TOKYO — A pair of Russians snapped a remarkable American gold medal streak here at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on Tuesday.
American men had won the 100-meter backstroke at every Olympics dating back to 1996. Jeff Rouse started the run that year. Lenny Krayzelburg extended it in 2000. Aaron Piersol dominated the event in 2004 and 2008. Matt Grevers took over in 2012, and then came Ryan Murphy, a Chicago native-turned-Floridian who ascended to the top of the sport at Cal.
Murphy broke Olympic and world records en route to gold in 2016. Five years later, those records still stood. But in Tokyo, two Russians took aim at Murphy’s crown. Kliment Kolesnikov and Evgeny Rylov, from lanes 5 and 2, pushed Murphy in lane 4. Kolesnikov, in the adjacent lane, led at the 50-meter mark, and appeared to have the race won. But Rylov beat both him and Murphy to the wall, and after 25 years, the streak is no more.
Rylov finished with a time of 51.98, .02 ahead of Kolesnikov and .21 ahead of Murphy.