What Happened In The Men’s 50 Backstroke Final?

2022 FINA SHORT COURSE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

The often contentious USA vs. Australia rivalry in swimming got a new chapter on Friday evening in Melbourne due to a technical error at the start of the men’s 50m backstroke final.

The eight athletes in the field took their marks. Then, in addition to the customary single beep signalling the start of the race, there were three additional longer beeps.

The video below, courtesy of World Aquatics, shows the timing system malfunction.

Three of the finalists—Marek Ulrich, Dylan Carter, and Lorenzo Morapulled up after the start, visibly confused. There was no mid-pool rope to drop though, so the other five athletes swam the entire race.

Isaac Cooper, Australia’s breakout performer of the meet, lowered the world junior record that he set in the semifinals. He clocked 22.49, touching the wall first ahead of the competitors who swam the race, including 100 backstroke champion Ryan Murphy.

After the initial race, World Aquatics announced that the timing error would result in the event being re-swum.

“After speaking with all the competing athletes and team officials from the competing countries, it was unanimously agreed that the competition would be re-swum at 21:10 (AEDT) tonight, December 16, 2022.”

That time change put the re-swim directly after the men’s 100m IM final, giving the swimmers about 45 minutes of recovery time. The schedule change also meant that instead of swimming the 50 back final and then the 50 freestyle semifinal, Carter had to do the opposite.

Below is video of the re-swum final:

With the chaotic nature of the session, it’s unsurprising that the times were a bit slower than we expected them to be. Murphy earned gold, swimming 22.64 and adding another gold medal to his Melbourne collection. His winning time was slower than what Cooper swam during the initial race.

The 18-year-old Cooper was not able to match the speed of his first swim, touching in 22.73 for silver. Poland’s Kacper Stokowski earned bronze just a hundredth behind the Australian. Additionally, Cooper’s 22.49 will not count as a new world junior record.

After the race, Murphy spoke about his conflicting emotions on the race.

“I talked to him real quick after the race but I’m going to make sure to talk to him and just let him know that in my mind he won that race,” said the 27-year-old American. “It’s definitely a mix of emotions. That’s certainly the first time I’ve experienced something like that.”

He went on, saying that “from [his] perspective it’s a little bit disappointing the way that it shook out. I feel for Isaac…going for your first individual world title. I think that’s huge and an incredible accomplishment. What I would tell him is he’s 18. He’s got a bright career ahead of him. He’s a great talent and he’s going to have a lot of opportunities. Obviously, it’s disappointing the way this one shook out but I think he’s going to have a lot of world titles in his name come the end of his career.”

Cooper has already had a setback this year when he was sent home from the Australian team’s Commonwealth Games training camp after he was caught overusing prescription medication. He voiced his frustration with the way the malfunction was handled after the race.

“I definitely didn’t want to do another one,” he said, which conflicts with World Aquatics’ statement that the decision was unanimous.

“I’ve gone through so many low points and all I want to do is be able to stand on top. Every time I get close, I get knocked back again. At the end of the day, I’ve never seen that happen before and it’s a shame I had to be in that situation but the gold medal isn’t mine. [An apology] doesn’t change what happened. It’s nothing I did that’s wrong. I did what I was supposed to do. I came here and raced. If there’s a technical problem, that’s FINA’s problem, not mine. It affects me and everyone.”

He also gave insight into his decision to keep swimming after the system error.

“I heard a second horn and I thought, I’m here at Worlds, I’m not going to stop in case everyone else keeps going. The reality is normally there is a rope at 15 [meters] that will drop to stop the swimmer. That didn’t happen here.”

Echoing his message that “this is the first step back up” after being sent home prior to the Commonwealth Games, Cooper went on to say in Melbourne that “if I can come back from this I know I will be a better person and athlete.”

“Hopefully I can set an example around sportsmanship. I called my coach and he was crying, which made me cry even more. I definitely rest easy knowing my time was the fastest.”

