Murphy Faster than Bal, Slower than Marshall in Record Mishmash

2018 FINA Short Course World Championships

  • Tuesday, December 11th – Sunday, December 16th
  • Hangzhou, China
  • Tennis Centre, Hangzhou Olympic & International Expo Center
  • SCM (25m)
  • Prelims: 9:30 am local, 8:30 pm ET / Finals: 7:00 pm* local, 6:00* am ET
  • Live Results (Omega)

* the final night of finals will be one hour earlier, starting at 6:00 pm local and 5:00 am ET

Ryan Murphy led off the United States mixed 4×50 medley Thursday morning in prelims with a massive 22.77. That is .48 faster than the 23.25 he went in heats of the men’s 50 backstroke earlier in the session, and it would have been an American Record had it not been the lead-off leg of a mixed relay. As per FINA and USA Swimming regulations, lead-off legs of mixed-gender relays are not eligible for World Records or American Records. USA Swimming rule 104.2 C (1) states that:

Lead-off legs/initial distances of mixed gender relays shall not count for American or U.S. Open records.

The official American Record in the 50 SCM backstroke belongs to Randall Bal, who clocked a 22.87 at the FINA World Cup in Berlin on November 15, 2008. However, the fastest 50 SCM back performance in history by an American is the 22.61 that Peter Marshall swam at the Singapore stop of the FINA World Cup Series in November 2008.

This anomaly is known as a suit gap record. (You can read a full explanation of suit gap records here.) When the world swimming community finally banned the full-body polyurethane racing suits in 2009, there were different start dates. USA Swimming instituted the ban at the beginning of its 2009-10 swim year, on October 1, 2009. FINA, the world governing body, elected to eliminate the suits from competition beginning on January 1, 2010, which is when most of the rest of the world begins the new swim season.

From October 1, 2009 until December 31, 2009, therefore, Americans who competed “legally” in polyurethane suits at international competitions were out of compliance with USA Swimming rules back home. They could set World Records but their swims would not be recognized by USA Swimming’s record books.

Murphy’s 22.77 is therefore the second-fastest 50 SCM back ever swum by an American, .10 faster than the official American Record but .16 slower than the #1 swim by an American. Ryan has two more chances to clear up the confusion. He swims in the semi-finals of the 50 SCM back on Thursday night and, presumably, in the final on Friday night in Hangzhou.

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4 years ago

Glad that these two oddities (records can’t be set on mixed relays and the US not recognizing suited records) occurred at the same time lol

4 years ago

I’m just happy Murphy is having a good swim again. I remember his frustration at getting bronze in the 100 & silver in the 200 @ 2017 world. Backstroke will remain a dog fight for years to come both on the American & International stage, but knowing his training is paying off must be a big boost.

4 years ago

Three chances? The semis, the finals of 50 back and 200 medley men’s relay (if prelims and finals, then 4 chances at the record)

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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