Men’s 100 Back
- 2012 Olympic Champion: Matt Grevers (USA), 52.16
- 2015 World Champion: Mitch Larkin (AUS), 52.40
- World Record: Aaron Peirsol (USA), 51.94
As we head into Rio, Team USA’s gold medal streak in the men’s 100 back is under fire. With names like Jeff Rouse, Lenny Krayzelburg, Aaron Peirsol, and Matt Grevers, Team USA has won gold in the 100 backstroke at every Olympics since the 1996 games in Atlanta. At each of the last 2 Olympics, the USA has gone 1-2 in this event. In Rio, however, a slew of international stars will be bringing the heat, and it looks like it could take a World Record to bring home the gold.
Defending Olympic champion Grevers won’t return to defend his title in Rio, but the USA will be sending plenty of 100 backstroke talent. Winning the 100 and 200 backstroke events at U.S. Olympic Trials was Ryan Murphy, the American Record holder in the yards version of this event. Murphy swam at his first major international meet last summer in Kazan, where he posted a blistering 52.18 on the prelims lead off of the mixed 400 medley relay. He wasn’t able to match his 52-low performance for the rest of the meet, but he came back this summer as a man on a mission, posting times of 52.28 and 52.26 in semis and finals, respectively. After his 52.2 in finals, Murphy made it known that he thinks he has more, and he’ll be going after Peirsol’s World Record of 51.94 in Rio.
If Murphy wants to claim the record, he’ll not only have to swim a best time, but he’ll also have to hold off Australia’s Mitch Larkin. Larkin will look to unseat the Americans after winning World Championship titles last summer in both the 100 and 200 backstroke races, and is a huge gold medal threat in Rio. Following Worlds, he continued to get even faster, setting a personal best with a 52.11 at the FINA World Cup in Dubai. Larkin has some Olympic experience on his side. In 2012, he represented Australia in the 200 back, where he placed 8th in the final. Heading into these Games, Larkin’s best is a 52.54 from 2016 Australian Championships, and he currently sits 3rd in the 2016 World Rankings. He’s come closer to Peirsol’s World Record than anyone since London, and we could see him dip under 52 in Rio.
Following his 52.11, Larkin is tied with France’s Camille Lacourt as the 3rd fastest performer of all time in this event. Lacourt will make his 2nd Olympic appearance at these Games, having finished 4th in the 100 back in 2012. This year, he sits 6th in the World Rankings with a 52.97, but he’s been faster than that in this cycle. At last summer’s Worlds, Lacourt was narrowly 2nd behind Larkin, taking the silver in 52.48. If he can put together a race like that again, he’s definitely in the conversation for a medal. Though he hasn’t been able to match his 52.11 from 2010 yet, getting back to that form could make him a contender for the gold as well.
Also representing the USA in this event is David Plummer, who owns the number one spot in the 2016 World Rankings. Plummer first broke onto the scene in 2010, when he pulled off an underdog win at U.S. Nationals against a stacked field that included Olympic gold medalists Grevers, Peirsol, and Nick Thoman. After a heart breaking 3rd place finish at 2012 trials, Plummer made sure that didn’t happen again this year’s Trials, roaring to a 52.12 in semis, and holding on for a close 2nd in finals at 52.28. Plummer has been on fire this year, and has a great shot at surpassing Peirsol’s world record as well. His best time prior to the fall of 2015 was a 52.98 from 2012 Olympic trials, and he didn’t swim sub-53 again until the FINA World Cup in November. It’s safe to say that Plummer is in the shape of his life, and we could see him on top of the podium this summer. Ever since his underdog win in 2010, it’s clear that Plummer should never be counted out.
It took a 52.97 to win a medal in London, but this summer it could take a sub-53 swim just to get into the final. China’s Xu Jiayu and Great Britain’s Chris Walker-Hebborn both dipped under the mark in 2015. Walker-Hebborn has been a nail faster, boasting a 52.88 from 2015 British Nationals. Jiayu was a finalist at 2015 Worlds in the 100 and 200, and owns the Chinese National Record in the 50, 100, and 200 backstrokes. His best time heading into Rio is a 52.34 from Chinese Nationals in 2014.
Japan’s Ryosuke Irie was the bronze medalist in 2012 with a 52.97, and he’s shown big improvement since then. In 2014, Irie posted a blazing 52.34 to win the Asian Games, setting a new Games Record. He was off that in 2015, with a best of 52.99 from Japanese Nationals, but will be in the mix for another medal if he can match his 2014 performance in Rio.
The Russian duo of Evgeny Rylov and Grigory Tarasevich has closed in on the 52-mark this year, narrowly missing it with a pair of 53-flats. At 2016 Russian Nationals, the two were separated by the narrowest possible margin, with Tarasevich getting the edge at the finish to clock a 53.03, while Rylov finished in 53.04. They currently sit 8th and 9th, respectively, in the 2016 World Rankings.
Men’s 100 Back Top 8 Predictions:
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Best Time (Since 2012 Olympics)||Predicted Time|
|1||Ryan Murphy||USA||52.18||51.8 WR|
Darkhorse: Tuscaloosa-based Christopher Reid, a swimmer at the University of Alabama, swam a 53.18 this season to qualify to represent South Africa in his first Olympics. Reid’s swim was a new African and South African record, but he wasn’t fully satisfied with that time yet. In his post race interview, he said a 52 is in his cards.