Olympics: Ryan Murphy Makes Move, Leads Finalists in Men’s 100 Backstroke

Jul 25, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Evgeny Rylov (ROC) reacts after the men's 100m backstroke heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

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The Team USA dominance in the 100 backstroke could continue after the way Ryan Murphy swam the 100 backstroke semifinal in the Tokyo Olympics.

USA has swept the backstroke events since 1996, including Murphy winning both in Rio in 2016. He is looking to repeat in the 100 backstroke after a strong semifinal swim.

“It felt easier than last night, so that was nice. Last night, I was really nervous, I was swimming tight. This morning, I’m a little bit comfortable with the meet. It’s good. I think every session will feel a little bit less nervous and I’ll be good. It’s a really close team, so it’s really easy to get really fired up when everyone’s performing,” Ryan Murphy said. “The main goal is to advance. The next goal is to swim close enough to the tempo that I can feel it a little bit and try to improve a little bit for the tomorrow.”

In the first semifinal, Ryan Murphy looked extremely strong, going a second faster than he did in prelims to touch the wall in in 52.24. Australia’s Mitch Larkin took she second spot in 52.76 in the first semifinal.

In the second semifinal, it was ROC’s Kliment Kolesnikov that touched the wall first in 52.29 and will have the second seed in finals behind Murphy. Compatriot Evgeny Rylov was second in the heat in 52.91, ahead of China’s Xu Jiayu (52.94) and Spain’s Hugo Gonzalez (53.05).

1. Ryan Murphy, USA, 52.24
2. Kliment Kolesnikov, ROC, 52.29
3. Mitch Larkin, Australia, 52.76
4. Thomas Ceccon, Italy, 52.78
5. Evgeny Rylov, ROC, 52.91
6. Xu Jiayu, China, 52.94
7. Hugo Gonzalez, Spain, 53.05
8. Robert Glinta, Romania, 53.20

Men’s 100 Backstroke

World Record: Ryan Murphy, United States, 51.85 (2016)
Olympic Record: Ryan Murphy, United States, 51.85 (2016)

The Set up

In the prelims,  Kliment Kolesnikov continued his strong year, earlier setting a world record in the 50-meter backstroke to clocking the second-fastest time in the world in the 100 freestyle, the 21-year-old has long looked ready to excel at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. That preparedness was put on display during the preliminaries of the 100 backstroke on Sunday night at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

He finished in 52.15,  0.34 ahead of No. 2 qualifier Thomas Ceccon of Italy. Ceccon recorded a time of 52.49.

Three other men dipped under the 53-second barrier, including two-time world champion Xu Jiayu of China, who managed a time of 52.70. He was followed in qualifying by Australia’s Mitch Larkin (52.97) and Japanese veteran Ryosuke Irie, who went 52.99. France’s Yohann Ndoye Brouard was next at 53.13, with American Ryan Murphy and Russia’s Evgeny Rylov posting matching marks of 53.22.

The defending champion, Murphy took it easy through prelims and is waiting for the necessary time to dip into his reserve. Murphy was stellar at the Olympic Trials and is seeking to give the United States its seventh straight gold medal in the event.