This is the second controversy of the year in the men’s 50 backstroke. At this summer’s Long Course World Championships in Budapest, gold medalist Justin Ress was initially disqualified for an infraction on his finish. After the medal ceremony where Hunter Armstrong was awarded gold, the result was overturned and the gold medal went back to Ress.

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swimfan
1 year ago

I’m pretty surprised by the immature reactions to this situation. YES, the loud double beep was distracting…so much so that 3 swimmers stopped. OF COURSE it had to be a do-over. If Cooper was the only one to keep going would he still think he won? I get that its unfortunate but I’ve seen this happen countless times in swimming and YES…they have to re-do the event to have it be a legit race…you know…with everyone in the heat…racing. Congratulations to Ryan. An amazing athlete and class act.

Sub13
Reply to  swimfan
1 year ago

No one is saying that the original result should just stand. Literally no one has said that. People are complaining that the re-swim was unfair and changed the outcome of the race: which it did.

The issue never should have happened. People who are pointing out that it resulted in unfairness aren’t immature just because you don’t like it.

swimfan
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

I agree that it was terrible and never should have happened the way it did But Murphy is getting singled out which he does not deserve. He’s getting so much heat and several people are saying that Cooper is the “real winner,” and that Murphy isn’t apologetic enough…Just my take.That also is “unfair.”

chickenlamp
Reply to  swimfan
1 year ago

It’s a crappy situation for everyone, but Cooper’s response to the press isn’t a great look. Ryan was gracious about the whole mess, but I’m not confident Cooper would have done the same if their positions were reversed.

YinzSwims
Reply to  chickenlamp
1 year ago

It’s always easier to be gracious as the winner, as the guy who benefited from the error…

nonrevhoofan
1 year ago

I admit to being really old, but, historically, multiple beeps means the race is stopped. Do they not teach this to young swimmers any more? Also, why are there no backstroke ropes? And, when all else failed, the official at the 25m end used to put his/her hands in the water to stop the swimmer in his tracks. What happened to all these safeguards to prevent a swimmer from swimming the whole race?

Sub13
Reply to  nonrevhoofan
1 year ago

That’s a question for the new and greatly unimproved FINA aka WA

rsgnsf
Reply to  nonrevhoofan
1 year ago

All 5 swimmers who continued to swim the race were still underwater for the additional beeps. This sort of thing would not have happened in the ‘old days’ (which I come from, too), since all swimmers would have been on the surface. And yes, there would have been a rope as well. I thought that continued to be pretty standard today, but I guess not.

Sub13
1 year ago

The quote from Murphy here is very different from what he said in the video posted last night. I wasn’t happy with what he said last night but this quote definitely makes it clearer that he was supportive of Isaac. And the two of them seem to be on good terms.

Nonetheless, in Murphy’s own words he considers Cooper to be the winner of the race and the world champion. He already has 11 world championship golds. Why would he want one in his house that he himself said he didn’t earn?

turboturtle
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

He did earn it. Half the field stopped so they re swam. You all are something though.

Sub13
Reply to  turboturtle
1 year ago

“In my mind he won that race”. Murphy’s own words. Murphy does not believe he won the race.

turboturtle
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

I said he earned it not what he thought in his ‘mind’. Goofball.

Sub13
Reply to  turboturtle
1 year ago

If someone says “I don’t believe I won’t this race” that’s tantamount to them saying “I didn’t earn the medal comes with winning because I didn’t win”. Basic logic. Try it.

turboturtle
1 year ago

He’s got a bit of bad attitude. ‘sent home from the Australian team’s Commonwealth Games training camp after he was caught overusing prescription medication. ‘Every time I get close, I get knocked back again’.

Sub13
Reply to  turboturtle
1 year ago

He was using prescription medication because of mental health issues, something that billions of people across the world do. I guess you’d tell someone with cancer to stop having a bad attitude during chemotherapy?

turboturtle
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

overusing prescription medication. There are rules super chief. Classy of you to bring in people struggling with Cancer though.

