By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Friday, August 10, 2018
TOKYO – Ryan Murphy was a little disappointed with his performance last year at the FINA World Championships.
True, he brought home a lot of hardware from Budapest, including gold as a member of the 400m medley and mixed medley relays, a silver in the 200m backstroke and a bronze in the 100m backstroke.
But this was a year after he swept both backstroke events at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and broke the world record in the 100m back leading off the Americans’ 400m medley relay.
So after his last event at Worlds, he swore that no one would outwork him in the coming year. While it’s impossible to know what others are doing in their training, Murphy said his own training has been more focused and consistent, just as he promised.
And it’s showing in the pool. Two weeks ago at the Phillips 66 National Championships, Murphy swept the backstroke events – including the 50.
Then in this morning’s prelims of the men’s 100m backstroke at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, he qualified as the top seed for tonight’s finals, setting a meet record in 52.19.
He finished the job tonight in finals, winning gold and setting another meet record in 51.94. It tied the third-fastest performance of all time in the men’s 100m back and was just nine-hundredths off his world record. Teammate Matt Grevers was fourth in 52.99.
“It’s such a yo-yo with swimming, and it’s hard that you get to race at the highest level only once a year,” Murphy said. “Coming off 2016, I got what I wanted, and I think – with good reason – I let myself do some things that I sacrificed in the lead up to the Olympics.”
The key to this year, Murphy said, was “just getting locked in with training again. That’s where I get my confidence from, and I think that showed up tonight and will show up in the 200 as well.”
Murphy’s swim was one of two golds for the U.S. at Pan Pacs Friday.
Capturing the first gold medal of the night was Hali Flickinger in the women’s 200m fly in 2:07.35. She has represented the U.S. in this event in three international competitions – the 2015 World University Games, the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 FINA World Championships. Prior to tonight, her best showing in the 200 fly on the international stage was a bronze at WUGs.
“It’s so cool,” Flickinger said. “Just to be able to stand on the platform and hear the National Anthem is something that’s so, so special, and I hope there’s more to come because that feeling is absolutely incredible.”
Flickinger’s, teammate, Katie Drabot, was third in 2:08.40. Drabot is competing in her first Pan Pacific Championships.
“I just raced,” Flickinger said. “The time was not what I wanted, but it’s all about getting up and racing, and I did that. I had a lot of fun, especially with Katie right beside me.”
The final gold of the night for the U.S. was in the men’s 800m free relay, where Townley Haas came from behind in the final leg to nip the Aussies 7:04.36 to 7:04.70. Also swimming on the relay were Andrew Seliskar, Blake Peironi and Zach Apple.
Overall the U.S. won nine medals Friday – three gold, three silver and three bronze. They lead all teams in the medal count with 20 overall – eight gold, six silver and six bronze.
Here’s a rundown of tonight’s other events:
Women’s 100m Free
Simone Manuel has embraced the role of underdog and giant-killer at the last couple international meets, winning gold over the world record holders at both the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 FINA World Championships in the women’s 100 free. But tonight, she just couldn’t keep pace with Cate Campbell of Australia, who threw down the second fastest performance of all time in this event in 52.03. It was a Pan Pac meet record. Manuel finished second in 52.66, followed by Taylor Ruck of Canada in 52.77. Mallory Comerford was fourth in 52.94.
Men’s 100m Free
Last summer, Caeleb Dressel won seven gold medals at the FINA World Championships and set the American record in three events – the 50 and 100-meter free and the 50m fly. Coming into this summer’s meets, expectations have been high. Bouncing back from a somewhat disappointing Nationals in which he finished sixth in the 100 free, Dressel tied Australian Jack Cartwright for silver in this event tonight in 48.22. Kyle Chalmers of Australia won gold in 48.00. Zach Apple of the United States was fifth in 48.47.
Men’s 200m Butterfly
Zach Harting took bronze in the men’s 200m butterfly in 1:55.05. He is competing in his first international competition. Teammate Jack Conger was seventh in 1:56.83.
Women’s 100m Backstroke
The women’s 100m backstroke promised to be one of the biggest races of the night. In lane 4 was Kylie Masse, the reigning world champion in this event and the former world record-holder. In this morning’s prelims, Masse set a meet record in 58.29. In lane 5 was the woman who took the world record from her two weeks ago at the Phillips 66 U.S. National Championships in Irvine, Calif., Kathleen Baker. This time Masse would come out on top in 58.61. Emily Seebohm of Australia was second in 58.72, while Baker was third in 58.83. Regan Smith of the United States was fourth in 58.95.
Women’s 400m Free Relay
Katie Ledecky made up a lot of distance on the Australians in the final leg of the race but came up short by 25-hundredths of a second. The Aussies took gold in 7:44.12, a meet record. Ledecky, Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith and Katie McLaughlin took silver in 7:44.37.