Ryan Murphy becomes first swimmer to record triple backstroke gold at worlds


American Ryan Murphy became the first man or woman to sweep all three backstrokes at one world swimming championships, completing his triple at short course worlds in Melbourne on Sunday.

Murphy, who swept the two Olympic backstrokes in 2016, won the 200m back on the final day of the six-day short course worlds on Sunday. In a U.S. one-two, he clocked 1:47.41 to top Shaine Casas by six tenths of a second. Race video is timestamped above this post. Murphy previously won the 50m and 100m backstrokes.

“I like the 50m and the 100m a lot better than the 200m,” Murphy said, according to World Aquatics.

The 50m back, which is not on the Olympic program, was added to the world championships in 1999.

Short course worlds are in a 25-meter pool, while most major international meets, including the Olympics, are in 50-meter pools. Fields at short course worlds are typically not as strong.

“When I got the invite, I wasn’t sure I was going to come,” said Murphy, who did not compete at last December’s short course worlds. “I had taken a lot of time off this summer, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be ready for this.”

Murphy prevailed in Melbourne in the absence of Russian Yevgeny Rylov, who swept the backstrokes at the Tokyo Olympics. Rylov was banned from international competition for all of 2022 after attending a pro-Vladimir Putin rally in March, while all Russian swimmers continue to be banned due to the war in Ukraine.

Murphy’s other primary rival, Italian Thomas Ceccon, swam events other than the backstrokes in Melbourne. Ceccon broke Murphy’s world record in the 100m back in a 50-meter pool at this past June’s world championships in Budapest.

Also Sunday, the U.S. picked up individual medals from Nic Fink (gold, 50m breaststroke, not an Olympic event), Torri Huske (silver, 100m butterfly), Claire Curzan (silver, 200m back) and Lilly King (bronze, 50m breast).

The swimming season continues in January with a Pro Series event in Knoxville, Tennessee.


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French Open: Iga Swiatek rolls toward possible Coco Gauff rematch

Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek reached the French Open third round without dropping a set, eyeing a third Roland Garros title in four years. Not that she needed the help, but Swiatek’s immediate draw is wide open after the rest of the seeds in her section lost.

Swiatek dispatched 102nd-ranked American Claire Liu 6-4, 6-0 on Thursday, the same score as her first-round win. She gets 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu of China in the round of 32.

The other three seeds in Swiatek’s section all lost in the first round, so the earliest that the world No. 1 could play another seed is the quarterfinals. And that would be No. 6 Coco Gauff, who was runner-up to Swiatek last year.

Gauff plays her second-round match later Thursday against 61st-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher. Gauff also doesn’t have any seeds in her way before a possible Swiatek showdown.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Swiatek, who turned 22 on Wednesday, came into this year’s French Open without the invincibility of a year ago, when she was 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury, but said it wasn’t serious. That diagnosis appears to have been spot-on through two matches this week, though her serve was broken twice in the first set of each match.

While the men’s draw has been upended by 14-time champion Rafael Nadal‘s pre-event withdrawal and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev‘s loss in the first round, the top women have taken care of business.

Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, American Jessica Pegula and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan also reached the third round without dropping a set.

Though all of them have beaten Swiatek in 2023, the Pole remains the favorite to lift the trophy a week from Saturday. She can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

She can also become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

Swiatek doesn’t dwell on it.

“I never even played Serena or Monica Seles,” she said. “I’m kind of living my own life and having my own journey.”

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Penny Oleksiak to miss world swimming championships

Penny Oleksiak

Seven-time Olympic medalist Penny Oleksiak of Canada will miss July’s world swimming championships because she does not expect to be recovered enough from knee and shoulder injuries.

“The bar that we set was, can she be as good as she’s ever been at these world championships?” coach Ryan Mallette said in a press release. “We just don’t feel like we’re going to be ready to be 100 percent yet this summer. Our focus is to get her back to 100 percent as soon as possible to get ready for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

Oleksiak, who owns the Canadian record of seven Olympic medals (across all sports), missed Canada’s trials meet for worlds two months ago due to the injuries. She was still named to the team at the time in hope that she would be ready in time for worlds.

The 22-year-old returned to competition last month at a Mare Nostrum meet in Barcelona, after which she chose to focus on continued rehab rather than compete at worlds in Fukuoka, Japan.

“Swimming at Mare Nostrum was a checkpoint for worlds, and I gave it my best shot,” Oleksiak said in the release. “We reviewed my swims there, and it showed me the level I want to get back to. Now I need to focus on my rehab to get back to where I want to be and put myself in position to be at my best next season.”

Oleksiak had knee surgery last year to repair a meniscus. After that, she developed a left shoulder injury.

In 2016, Oleksiak tied for Olympic 100m freestyle gold with American Simone Manuel. She also earned 100m butterfly silver in Rio and 200m free bronze in Tokyo, along with four relay medals between those two Games.

At last year’s worlds, she earned four relay medals and placed fourth in the 100m free.

She anchored the Canadian 4x100m free relay to silver behind Australia at the most recent Olympics and worlds.

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