Last edited 1 year ago by turboturtle
Sub13
Reply to  turboturtle
1 year ago

He didn’t breach any WADA rules. It was an internal decision by Swimming Australia. He was absolutely allowed to compete if Swimming Australia wanted him to.

But the lengths you will go to to paint him as a brat are impressive. You’re like one of those people who finds out a cop killed an innocent person and says “yeah but they had an unpaid traffic ticket so they deserved it”.

turboturtle
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

Your whataboutisms are weird man.

turboturtle
Reply to  turboturtle
1 year ago

Downvote all you want but he got sent home for being sketchy. Typical.

Sub13
Reply to  turboturtle
1 year ago

Yeah just like how Rylov was suddenly “sketchy” in Tokyo because he beat the Americans lol

turboturtle
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

Hitching your horse to the Russians. Nice!

Sub13
Reply to  turboturtle
1 year ago

The meltdown you’re having in this thread is so funny. Thank you for providing me some entertainment.

turboturtle
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

Haha it’s fun talking to people who like swimming but know nothing about it. No hard feelings!

Sub13
Reply to  turboturtle
1 year ago

Oh sweetie. You’re even manipulating the votes on this page to make yourself feel better. I can’t imagine being that pathetic. You must have a really full life.

Salt Water
1 year ago

Can we go back to having false start ropes?

turboturtle
Reply to  Salt Water
1 year ago

I wonder how well those would work on those giant dudes going that fast. Rope burns!

Sub13
Reply to  Salt Water
1 year ago

We never stopped having them. I don’t know why they weren’t there

Anonymous
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

I’ve been around swimming for 20 years and I’ve never seen one. I can’t imagine managing those too.

Sub13
Reply to  Anonymous
1 year ago

I’ve seen them constantly. Titmus said on the broadcast that she doesn’t know why they weren’t there.

P K
Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

My instinct is that a recall rope is no longer required as there is no verbiage for that in the FINA rules anymore. The USA Swimming 2000 rulebook was the last one that required a false start recall rope (103.15 – https://www.usaswimming.org/docs/default-source/rules-regulations/2000-rulebook.pdf). Starting in 2001 (https://www.usaswimming.org/docs/default-source/rules-regulations/2001-rulebook.pdf), 103.15 (which is now 103.19 in the current rulebook) was changed to require a “recall device” which could be a recall rope but did not have to be (most starting systems have recall tones, which would satisfy being the recall device). This was about the time that USA Swimming adopted the no recall false start rule.

USA Swimming… Read more »

Hugh A Mungus
1 year ago

“…If there’s a technical problem, that’s FINA’s problem, not mine. It affects me and everyone.”

Cooper’s frustration is clearly visible. He deadnamed World Aquatics.

DIII
1 year ago

“I’m not going again” says Cooper after he finishes and looks around at the confusion

Steve Nolan
1 year ago

“I definitely didn’t want to do another one,” he said, which conflicts with World Aquatics’ statement that the decision was unanimous.

Eh, not wanting to do it again and telling FINA “I will not do another one” and voting against re-swimming the heat is a different thing.

Like I get him not wanting to do it again – he “won”! stop the presses! – but he didn’t win. Half of the heat stopped because of a starting error, something that he himself acknowledges hearing. Murphy said he heard it as well, so there’s 2 of the 5 people that “swam” the heat acknowledging that they also heard the thing that tells you to stop the race. Can’t say that… Read more »

theloniuspunk
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 year ago

This

Joe Barron
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 year ago

There are two remaining days in the World Championships. The way it currently stands Cooper and Murphy each have a victory over one another. And since both swept the top-two places in the race and re-race, no other swimmers are needed. So, why not have a winner-take-all race on the final day and determine a rightful world champion?

anonymous
Reply to  Joe Barron
1 year ago

For one thing Ryan is swimming the 200 back prelims and finals. Cooper isn’t.

Sub13
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 year ago

He didn’t have a choice. FINA would have said “agree or don’t swim and you’ll DNS”. And then lied by saying everyone agreed freely. Like it’s so obvious that’s what happened.

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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