Ryan Murphy Focused on Racing at Worlds, But Thinking Ahead

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Dan D’Addona.

From the time Ryan Murphy arrives at the pool to the time he touches the wall, he is thinking.

It could be practice, it could be a small meet, or the Olympics — he is always thinking.

But this week, Murphy is relishing the opportunity to get out of his own head and just race. He leads Team USA into this week’s FINA Short Course World Swimming Championships in Hanghzhou, China.

“For me, it is a great racing opportunity,” Murphy told Swimming World in a recent interview. “I love going against the best in the sport. It is nice going into the meet having no real time expectations. The race strategy is really unique. I am someone who thinks a lot, even doing a 50 pace in warmups. I think about my time and my pace. But I honestly have no idea what my short-course meters pace is because I don’t have those times. It will be cool going on the blocks competing.

“I am confident heading into worlds. I had the best fall training I ever had. I have been pretty consistent with my training, but this is also the first time I have dropped down and had a little bit of a rest in the fall since high school. I am pretty excited to see how the meet goes. I am cautiously optimistic.”

While Murphy thinks about times and race strategy, he also thinks about the future, keeping his career goal oriented — especially after already achieving his life-long goal of winning Olympic gold and setting a world record. He is focused on 2020.

“I am a big planner. I definitely think from right to left. So once we got out of 2016 and let the emotions settle down, my thought process was my main focus being 2020. I still worked really hard in the pool, but I am definitely hungry for more. That was a great starting point for where I am now. I know what I want to improve.

“So I am feeling good making the push to 2020.”

That push forward wasn’t immediately apparent after such a successful Olympics in Rio. What would his goal be now?

“That was my question after 2016. It took a while. I feel like I didn’t have any motivation in the water until like a month before worlds in 2017. You have to reset and figure out what you want when you achieve the goals you had since you were 6 years old,” he said. “For me, I went through 2017 just trying to maintain. That definitely wasn’t a good mindset to have. I had to remember why I loved swimming. It wasn’t for the medals, it was because of the great competition.”

He certainly had great competition at the Olympics, leading to the greatest moment of Murphy’s career.

“It was incredible. Going into the year, I wasn’t expecting to have the meet I had. That was about the perfect meet for me at that time. Going in, I was someone who really downplayed the Olympics in my head and how your life is going to change. My goal was always to win gold at the Olympics and break the world record. It was really cool that I was able to do that with my family in the stands,” he said. “As we get to 2020, I hope I have a lot more of those moments.”

With his success in Rio, and push to 2020, more people are keeping an eye on Murphy. He is one of the faces of USA Swimming and the latest in an incredible line of gold medal backstrokers that includes Aaron Peirsol, Lenny Krayzelburg, Tyler Clary, Ryan Lochte and Matt Grevers.

“It is awesome to be a part of that,” Murphy said. “The past couple years I have gotten to know all of those guys pretty well. It is incredible the amount of support we have for each other. They are incredible guys that I have looked up to. It is almost like a fraternity. That is definitely not something I take lightly. Their support has meant a lot, and hopefully, I can give that support to whoever comes next.”

That support started way before his Olympic success, which makes it mean even more to Murphy.
It started when he was a teen and met Grevers for the first time.

“Matt is an incredible guy. I first met him when I was 13-14 years old. I was swimming with Sergio Lopez at Bolles and he had swam for Sergio at Northwestern. I remember when I was 14 having him tell Sergio that he had a really good one in that Murphy kid,” Murphy said. “Those little nudges of confidence, and I don’t even know if he realized he was doing it, really realized at a young age that I could be confident. We have a great friendship and we won’t let performances get in the way of that. I was so happy for him to come back the way he did. It is awesome to walk behind the blocks with a leader like that.”

It is that kind of leadership Murphy is trying to emulate. USA Swimming has seen that and chose Murphy to be one of its USA Swimming Foundation Ambassadors.

It is an honor Murphy doesn’t take lightly.

“I love the USA Swimming Foundation message. I was talking about wanting to be involved with growing the sport to make sure everyone had access to the sport. It is the part of USA Swimming where I can have the most impact,” he said. “Those numbers (of how many people can’t swim) are ridiculous. I just want people to try it and be able to do things like jump in the lake. I know all the joy the sport has brought me. I am really lucky and I want to pass that on to the future generations. That is something I am super passionate about.”

Between being an ambassador, focusing on his every-day training and remaining focused on 2020, Murphy continues to have a lot to think about.

But this week, he will finally be able to give his brain a break and just race.