As the 2015 FINA World Championships are fast-approaching, the British breaststroking contingent is as poised as ever to make a mark in Kazan.
Ross Murdoch in particular has made giant strides in improving his personal best in the 100m breaststroke distance, taking his career-best mark of 1:02.28 down to 59.80 in 2013 to an incredible 59.13 at this year’s British Championships. The 21-year old currently ranks second in the world only to world record holder Adam Peaty in the 100m breast event. But, as the swimmer from Stirling, Scotland revealed this week, it wasn’t until recently that he has felt truly at the top of his game.
In the fall of 2014, after collecting two individual silver medals at the 2014 European Championships in Berlin, Murdoch came down with a cold – a nasty one, that turned out to be more than your average ‘bug.’ Per Murdoch, he “had a cold, then a chest infection, then bronchitis and then the big one.” Murdoch was diagnosed with what he terms “glandular fever” or mononucleosis, which was so severe it caused him to call off his participation in the 2014 Short Course World Championships in Doha, as well as a subsequent high profile meet in Flanders this past January.
Wanting to keep his illness a secret from his competitors, not many knew of the physical struggles Murdoch endured in his recovery from the illness. He says now, “I’m more comfortable talking about it but it was a big deal keeping it under wraps through the trials and through to Kazan. It was a confidence thing – I didn’t want anyone else to know. I didn’t go to the World Short Course, I didn’t go to Flanders in January, I didn’t race until March and I didn’t want people to know it was because I couldn’t. I wanted them to think it was because I didn’t want to.”
Murdoch attributed his catching the “kissing disease” just due to being in and around campus life at Stirling University. “I was in the library until two in the morning, around other students – Coughing, sneezing, spitting – all you need to do is touch a doorknob after someone and that’s it”, Murdoch says candidly. The young talent is studying part-time for a degree in Sports and Exercise Science at the University.
Managing to get over the symptoms after a few weeks, Murdoch swam well at the British Championships in April, earning his personal best 100m breaststroke time of 59.13. His stellar time fell only to that of Adam Peaty, whose 57.92 rocketed the Brit to a new world record mark.
On competing against Peaty in the future, Murdoch has a very casual standpoint. “We’ve been racing each other since 2012, though, and we’ve come through a lot together so it’s not scary. And it’s a race for first. Every time I stand on the block I believe I’ve done enough to put myself in a position to win.”
Looking ahead to qualifying for Rio, Murdoch also does not count out Scot swimmer Michael Jamieson, who Murdoch unexpectedly beat at last year’s Commonwealth Games to earn the 200m breaststroke gold medal in Glasgow.
Says Murdoch, “Adam is the poster boy of world swimming now but Michael is the only other Brit who has been sub 2:08 in the 200m as well and he’s now had time to collect his thoughts since Glasgow and has the fire back for racing. He is dangerous and it would be stupid of me to think of him as a lesser opponent after last year.”