2019 World Championships Previews: Rylov Seeks 200 Back Repeat vs. Murphy


  • All sports: Friday, July 12 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • Pool swimming: Sunday, July 21 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • The Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, Gwangju, Korea
  • Meet site
  • FinaTV Live Stream
  • Live results

MEN’S 200 Backstroke

  • World Record: 1:51.92, Aaron Peirsol (USA), 2009
  • World Championships Record: 1:51.92, Aaron Peirsol (USA), 2009
  • Defending 2017 World Champion: Evgeny Rylov (RUS), 1:53.61

Ryan Murphy (photo: Mike Lewis)

Gwangju sets the stage for a battle between the USA’s Olympic champion Ryan Murphy and Russia’s defending World champion Evgeny Rylov in the 200 back. Murphy had an off year in 2017, not matching his Olympic performances, as he took silver. Ahead of him, Rylov earned his first World Championships title. Murphy came back with new momentum in 2018 as he set a personal best 1:53.57 at the 2018 Pan Pacs, while Rylov also lowered his best to a 1:53.36 at the 2018 European Championships. This year, Rylov ranks #1 in the World with his 1:54.00 from Russian Nationals. Murphy is currently #9 with a 1:56.16, however, he hasn’t needed a taper meet since last summer since the U.S. did not hold a trials meet this year.

The 2nd-ranked man in the world this year, Australia’s Mitch Larkin, was also a medalist (bronze) in this event in 2017 and won the title in 2015. Larkin took the silver in this race in Rio behind Murphy. He’s one of several seasoned backstroke veterans to return to the field this season. China’s Xu Jiayu, who won the 100 back in 2017, is ranked just behind Larkin in 2019. They’ve each been 1:55 this year, as have Great Britain’s Luke Greenbank and Japan’s Olympic bronze medalist Ryosuke Irie. Of those men, Larkin has the fastest best time over the last 4 years with his 1:53.17 from 2016. Irie has been as fast as 1:52.51 (2009) in his career, but in recent seasons he’s been in the mid-1:50s in this event and finished 7th in the event in 2017. Greenbank swam his best time this year in April.

Irie’s Japanese teammate Keita Sunama has been within tenths of his best this season and has a good shot at making the final. Sunama swam his personal best 1:55.54 at the Asian Games last year. The USA also has a good chance at getting 2 in with Olympic finalist Jacob Pebley in the mix. Like Murphy, Pebley hasn’t had to taper for a trials meet this year. His season best is a 12th-ranked 1:56.35. Pebley was the bronze medalist in this race in 2017.

Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys is another returning finalist in this event. He swam his lifetime best 1:56.11 in this event at 2017 Worlds and wound up placing 8th in the final. China’s Li Guangyuan and Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki look to return to the final after making the top 8 at 2015 Worlds.


Place Swimmer Country Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Evgeny Rylov RUS 1:54.00 1:53.36
2 Ryan Murphy USA 1:56.16 1:53.57
3 Mitch Larkin AUS 1:55.03 1:53.17
4 Xu Jiayu CHN 1:55.24 1:53.99
5 Ryosuke Irie JPN 1:55.79 1:52.51
6 Jacob Pebley USA 1:56.35 1:54.77
7 Keita Sunama JPN 1:56.06 1:55.54
8 Luke Greenbank GBR 1:55.89 1:55.89


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Chaitha D.
1 year ago

This one is really hard. On the one hand Murphy seems to have had one of his best years of training but on the other hand Rylov is just a beast in the 200 back. It’s going to come down to a touch and I think Rylov gets it in 1:52.9

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Chaitha D.
1 year ago

It’ll be interesting to see if Murphy and Pebley benefited more from training together or now apart.

Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

Also interested if being a pro and having those commitments interferes with his training?

1 year ago

Larkin is still in the pick’em for the 200 IM. Do I need to edit my picks for pick’em cause I picked him?

Chaitha D.
Reply to  Samesame
1 year ago

I’m wondering that too

Reply to  Samesame
1 year ago

When did he say he’s dropping the 200 IM?

bear drinks beer
Reply to  Caleb
1 year ago

Can’t find the source either, and he’s still on the start list.

Reply to  Caleb
1 year ago

He said it during Aussie Trials in June. But since he’s entered I assume he changed his mind. I’m not sure how likely it is that he’ll scratch the event closer to the time?

Reply to  VGM
1 year ago

IMO he’s got a better chance if winning the IM than either of the backstrokes, strange as that may be

Reply to  VGM
1 year ago

He said he might drop it at the Olympics because the finals of the 200 BK is in the same session and that’s his pet event but he would see how he goes at worlds. In Gwangju the 200 IM final is on the same night as the 200 BK semi so it’s not as much of a problem. It will be interesting to see if he changes his tune if he performs better in the 200 IM than in either the 100 or 200 which seems possible as the IM is currently less stacked.

Reply to  Caleb
1 year ago

This article actually said he wasn’t doing it. Think it’s been edited now .

The Ready Room
1 year ago

All three of these guys (Murphy, Larkin, Rylov) have been looking GOOD. I think it goes Murphy, Rylov, Larkin in that order, but honestly you could scramble those three any which way and I wouldn’t be too terribly surprised. The way Larkin’s been throwing down recently, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him back on top.

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Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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