6-time Olympic Medalist and Team Speedo Athlete Ryan Murphy has had an eventful summer, winning his first individual gold at LCM World Championships in June with his performance in the 200 back. As he sat down with the SwimSwam podcast, Murphy acknowledged the milestone and the fact that he tends to perform better during even years, which, with his heap of Olympic medals, cause people to be surprised that he only just broke the World Championship individual gold threshold.
Murphy also talked about his approach to competition, his life outside of swimming, and his approach to the 2024 Olympics (and possibly even LA 2028).
World Championships and the Competition
Murphy’s recent trip to World Championships yielded him an individual gold in the 200 back and silver in the 100 back, as well as a gold in the 4×100 mixed medley relay and a silver in the 4×100 medley.
Murphy was impressed with his performance, and so was Michael Phelps, who Murphy said texted him about Murphy’s swims. Surprisingly, Murphy said he actually under-conditioned for the 200 back, but that he plans to focus on it more in the coming years. This year, he instead focused on the 100 back, and he also experimented with a longer taper, where he was only swimming 4k per day 5 weeks out and dropping down to 2k a day approaching the meet.
In the end, Thomas Ceccon, however, ended up edging Murphy in the 100 back to win with a world record of 51.60.
“You never want to count anyone out in the heat, and you definitely don’t want to focus in on just one person, but for someone like me, where if I watch someone for three seconds swimming, I can see a lot of their talent, and you can see it with Thomas,” Murphy said. “He is a beast. I knew he was going to be really good, but there was no shortage of talent in any of the other lanes in that heat either. It’s definitely one of those scenarios where going in, I’m really putting pressure on myself to execute the best race strategy for me, and we’ll see how that turns out.”
Murphy said he enjoys the competition men like Ceccon bring to the sport. He added that he’s trying to “bottle up” his competitive spirit, which he said he wants to use at the right times instead of being overly competitive year-round. In general, Murphy said he approaches his races assuming the people around him are going to swim their best potential race, and that in Paris, for example, there will be multiple 51s and a deeper pool of competition in the 100 back.
In the 100 back, Hunter Armstrong, just 21 years old, finished third just .01 behind Murphy with his time of 51.98. Murphy said he enjoyed talking with Armstrong because of his short amount of time in the sport compared to Murphy, which helps Murphy see a fresh perspective.
“We’re walking immediately after the race, and Hunter comes up to me and is like, ‘I’m so impressed with you, it’s been so long since you’ve been under 52, I didn’t know if you were going to get back there,’” Murphy said. “ In my head I was like, ‘I don’t really feel like it’s been that long, but then I have to translate it because the last time I went 51, Hunter was just swimming year-round. I find it so refreshing talking to Hunter, because he’s so pure and he’s such a nice guy.”
“Staying the course”
When asked about his “edge,” Murphy pointed to his long history of hard work, going back to his first time training with Olympians in eighth grade. A student at the Bolles School in Florida, Murphy said his intense training with some of the best swimmers early allowed him to learn how to lose and to focus on the whole season, rather than just winning or losing individual races or meets.
“I can grind,” Murphy said. “I never had the idea that I had room to rest and room to just rely on my talent because I was always surrounded by some really talented people…You don’t even realize at a young age how much talent you’re surrounded by.”
He added that over time, he’s learned how to deal with his body breaking down, which he said happens annually, and his swings in appetite.
Murphy said he’s also significantly more competitive at practice than at meets, because it’s much harder to sustain the really intense mental condition at an 8-day meet. In addition, he said he prepares for competition as if he was swimming an average or a bad day, because there is no guarantee he will feel perfect in every race. Some days at practice he’ll be pacing 56-low, on other days he’ll be swimming 58s.
“I’m really good at staying the course, never missing a practice, doing what’s asked of me, communicating,” Murphy said. “I’m always pushing through as hard as I can and that’s what leads me to be tough at the big meets.”
Hitting the Green
Currently, Murphy is taking a small break from swimming, which he said has allowed him to hang out with his friends and fiancée, as well as practicing his golfing skills–skills he admitted need some improvement.
He also joined The House Fund as a limited partner, which has allowed him to begin working in the venture capital industry and meeting with companies in the pre-seed and seed funding stages.
“We’re trying to be the first investor in the door with this group, and you can have people that just have a business plan on a piece of paper at that point,” Murphy said. “I think it’s connecting with the psychology, like do they have what it takes to put their head down, grind for an extended period of time, and be okay with that. It’s just really cool people that are trying to start companies across the entire spectrum of ideas, and it’s really cool to be a part of that.”
Murphy said the venture capital industry has many of the same aspects he loves about swimming, including a competitive spirit and a solid culture.
Paris 2024 and LA 2028
For Murphy, the Olympics begin a year-out from the actual event. He said the thoughts begin 12 months out and are “constant” for someone as competitive as him.
One of the unknowns–and certainly a cause of swirling thoughts–of the Olympics is the current situation in Russia, and whether there will be some kind of boycott or ban on certain athletes. Murphy said he doesn’t know what to expect with the current war in Ukraine.
“It’s just an incredibly unfortunate situation that’s happening in Ukraine right now, and you can’t minimize the impact that’s having on a lot of athletes competing internationally,” Murphy said. “At the same time, I think sports has the power, done the right way, to bring people together. You look at something like the 2021 Olympic Games, when we were able to host an Olympic Games during the pandemic when a lot of people weren’t really leaving their houses.”
While he said sports have the power to bring people together, he added that currently, there doesn’t seem to be a solution that satisfies all parties.
Murphy also discussed the possibility of swimming at a home Olympics in 2028, but he said he hasn’t made a decision one way or another, because those Olympics are still six years away.
For right now, Murphy is enjoying his time off and his work with Speedo, which includes a release of a swimsuit specifically designed to aid swimmers in backstroke.
“All of the strokes of swimming are very different, the sensations you feel at the end of the race are very different, but we’re wearing the same suit for every race, and that’s never really made a ton of sense to me,” Murphy said.
Murphy said that at the tail-end of backstroke races, swimmers’ legs tend to get tired, and this new suit has a band on the quad that is designed to help keep swimmers’ legs higher in the water at the end of the race.
He also added that in general, Speedo has done a really nice job merging its goals of trying to be a technical suit company and trying to introduce the sport to a wide audience. He credits Speedo’s assistance in his own work with Goldfish Swim School, which puts 100,000 kids per week through swim lessons.
“Speedo’s really supportive to help support those kids, and make sure that they’re having a good experience at the beginning of their swimming career or learning to swim,” Murphy said.
Follow Ryan Murphy on Instagram here.
Follow Speedo on Instagram here.
Thanks to Speedo, a SwimSwam partner.
See the Murphy podcast here:
See the LZR Pure Intent Backstroke Edition:
Least sussy swimswam post
Grinding with Ryan Murphy, you say?!? Be still, my heart.