Ryan Murphy Honored as Swimming World’s Americas Male Swimmer of the Year (Full Voting)


by DAVID RIEDER – SENIOR WRITER

29 December 2023, 09:53am

Ryan Murphy Honored as Swimming World’s Americas Male Swimmer of the Year (Full Voting)

For the better part of the last decade, Ryan Murphy has been one of the steadiest swimmers in the world. It was not too long ago when a 21-year-old Murphy embraced a long-standing American backstroke tradition by becoming a double Olympic gold medalist in the 100 and 200-meter events at the 2016 Olympics. Going back to those Games in Rio de Janeiro, Murphy has missed the podium only once at a World Championships or Olympics.

But ironically, one accomplishment was missing from his résumé, even after his second Olympic Games resulted in one medal of each color. That was an individual long course world title. Murphy checked off that box in the 200 back with a dominant victory in 2022, and after sweeping gold medals in the 50, 100 and 200 back at the Short Course World Championships to close out 2022, Murphy, now 28, came through on the biggest stage in the two-lap event this year.

In the World Championships final, Murphy was a medal favorite, but not gold, as that distinction went to the man who broke his world record one year earlier, Italy’s Thomas Ceccon. Ceccon, who had been as fast as 51.60, had finished a quarter-second clear of the field in the semifinals, while Murphy qualified third. In the previous year’s Worlds final, Murphy blazed the first lap before Ceccon swam past him down the stretch. This time, however, Murphy adopted a more comfortable approach, flipping in fourth place at the halfway point before making his move on the third 25.

Coming down the stretch, Ceccon appeared to be gaining ground, but on the final lunge to the finish, Murphy got the touch in 52.22, 5-hundredths clear of his Italian rival. That win made Murphy the third male swimmer to earn a career triple-crown of gold medals at the Olympics, World Championships and Short Course World Championships in the 100 back, joining fellow Americans Aaron Peirsol and Matt Grevers. He joins Peirsol as the only swimmers to achieve the treble in both backstroke distances.

As the week went on in Fukuoka, Japan, Murphy was not done. He was favored going into the 200 back final as well, but he ended up with a silver medal, as Hungary’s Hubert Kos surged down the stretch for an upset win. Murphy helped the American mixed 400 medley relay team earn silver, and he swam the leadoff leg of the U.S. men’s winning medley relay, a spot he has occupied at every championship meet but one since 2015.

Since Murphy joined that relay, some exceptional swimmers have teamed with him: He was around for the final years of Michael Phelps swimming butterfly on that relay and Nathan Adrian anchoring, and he joined forces with fellow Jacksonville, Fla., native Caeleb Dressel as well as Michael Andrew and Zach Apple for a world-record-setting effort at the Tokyo Olympics.

But for this year’s team, Murphy was the only swimmer back from that world-record relay. Veteran Nic Fink handled breaststroke duties, but a pair of international rookies, Dare Rose and Jack Alexy, were responsible for the last two legs.

No matter. Murphy set the tone with a 52.04 leadoff leg, his fastest time in two years, and he beat every other backstroke swimmer by more than a second. He provided the advantage necessary for Rose and Alexy, his training partners at Cal, to simply swim within themselves and still come away with a gold medal, the first relay gold the Americans had captured all week in the final men’s race of the meet.

For his efforts, Murphy earns the honor of Male American Swimmer of the Year for 2023, his first time receiving the honor. Murphy is only the fourth pure backstroker ever to win this award, joining fellow U.S. standouts Rick Carey (1983), Lenny Krayzelburg (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000) and Peirsol (2005).

TOP 5 AMERICAS (Men)

  1. RYAN MURPHY, USA (11)…………………… 59
  2. Bobby Finke, USA (1)……………………………… 36
  3. Nic Fink, USA………………………………………… 28
  4. Jack Alexy, USA…………………………………….. 25
  5. Hunter Armstrong, USA…………………………… 21

(First-place votes in parentheses)

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