By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Monday, August 8, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO – Another streak was on the line for the Americans Monday in the Olympic finals of the men’s 100m backstroke.
Coming into these Games, the U.S. men had won five straight Olympic gold medals in this event – Jeff Rouse in 1996, Lenny Krayzelburg in 2000, Aaron Peirsol in 2004 and 2008, and Matt Grevers in 2012.
You can add Ryan Murphy to that list now.
He and teammate David Plummer went 1-3 in the 100m back Monday in 51.97 and 52.40. They also narrowly missed adding to another streak in this event. The U.S. went 1-2 in both 2008 and 2012. Tonight, the silver went to Xu Jiayu of China in 52.31.
Murphy’s time broke the Olympic record of 52.16 set by Grevers in 2012, and was just three-hundredths of a second off the world record set by Peirsol at the 2009 U.S. World Championships Trials in Indianapolis.
Before the meet, he received some words of encouragement from some of those American backstroke legends, including Peirsol, Grevers, Krayzelburg and John Naber.
“Those guys who have won in the past, those are my idols,” Murphy said. “I grew up watching them, and to hear their words of encouragement to me coming into this meet, that meant a great deal to me. It just gave me a lot of confidence to know they were thinking of me, and saying that they believed in me to do great things. Their support means a lot.”
It was the first Olympic final for both Murphy and Plummer.
For Plummer, a 30-year-old father of two, the journey to Olympic bronze was a long one. In 2012, he finished a heartbreaking third at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, but decided to stick it out for another four years.
His wife Erin and his mother were in the stands to watch him reap the rewards of his perseverance Monday.
“It’s been a long road – a long hard road,” Pummer said. “But to be here, and get two Americans on the podium, I’m really, really excited. I didn’t have the race I was really looking for, but I really enjoyed going through that. Loved every minute of it.
“This is pretty great – it’s pretty great. To look upstairs and see my wife was pretty great. It was really tough (four years ago) trying to look ahead at 30 and tell yourself you’re still going to have it. It was really hard, but absolutely worth it.”
Murphy’s and Plummer’s medals were just two of six for the U.S. Monday. The Americans’ medal count now stands at 14 – four gold, four silver and six bronze.
Women’s 100m Breaststroke
Lilly King and Katie Meili also went 1-3 in the women’s 100m breaststroke, touching in 1:04.93 and 1:05.69. King’s time was an Olympic record, but missed the American record by 48-hundredths of a second.
It was the first Olympic gold for the Americans in this event since Megan Quann won it in Sydney in 2000, and the first time two Americans have made the podium in the women’s 100m breaststroke.
Like Murphy and Plummer, both King and Meili were rookies swimming in their first Olympic final.
“Tonight has been so crazy,” King said. “My life is changing right now. I'm a gold medalist, and it's what I've always wanted to be.
“It’s incredible, just winning the gold medal, and knowing I did it clean, and that all my work paid off –my practice and my weights and everything. Basically, my whole life I’ve worked for this, and it’s just an incredible moment.”
Women’s 100m Backstroke
Prior to these Games, the U.S. won four of the last five Olympic golds in the women’s 100m back. Kathleen Baker and Olivia Smoliga tried to make five of the last six, but fell just short, with Baker winning silver behind Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, 58.45 to 58.75. Canada’s Kylie Masse and China’s Fu Yuanhui tied for bronze in 58.76. Smoliga was sixth in 58.95.
Both Americans were competing in their first Olympic finals.
“I can’t even put into words how happy I am and grateful for the amount of support I have here, and from my teammates and coaches along the way,” Baker said. “It just takes a village for everyone to get me here, and I couldn’t be happier.
“I’m really happy to be swimming my best at the Olympics. I can’t complain about that."
Men’s 200m Freestyle
Conor Dwyer won the United States’ first medal in the 200m free since the 2008 Olympic Games, taking bronze in 1:45.23. Sun Yang of China was first in 1:44.20, followed by Chad LeClos of South Africa in 1:45.20. American Townley Haas finished fifth in 1:45.58.
Monday’s swim marked Dwyer’s second career Olympic medal. He also won gold in the 800m free relay in London. On the first night of competition, he finished fifth in the 400m free, a repeat of his performance in that event in 2012.
"Fourth would have been disappointing when everyone is winning golds,” Dwyer said. “I just wanted to help out the team and get on that podium."
"I knew Chad (le Clos) was going to go out, and I knew Sun (Yang) was going to come home like a rocket, so I wanted to be with or ahead of Sun. I thought all-in-all it was a good race.”
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