Rio 2016 Olympic Previews: World Record Watch In Men’s 100 Back

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.

_Murphy 20 California Aquatics Murphy Ryan Murphy-TBX_7094-

Ryan Murphy (Photo: Tim Binning)

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.

_LARKIN Mitchell AUS LARKIN Mitchell LARKIN-TBX_3326-

Mitch Larkin (Photo: Tim Binning)

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.

100 Back Finals

David Plummer (Photo: Tim Binning)

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.

Ryosuke Irie, behind the blocks at the 2010 Pan Pac Championships. Swim News: Irie won a silver medal in the 200 meters backstroke and a bronze in the 100 meters backstroke at the 2012 Summer Olympics (Photo Credit: Tim Binning, the swim pictures)

Ryosuke Irie (Photo: Tim Binning)

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
2 Mitch Larkin AUS 52.11 51.9
3 David Plummer USA 52.12 52.1
4 Camille Lacourt FRA 52.48 52.4
5 Ryosuke Irie JPN 52.34 52.5
6 Xu Jiayu CHN 52.34 52.6
7 Chris Walker-Hebborn GBR 52.88 52.8
8 Grigory Tarasevich RUS 53.03 52.9

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.

Check out all of our 2016 Rio Olympic Previews here

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4 years ago

Personally I mark this one down as too close to call…..

M Palota
Reply to  Emg1986
4 years ago

Agreed but I think it’s Murphy by a fingertip.

Coach Tom
4 years ago

If Murphy didn’t ease up in the semis, he’d own the record already.

bobo gigi
Reply to  Coach Tom
4 years ago

But I think he’s much more interested in the gold than the record.

Matt Zhiss
Reply to  bobo gigi
4 years ago

At least for Trials, it was about getting into the final. No need to go all out in the semis though with the pressure at Trials it often happens that everybody performs their best in the semis in order to get that spot in finals for a chance at the roster.

But regarding Rio, I would say both are linked: getting the gold will require a world record. And it could be either of these guys, I just think Murphy has far more fire in him to be further below it than Larkin. It will still be a fight, but Plummer is almost assured the bronze if it keeps it up, and the rest will fall in line however.

Reply to  Matt Zhiss
4 years ago

People were saying it would take a world record to win trials didn’t they?

Know It All
Reply to  bobo gigi
4 years ago

Peirsol’s record is an enigma of itself since ’09. Seems it is more tangible, so I completely disagree. Gold and the record is icing. Would be lying to himself if Murphy didn’t want that record.

King in da norf
Reply to  bobo gigi
4 years ago

Is there a swimmer not interested more in gold?

bobo gigi
4 years ago

Lacourt gold
Larkin silver
Murphy bronze

Haas for the win
Reply to  bobo gigi
4 years ago

Lacourt is not winning, I think that’s something everyone here can agree upon

Reply to  bobo gigi
4 years ago

wondering why you like Lacourt for the win.. i don’t really know much about him

Reply to  Myshkin
4 years ago

He won silver in Kazan last year to Larkin, he is not without a chance!!!!

Reply to  robbos
4 years ago

With Plummer and Murphy both looking awesome recently, and Larkin being Larkin, I doubt Lacourt wins gold. He has a shot at a medal, but I don’t see him winning

Reply to  PVSFree
4 years ago

I agree with you!!! Just was replying to the post above who didn’t know why a Frenchmen would go for his own countryman, who is in the top 4-5 100 Backstrokers in the world.

Reply to  Myshkin
4 years ago

1) Bobo and Lacourt are both french, so …
2) Bobo is obviously trolling.

I think mens 100 back might be the only race were 3 athletes have pretty much the same chance to win gold. Other “threeway” races might be mens 50 free (Manaudou, Fratus, Adrian), mens 200 breast (Koch, Prenot, Gyurta), mens 100/200 fly (Cseh, Le Clos, Phelps), womens 100 breast (Efimova, Meilutyte, King) and womens 200 fly (Hentke, Hoshi, Belmonte). In mens 100 back it should be between Murphy and Larkin, in mens 50 free it should be between Manaudou and Adrian, in mens 200 breast Prenot is the favorite, in mens 100/200 fly Phelps is the favorite, in womens 200 fly Belmonte is the favorite,… Read more »

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  thomaslurzfan
4 years ago

We’re going to leave Efimova out of this one, yes? In M 200BR, would not count out Cordes either. Finally, we all make predictions here based on observations, hunches, all that. But who could see Katie L 4 years ago either. There just may be some surprises awaiting us with breakout swims by unexpected swimmers. And it all starts tomorrow – finally!

Reply to  bobo gigi
4 years ago


About Lauren Neidigh

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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