Ryan Murphy celebrates after winning gold in the men's 200-meter backstroke final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on Aug. 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
RIO DE JANEIRO — For the past 20 years, American men have dominated the 200-meter backstroke. Of the 15 Olympic medals in the event since the 1996 Games, U.S. swimmers have won nine.
Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley — teammates at the University of California, Berkeley — did not want to break this medal streak.
In the first 100, Murphy, 21, took the lead and claimed another Olympic gold medal — to go with the one that he won in the 100 backstroke on Monday night.
“The 100 back was a real confidence booster,” said Murphy. “Going into the first race, you don’t really know how it’s going to be. You feel good in training, but that doesn’t always mean your races are going to be good. So doing the 100 back and having a good time in that helped me to realize that I could be better in the 200 back than I was at (Olympic Trials).”
He beat reigning world champion Mitch Larkin, from Australia, who wanted to avenge his fourth-place finish in the 100 backstroke. Larkin finished in second. Murphy’s time of 1:53.62 was 0.34 ahead of Larkin. Evgeny Rylov from Russia won bronze.
Pebley finished fifth.
To reach Rio, both Murphy and Pebley defeated 200-meter backstroke defending gold medalist Tyler Clary at Olympic Trials in June.
At the London Games in 2012, Clary won and Ryan Lochte took the bronze medal. In Beijing, Lochte won the 200 back, with Aaron Peirsol in second. Peirsol still holds the 200 back world record.
Between the 100 and 200 backstrokes, Peirsol and Murphy were texting.
“He said he was really proud of me, and he said, ‘I’m not proud of you because of the gold medal but because of how you’re handling it,’” said Murphy. “That means a lot to me. it’s a testament to how my parents taught me how to grow up. I’m someone who’s never completely satisfied with my results. I always want to be a little bit better. To hear Aaron notice that in me, that means a lot.”
Murphy’s gold is Team USA’s 22nd medal in swimming at the Rio Olympic Games. With two more nights of swimming, the U.S. is on track to equal or exceed the number of Olympic medals that the team won in the pool in London (30).