Russia’s Evgeny Rylov Earns Swimming World European Male Swimmer of the Year Honors

Jul 27, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Evgeny Rylov (ROC) shows off his gold medal during the medals ceremony for the men's 100m backstroke during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Russia’s Evgeny Rylov Earns European Male Swimmer of the Year Honors

The title of Youth Olympic Games gold medalist stamped him as a future star. When he was crowned a European and world champion, he distinguished himself as a global force. For legendary status, however, he had to strike Olympic gold, a daunting task given the primary obstacle in his path.

Evgeny Rylov mastered the challenge.

At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Russian star swept the backstroke events – and snapped an American stranglehold on the discipline – to define himself as a great in the sport. He was the sole swimmer from his continent to secure a pair of individual titles, an effort that lifted the 25-year-old to European Male Swimmer of the Year honors.

In what was a three-way battle for European supremacy, Rylov claimed five of a possible 11 first-place votes and tallied 48 points to fend off a pair of fellow Olympic champs. Great Britain’s Adam Peaty, who repeated as Olympic champ in the 100 breaststroke, secured four first-place votes and finished second with 40 points. Third place went to Hungarian Kristof Milak, the Olympic gold medalist in the 200 butterfly, with two first-place nods and 37 points.

When Rylov arrived in Tokyo for his second Olympic Games appearance, he rated among the favorites in each of his events. Still, a major barrier loomed: Ryan Murphy, the reigning double-Olympic backstroke champion from the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. If Rylov wanted to assert himself as an all-timer, he had to go through an athlete who already held that distinction.

The runnerup to Caeleb Dressel for World Swimmer of the Year, Rylov opened his pursuit of Olympic glory by claiming the title in the 100 backstroke. Dueling with countryman Kliment Kolesnikov throughout the two laps, Rylov surged to the top of the podium with a European-record time of 51.98, Kolesnikov grabbing silver in 52.00. Murphy captured the bronze medal with a mark of 52.19.

Backing up his performance in the shorter distance, Rylov capped his double with a dominant showing in his better event, the 200 backstroke. Leading wire to wire, the two-time world champion won in 1:53.27, nearly a second clear of Murphy (1:54.15). Both of Rylov’s triumphs snapped six-Games winning streaks by the United States, runs that started at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

For good measure, Rylov was a key contributor to Russia’s silver-medal winning 800 freestyle relay. As Russia finished behind Great Britain, Rylov handled the third leg and produced a split of 1:45.26.

If Rylov hoped to celebrate his crowning moments in peace, that desire crumbled shortly after the conclusion of the 200 backstroke. In post-race comments to the media, Murphy suggested the backstroke finals were not free of doping. While he did not accuse Rylov of partaking in performance-enhancing drug use, Russia’s tainted past made it easy to connect the dots. Rylov was unflustered by Murphy’s assertion, calmly affirming that he had no link to doping. The Russian Olympic Committee, though, went on the attack.

“How unnerving our victories are for some of our colleagues,” the Russian Olympic Committee said in a statement which was soaked in sarcasm. “Yes, we are here at the Olympics. Whether someone likes it or not. The old barrel organ started the song about Russian doping again. English-language propaganda, oozing with verbal sweat in the Tokyo heat. Through the mouths of athletes offended by defeats. We will not console you. Forgive us those who are weaker. God is their judge. And for us – an assistant.”

Regardless of the turmoil that surrounded Rylov, he will forever be known as an Olympic champion, and for 2021, the best swimmer Europe had to offer.

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2 years ago

Ryan Murphy should apologize publicly to Rylov for his undocumented accusations – however not surprisingly to see american athletes behave that way when they are loosing fair and square. Congrats to Rylov with his Olympic gold.

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