South side

Gold Medal-Winning Olympian Ryan Murphy Holds Close to Chicago Roots Preparing For Tokyo Games

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Two-time Olympian Ryan Murphy has held true to his South Side roots over the years while preparing for the upcoming Tokyo Games.

Originally from suburban Palos Heights, Murphy will be competing for Team USA in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke races.

After living in Oak Lawn, Murphy's family relocated to Florida, where the swimmer grew up.

He never lost his ties to Chicago, though, with many relatives still watching him train for the Games from the Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park areas. Murphy said two of his favorite sports teams are still the Chicago Bulls and the Cubs, although one causes some controversy with his family.

"All of my uncles are White Sox fans, so they kill me every time I say I'm more of a Cubs fan," Murphy said.

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, he took home three gold medals for backstroke events and set a new world record. That same year, Murphy posted his fastest time in the 100-meter backstroke.

The University of California-Berkley graduate was projected to be a frontrunner for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics until the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted plans for the Games. Murphy said, however, that he feels more ready than before.

"I do feel like I'm better now," he said. "Basically every metric that I can try to measure myself in practice, I’m better."

The pandemic caused him to build a makeshift weight room in his garage, with new methods of strength training. Murphy explained that he has done pull-ups on a tree and even pushed his Jeep up a hill for his workout.

Murphy's parents were able to witness his wins in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but won't be allowed as overseas spectators for this summer's Games due to COVID-19 mitigations -- something that athletes have said will be a sacrifice this year.

"One of my favorite moments from 2016 was being able to give my family a hug," Murphy said. "They’ve put so much into this and being able to share it with them is really special."

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