Hunter Armstrong reacts after setting the world record in the men's 50-meter backstroke final at the Phillips 66 International Team Trials on April 28, 2022 in Greensboro, N.C.
Hunter Armstrong put his hands together and said a quick prayer after he realized he had broken the world record in the men’s 50-meter backstroke on Thursday night.
He then slapped the water with his hand and started celebrating.
Armstrong recorded the fastest time ever in the men’s 50 back, winning in 23.71 seconds to cap the third day of the Phillips 66 International Team Trials inside the Greensboro Aquatic Center.
“I’m at a loss for words honestly. It’s something that I’ve always wanted, and I’m over the moon right now,” Armstrong told NBC Sports afterward. “So I’m blessed to compete at this meet with the best athletes in the world, and I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that without racing them.”
On a day when several American records fell, Armstrong had the biggest moment with his record-breaking performance in the men’s 50 back.
The 21-year-old from Dover, Ohio, broke the American record with a time of 24.01 seconds in a preliminary race on Thursday morning.
He then returned to the pool a few hours later and broke the previous world record of 23.80 seconds set by Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov in 2021.
Armstrong got off to a fast start and held on down the stretch to narrowly earn the win and secure his spot at this summer’s 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. He became the first American ever to post a time under 24 seconds in the event.
Several other records were broken Thursday night before Armstrong’s race.
Katharine Berkoff set a new American record in the women’s 50 backstroke when she touched the wall in 27.12 seconds to earn the win.
The previous American record stood for only a few hours. Olympian Regan Smith set it when she posted a time of 27.33 seconds in a preliminary race on Thursday morning.
However, Smith finished second to Berkoff in the finals, posting a time of 27.25 seconds.
“It feels awesome,” Berkoff told NBC Sports. “It’s nice to have some long-course success this year. It was a lot of fun racing.”
Berkoff’s record-breaking performance came only a short drive from North Carolina State, where she’s a junior.
Only a few minutes earlier, Michael Andrew broke the American record in the 50-meter breaststroke, winning a close race in 26.52 seconds. Kevin Cordes set the previous record of 26.76 seconds in 2015.
It was a busy night for Andrew, who swam in three events.
In addition to the 50 breaststroke, he finished second in the 100-meter butterfly race behind seven-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel (50.20 seconds) and then quickly turned around and competed in the 50 backstroke.
Andrew said afterward that he was excited to earn a spot to the world championships.
“I’m very ready. I’m very excited,” Andrew told NBC Sports. “When I hit the wall and saw that in the fly and now with the breaststroke, to secure a spot, especially after coming second just marginally in the 50 fly, it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Nominated To the World Championships as of Thursday
Brooks Curry – 100m freestyle
Caeleb Dressel – 50/100m butterfly; 100m freestyle
Nic Fink – 200m breaststroke
Carson Foster – 4x200m freestyle relay; 400m individual medley
Bobby Finke – 1500m freestyle
Ryan Held – 4x100m freestyle relay
Trenton Julian – 200m butterfly; 4x200m freestyle relay
Drew Kibler – 200m freestyle; 4x100m freestyle relay
Ryan Murphy – 200m backstroke
Kieran Smith – 200m freestyle
Charlie Swanson – 200m breaststroke
Luca Urlando – 200m butterfly
Phoebe Bacon – 200m backstroke
Erika Brown – 4x100m freestyle relay
Claire Curzan – 50/100m butterfly; 100m freestyle
Hali Flickinger – 200m butterfly; 4x200m freestyle relay
Natalie Hinds – 4x100m freestyle relay
Torri Huske – 100m freestyle; 100m butterfly
Lilly King – 50/200m breaststroke
Katie Ledecky – 200/800m freestyle
Leah Smith – 800m freestyle; 4x200m freestyle relay
Claire Weinstein – 200m freestyle
Katie Grimes – 400m individual medley