Swimming got its first real taste of so-called “beef” inside the Budapest bubble on Monday at the conclusion of the ISL’s second semi-final, as backstroke specialists Ryan Murphy and Coleman Stewart got into it a little bit after their three-round skins battle.
Murphy, a member of the LA Current, defeated Stewart in every round, including a 1.56-second victory in the final head-to-head showdown.
Post-race, after the two shook hands, video caught Murphy saying “b****”, referencing Stewart, while looking at his teammates.
Stewart, who competes for LA’s in-state rival, the Cali Condors, responded on social media.
@ryan_f_murphy If you’re going to call me a bitch, man up and do it to my face. Not right after you shake my hand and say, “nice job.” I had nothing but respect towards you as one of the best backstrokers in the world but that’s gone now. Guess we were just raised differently. pic.twitter.com/ub6RlUWBZD
In addition to the decisive victory, Murphy “jackpotted” Stewart due to his margin of victory in Round 3, stealing seven of his points and $2,400 in prize money.
The animosity reportedly stemmed from Stewart “talking trash” that he was going to win the skins and beat Murphy in the warm-up pool, multiple swimmers told SwimSwam. While Murphy wasn’t present for this, he did say it fired him up, while ultimately acknowledging that he took it too far. Stewart says that what was said in the warmup pool was fairly mild.
Since Stewart’s call-out on social media, the two seem to have squashed the beef.
Murphy says he approached Stewart and that the two spoke this morning and hashed things out. Stewart agreed that the two were now on better footing after talking, saying that “emotions run high when we compete, especially the fifth week in a bubble”.
While the two appear to be on good terms, the incident still adds to the anticipation of the league finale coming up this weekend.
With the majority of the sport’s biggest stars all set to be in action, this will be like “Super Bowl Week” for the ISL, and these kind of tensions and rivalries can help bring visibility and excitement to a format that can become a little stale at times as the season wares on.
While this was the first real swimmer v. swimmer conflict this season, things were also stirred up two weeks ago when London Roar coach Mel Marshall called out some swimmers for using illegal dolphin kicks in breaststroke.
Other than the skins, Murphy and Stewart raced three additional times during the semis. Murphy picked up the win in the 50 back (22.76 to 22.84), Stewart (49.66) took second to Murphy’s tie for third (49.81) in the 100 back, and Murphy edged his rival by .02 on the lead-off leg of the men’s 400 medley relay.
Heading into the final, which kicks off on Saturday, Murphy ranks first in the ISL this season in both the 50 (22.75) and 200 back (1:47.48), while sitting third in the 100 (49.62). Stewart, who is in his first year as a pro after closing out his senior year at NC State in the NCAA, is third in the 50 (22.84) and fifth in the 100 (49.66).