By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, June 16, 2017
The Phillips 66 National Championships and World Championship Trials will be held June 27-July 1 at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis. Buy tickets online now.
Ryan Murphy insists his life is relatively unchanged despite the three gold medals and world record he brought home from Rio last summer.
“The biggest difference now is that I get asked a lot more if my life is different,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s pretty normal and not very different than before the Olympics.”
True or not, Murphy does get more requests for autographs and photos with fans.
And if he goes to a swim meet – look out! He’s swarmed for both, and even though he’s a relatively private person, he said he really does enjoy being recognized.
Still, in his own mind – his own comfort zone – Murphy just enjoys being Ryan Murphy the swimmer and not necessarily Ryan Murphy the swimming star.
It’s a persona he struggled with last fall when he returned to school fresh from his Olympic success.
Now that it’s almost a year since Rio and he has a new challenge ahead of him at the Phillips 66 National Championships, June 27-July 1 in Indianapolis, his feet are firmly back on the ground and his eyes are on the next prize.
“I’ve never been one to want the limelight – I’m just not comfortable being there for very long,” he said. “I like the way my life is going and has been going. I do what I can to enjoy a certain level of normalcy as much as I can.”
Normalcy for Murphy these days includes dominance in the pool.
Not only did he sweep the backstroke events last summer in Rio – keeping a long American Olympic streak alive for another four years – but he concluded his collegiate career this spring winning both the 100 and 200 backstroke events all four years at NCAA Championships.
Now, with Nationals coming up – and a spot on the 2017 World Championship team on the line – Murphy said he is more than motivated to defend the titles he won last summer at Trials.
His continued ascension to becoming the best backstroker in the United States – which happens to have had the best, deepest group of backstrokers in the world for the past 40-plus years – is the result of several years of hard work as well as a change in focus.
And that title as the best in the United States and world is something he is still getting used to – and to a degree is choosing to ignore and deny.
“I don’t allow any outside influences to pressure me or make me feel any kind of pressure to feel or believe anything people say,” said Murphy, who set the world record in the 100 backstroke during the gold medal-winning 400 medley relay in Rio.
“Best backstroker in the world – that’s something I started to believe last fall, and it impacted the way I saw and approached swimming. I quickly changed that view because I don’t want to believe the hype. When you start to believe your own press, you forget why you’re doing what you love.”
That conscious shift in mentality resulted in a return to the basics of swimming and training for Murphy. And now that Nationals are within reach, he said he feels well prepared to race – and he knows the competition will be fierce.
In his mind, he had to get back to the grinder mentality that got him to the level where he swam last summer at Trials and the Olympics and where he knows he will need to swim at Nationals to contend for a spot on the World team this summer in Budapest.
“During that journey, I left no stone unturned and swam and trained with a purpose,” he said. “I’m going to need to be at that same level at Nationals because the field is going to be tough.
“While there are several guys – David Plummer, Tyler Clary – who won’t be there because they have retired, Matt Grevers and Jacob (Pebley) will be there and there are always new guys who swim fast at big meets. I know I will have to be at my best.”
Two weeks ago at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Santa Clara, Murphy held off strong competition from Grevers to win the 100 and Pebley to win the 200 backstrokes, and he said he is excited to race both guys again the last week of June in Indianapolis.
Now that he’s done with his collegiate swimming career – he still has two classes to complete this fall to graduate from the University of California-Berkeley with his degree in business ethics – Murphy said he has had some time to reflect on his time as a Bear.
He’s come to the realization that his journey to the person he is today was the result of great family support, great teammates, great coaching and his own personal focus, determination and commitment to want to be more.
“I came in as a kid and I’m leaving as a man, and that’s not just physical growth,” he said. “When I got here, I obviously wanted to have a lot of success in the pool – which I have – but I also wanted to grow as a person, and I’ve done that, too.
“I couldn’t have accomplished all that I have both collegiately and internationally in swimming without my parents’, my brother’s and sister’s and my teammates’ love and support, and of course, great coaching from Dave (Durden). I’ve thrived academically, and the knowledge I’ve accumulated in and out of the pool will be valuable wherever life takes me in the future.”