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Rio Olympic champion Ryan Murphy wins bronze in men's 100-meter backstroke

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 7/27/2021 Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY
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TOKYO — For the first time in his Olympics career, Ryan Murphy knows anything but gold. 

Murphy could not defend his gold in the 100-meter backstroke from the 2016 Rio Games or hold off Russian Olympic Committee swimmers Evgeny Rylov (51.98 seconds) and Kliment Koleskinov (52.00). Five of the eight swimmers were in that Rio final five years ago. 

a person swimming in a pool of water: American Ryan Murphy won bronze in the 100-meter backstroke at the Tokyo Olympics. © Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sport American Ryan Murphy won bronze in the 100-meter backstroke at the Tokyo Olympics.

"I guess it’s shoot for the stars, land on the moon. It’s kind of what it is," Murphy said in the mixed zone after his swim. "Winning an Olympic gold means you’re the best in the world. Being third in the world is no slouch."

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Murphy swam a 52.19 to claim bronze despite entering the final with the top qualifying time of 52.24, five one-hundredths of a second ahead of Koleskinov. 

The race proved tight across the entire field and a strong finish from Murphy gave him some distance from the pack and placed him on the podium with the Russians. 

"That’s the fastest backstroke heat ever. To be a part of that, that was my best swim of the year. So it’s nice to be able to do that in a pressure-packed Olympic final." 

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The California-Berkeley graduate also won gold in the 200-meter back and the 4x100 medley relay in Rio, his first Olympics. It was during that relay in Rio that Murphy set the world record for the 100 back with a 51.85 leg to start the race; he won the individual event at 51.97. 

The before-noon finals in Tokyo did not impact his performance, Muphy said.

"I love the morning," he said. "I love getting up and just doing it." 

Even though Lydia Jacoby, a 17-year-old from Alaska, captured the first gold for a U.S. women’s swimmer in the 100 breast in the race after Murphy's, he invoked the U.S. men’s basketball team’s loss to France in the first round as evidence the world is catching up to the U.S. in multiple sports.

“My theory is that as the Internet has exploded, you’re able to see how everyone trains, what everyone does,” he said. “I think in our race it was cool to see the (Russian athletes do) really great. It’s great to be a part of that.

“The Olympics is a pressure-cooker. … The reason I love the Olympics is you know you’re getting everyone’s best. I love the idea of that. I don’t really feel like you get that in any other competition.”

Murphy will look for another medal in the 200-meter back when qualifiers begin Wednesday. He's not sure if he'll be in the 4x100 medley this year. 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rio Olympic champion Ryan Murphy wins bronze in men's 100-meter backstroke

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