Kathleen Baker competes in the women's 200m backstroke at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships on Aug. 12, 2018 in Tokyo.
Three-time Olympic champion Ryan Murphy told reporters in Budapest last summer after winning the silver medal in both the 100- and 200-meter backstroke at the world championships that he wasn’t the best backstroker in the world, but he was going to do everything in his power to get that title back.
He’s well on his way after winning the 200-meter backstroke and setting a meet record at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo on Sunday to go along with the gold medal he won in the 100-meter backstroke two days earlier. Similar to what happened in the 100-meter race, Murphy broke the meet record in the morning prelims then broke it again in the final, finishing 1:53.57. It was his first time swimming under 1:54 since he swept the backstroke events at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 in 1:53.62.
Americans were all over the podium and the record books with 15 medals on Sunday, the final day of the pool events.
Not surprisingly, five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky was one of the U.S. swimmers who won the gold medal, her third of the week. Earlier this summer, in her first meet since turning pro, Ledecky crushed her own world record in the 1500 freestyle and was dominant again on Sunday, winning in 15:38.97. It was the 10th-fastest time in history, and nine of those top 10 times belong to Katie Ledecky. The second-place finisher, Australia’s Kiah Melverton, finished in 16:00.08 while Team USA’s Leah Smith won bronze in 16:00.82.
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Zane Grothe set a new meet record in the men’s 800 freestyle. Australian Grant Hackett’s record of 7:44.78 had stood since 2002, but Grothe replaced it with his career-best swim of 7:43.74. He and teammate Jordan Wilimovsky, who won silver in 7:45.19, swam some of the fastest times ever by Americans in the event.
Kathleen Baker also added her name to the record books in the 200 backstroke, winning the gold medal in 2:06.14. The two-time Olympic medalist beat the old record of 2:07.48, set by Elizabeth Pelton of the U.S. in 2010, and swam the ninth-fastest time by an American, while teammate Regan Smith claimed the bronze medal with a time of 2:06.46.
Murphy wasn’t the only American to medal in the men’s 200 back, as Austin Katz took the bronze with a time of 1:56.00.
Olympic silver medalist Simone Manuel was second in the 50 freestyle, finishing in 24.22, the fourth-fastest swim ever by an American.
Olympic hopeful Michael Andrew and Caeleb Dressel made it a 1-2 punch in the men’s 50 with Andrew, who turned pro at 14, pulling the upset to win gold in 21.46, and Dressel the silver in 21.93. It was Michael’s first gold at the senior international level, coming less than one month after winning the national title in the event, his fourth of that competition.
Micah Sumrall and Lilly King also gave the U.S. the top two spots in the 200 breaststroke, with Sumrall pulling down a 2:21.88 and King finishing in 2:22.12.
The women’s 400-meter medley team of Baker, King, Kelsi Dahlia and Manuel claimed silver with a time of 3:53.21 before the men’s 400 medley team rounded out the meet with gold.
Murphy, Andrew Wilson, Dressel and Nathan Adrian claimed the top spot with a time of 3:30.20 after Adrian’s strong final leg to edge Japan, which finished in 3:30.25.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.