54.52 in the 200-meter backstroke. He was also the silver medalist in the 100 backstroke and earned gold (mixed medley) and silver (medley relay) in relay duty.

Without another achievement, Murphy is a lock for future induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. In addition to his six Olympic medals, the 27-year-old is a 13-time medalist at the World Champs and was the world-record holder in the 100 backstroke until a few months ago. Yet, if Murphy flourishes at another Olympiad, he could ascend to top-three status in the history of the backstroke.

Determining all-time greatness is not an easy task, but in the backstroke events, it is difficult to argue against East Germany’s Roland Matthes and the United States’ Aaron Peirsol as the best in history. Matthes was the double-Olympic champ in 1968 and 1972, and added a bronze medal in the 100 backstroke in 1976. As for Peirsol, his Olympic backstroke double in 2004 was followed by a gold in the 100 backstroke and silver in the 200 backstroke in 2008. Along the way, Peirsol secured 12 medals at the World Champs and, like Matthes, a bushelful of world records.

Murphy’s career has been defined not just by his success in the pool, but through his leadership. As a captain for Team USA, Murphy’s demeanor and words have each carried weight. Fellow athletes and Team USA staff coaches have admired his worth ethic, determination and focus. Meanwhile, Murphy has used his voice to have an impact, such as when he spoke out against doping at the Tokyo Games.

Now that he is back in training, Murphy is eyeing what is primarily a two-year plan. The 2023 World Championships are scheduled for next summer in Fukuoka, Japan, and that competition will serve as a major barometer for Paris. However, the French capital, and what will unfold there in 2024, is undoubtedly the major goal. If Murphy can claim medals at a third consecutive Games, the feat would hold significant sway in identifying him as a top-three backstroker of all-time – a distinction that can also be argued for the likes of John Naber and Adolph Kiefer.

Always up for a challenge, Murphy will have plenty ahead of him. Not only is the backstroke stacked in the United States, Italian Thomas Ceccon set a world record of 51.60 en route to the gold medal at the World Championships. Meanwhile, Russian Evgeny Rylov, who was the double-Olympic titlist in the backstroke events in Tokyo, is expected to return to global competition in 2023. Rylov is currently serving a nine-month suspension by FINA for appearing at a political rally in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of the Ukraine. Rylov’s suspension ends in January 2023, although FINA will also have to decide when it will allow the return of Russian athletes. They are currently banned from action through the end of the year.

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