Olympics: Evgeny Rylov Tops Men’s 200 Backstroke Semifinals, Luke Greenbank & Ryan Murphy 2-3

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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Olympics: Evgeny Rylov Tops Men’s 200 Backstroke Semifinals, Luke Greenbank & Ryan Murphy 2-3

One man has swept both the 100 and 200-meter backstroke at three of the last five Olympic Games, with Lenny Krayzelburg in 2000, Aaron Peirsol in 2004 and, most recently, Ryan Murphy in 2016. The Russian Olympic Committee’s Evgeny Rylov will be bidding to join them in the men’s 200 backstroke final. Rylov will enter as the top seed and favorite after he won gold previously in the 100 back and took a silver as part of the ROC’s 800 free relay Wednesday morning.

In the first semifinal, Rylov built a significant lead on the field before shutting it down on the last 50 and cruising into the wall at 1:54.45. Rylov owns the fastest time in the world at 1:53.23, and he is the two-time defending world champion in the event. He touched first in his heat by almost two seconds.

Joining Rylov on the podium at the last World Championships were Murphy and Great Britain’s Luke Greenbank, and it makes sense that this trio will again be on the podium Friday morning in Tokyo. Greenbank, the top qualifier after prelims, won the second semifinal in 1:54.98, while Murphy finished just behind in 1:55.38 to claim the third seed. Murphy executed a powerful last turn and underwater portion of the race and quickly accelerated, but then he slowed down significantly as he cruised into the wall, doing just enough to qualify for the heat. Murphy ranks second in the world at 1:54.20, and an outing in the 1:53 range is possible for the final.

That trio is a full eight tenths clear of the field. Hungary’s Adam Telegdy finished second to in the first semifinal to qualify fourth in 1:56.19, while Spain’s Nicolas Garcia Saiz (1:56.35) and the USA’s Bryce Mefford (1:56.37) finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Mefford is the only man in this field aside from Rylov, Murphy and Greenbank who has broken 1:54 this season, the time set in finishing second to his Cal-Berkeley teammate Murphy at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month.

A pair of veterans qualified seventh and eighth: Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki, the silver medalist in the event at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, was seventh in 1:56.68, and Japan’s Ryosuke Irie, who took silver at Worlds in 2009 and 2011 and at the 2012 Olympics, was eighth in 1:56.69. That locked out France’s Yohann N’Doye Brouard, who was ninth in 1:56.83. N’Doye-Brouard previously crashed into the wall in the 100 back semifinals, attributing the mistake to an eye issue, but he recorded a strong bounce-back in the four-lap event, even if he just missed the final heat.

Notably, Australia’s Mitch Larkin did not compete in the 200 back in Tokyo. Larkin, the silver medalist in the event behind Murphy in 2016 and the 2015 world champion in the event, ranks third in the world at 1:54.38, but he chose to instead pursue the 200 IM, held concurrently with the 200 back, at these Games.


  1. Evgeny Rylov (Russia), 1:54.45
  2. Luke Greenbank (Great Britain), 1:54.98
  3. Ryan Murphy (USA), 1:55.38
  4. Adam Telegdy (Hungary), 1:56.19
  5. Nicolas Garcia Saiz (Spain), 1;56.35
  6. Bryce Mefford (USA), 1:56.37
  7. Radoslaw Kawecki (Poland), 1:56.68
  8. Ryosuke Irie (Japan), 1:56.69
  9. Yohann N’Doye-Brouard (France), 1:56.83 (five swimmers within 1/4 second

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