Ryan Murphy: Ready to Take the Next Step


Ryan Murphy (large)

By Mike Watkins//Correspondent

Training every day in your high school pool with an Olympian has its advantages – just ask Ryan Murphy.

A recent graduate of the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., Murphy and his high school teammates have shared their pool with 2012 Olympic gold medalist Charlie Houchin for a few years.

He said they’ve not only learned from watching Houchin’s tremendous work ethic but also from speaking with him – absorbing his advice and optimistic praise.

“I was talking to Charlie the other day, and (for some time) he has been trying to pump me up,” Murphy said. “He said, ‘You know who’s beatable at World Trials, Ryan?’ I responded with a simple, ‘I don’t know, Chuck.’ Then he looked at me and said, ‘Everyone’s beatable Ryan. You can beat them all.’

“Charlie’s gotten to the top of our sport by making the Olympic Team, and that’s the type of mentality I have to adopt to get to that level one day.”

Murphy’s next step toward reaching the goal of swimming at a future Olympics begins next Tuesday at the 2013 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis.

He’s swimming a full slate of events – his specialty backstroke events (including the 50), the 100 freestyle, both the 200 individual medley and 50 free on the final day of competition, and possibly the 100 butterfly – each contributing and building toward earning a spot on his first long course World Championship team.

Since graduating last month, he said he’s basically been on taper – and he’s ready to make a big splash at the meet.

It wasn’t that long ago (2010) that he broke multiple Olympic gold medalist Aaron Peirsol’s National Age Group record in the 100 backstroke – starting heavy expectations that one day he would take over the torch as the world’s best backstroker.

His strong family support system and level headedness has allowed Murphy the flexibility of knowing that pressure (mostly from media) doesn’t have to dictate his definition of success or his happiness with the sport of swimming.

“High expectations are relative to the level at which I’m performing,” said Murphy, who has been focusing on improving his underwaters and getting stronger – adding 15 pounds of muscle – this season. “I have always had high expectations for myself. However, the stage at which I have to perform these expectations grows each year. Every year presents a new challenge.

“Having so many promising prospects in USA Swimming has helped divert attention away from me. I know the opportunities to make these big teams aren’t going to come just because others may predict that I will make it. I’m very secure with my training and myself. To me, if I felt pressure from outside sources, I would be showing a lack of confidence in my coach and myself.”

Based on his strong performance at last year’s Olympic Trials (finals in both the 100 and 200 backstrokes – fourth and two spots from making the team in the 200) and bronze medal in the 200 backstroke at last December’s Short Course World Championships, Murphy knows he has the skills and competitive aptitude to be in the thick of his races in Indianapolis.

Just 17 at Trials last summer, Murphy admits he let the importance and enormity of the meet preclude him from swimming his best – particularly in the finals of the 200 back.

In retrospect, he wishes he’d been more relaxed for the finals, but, with most of life’s lessons, he needed to experience it first in order to make future changes.

“I was swimming great throughout the meet,” Murphy said. “My 100 back was better than my goal time, and I was happy with my swims in the heats and semis in the 200. In the final, my nerves got to me, and I was swimming tense. I didn’t achieve the time I wanted, but the swim was a good learning experience.

“I have a much more laid back approach to swimming this year and haven’t gotten nervous for a race since Trials last year. I swim my best when I am relaxed, and that’s become evident this year.”

Along with World Championship team aspirations, Murphy’s ultimate goal is to make the 2016 team headed to Rio de Janeiro.

That dream is one of the reasons he chose to attend and swim for the University of California-Berkeley this coming fall – a program he knows shares a lot of his philosophies in and out of the pool.

“I chose a program that excels in both short and long course with coaches whose philosophies are similar to the one with which I’ve become successful, and a team that all shares Olympic aspirations,” Murphy said. “I chose a prestigious school that would prepare me for life after swimming.

“Finally, I chose the school where I feel like I’ll be molded into the man I want to become. Dave (Durden) and Yuri (Suguiyama) are both great role models on and off the pool deck, and are two men that I respect.”

With high school finished, Murphy said he is very much looking forward to the next stages of his life in and out of the pool.

But first up for whom many consider the future of USA Swimming is a summer that he hopes will be filled with learning opportunities, fast swims and a trip to Barcelona.

“Going through Bolles has been a great experience,” Murphy said. “I have learned so much from Sergio and the Bolles staff. I have so many great memories from my senior year, and my whole high school career. The way our team came together and performed at high school state championships was truly something I’ll cherish.

“Being a part of three national record-breaking relays was more gratifying than any of my individual accolades. I’m looking forward to my upcoming years of college and creating some more memories.”