After failing to get gold medals in his individual backstroke specialties, former Cal standout Ryan Murphy captured a gold medal and set a world record in the process as part of the United States' winning men's 4x100 medley relay team at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday night (Sunday in Japan).
Tom Shields also captured a gold medal in that event without getting wet, and Abbey Weitzeil, swimming less than an hour after competing in the 50 freestyle final, came up a fraction of a second short of gold in her relay.
Murphy swam the opening backstroke leg of the men's 4x100 medley relay in 52.31 and Caeleb Dressel, swimming the butterfly leg in 49.03, brought the U.S. back from third to first. Michael Andrew swam the breaststroke leg, and Zach Apple polished it off in 46.95 and the Americans had a world record time of 3:26.78 and a win by 0.73 seconds over Great Britain.
It was the fifth gold medal for Dressel at these Olympics.
"We had a good spirited discussion amongst the men’s coaching staff yesterday to make sure we were putting the right four out there," said USA head coach Dave Durden, who is also the men's swimming coach at Cal. "We looked at the splits of the world record and as we stopped for a second and thought about our guys on that relay, we kind of looked at each other said … we can do this."
What made the Americans' performance particularly impressive is that they had barely qualified for the final.
The Americans had the eighth-best qualifying time, landing the final spot in the final by just 0.12 of a second over the ninth-place team. That heat was swum by different USA swimmers.
Shields did not swim in the men's 4x100 medley relay finals. But he did swim for the U.S. in a qualifying heat in that event, and those who swim in qualifying heats earn the same medal that his country earns in the final. He did not get to stand on the podium, however.
A few minutes earlier, Weitzeil swam the freestyle anchor leg for the U.S. in the women's 4x100 medley relay. She left her starting block nearly dead even with Australia's Cate Campbell and swam shoulder to shoulder with her the entire way.
Ultimately Weitzeil came in second, 0.13 of second behind Campbell and the Australian team.
The United States captured the silver medal in a time of 3:51.73, which was 0.87 of a second ahead of Canada, which earned the bronze.
In the 50 freestyle final, Weitzeil had an excellent start, but she could not hang on in the outstanding field, finishing eighth in the eight-swimmer race.
Her time of 24.41 seconds was just 0.60 of a second slower than the winner, Emma McKeon of Australia, who was timed in an Olympic-record 23.81. Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden was second, 0.26 of second behind the winner, and Pernille Blume took the bronze.
Collin Morikawa loses playoff for bronze medal
Cal alumnus Collin Morikawa had an outstanding final round in the Olympic men's golf tournament, putting him a playoff for the bronze medal with six other players. Morikawa got down to the final two golfers in the playoff, but lost it to C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei on the fourth extra hole.
American Xander Schauffele won the gold medal by finishing at 18 under par after shooting a 4-under 67. Rory Sabbatini, who is representing Slovakia, earned the silver medal, finishing one stroke behind at 17-under for the tournament after shooting a remarkable 10-under-par 61 in the fourth round.
Morikawa fired an 8-under-par 63 in the fourth round to finish the tournament at 15-under. He tied for third with Pan, Mito Pereira, Sebastian Munoz, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.
So at about 20 minutes after midnight Pacific time, those seven trudged back to the 18th hole to begin their playoff for the bronze.
Matsuyama and Casey were eliminated on the first extra hole when both bogeyed while the other five made par.
All five parred the second playoff hole.
The bronze-medal playoff was reduced to Pan and Morikawa when they birdied the third extra hole, while the other three missed birdie putts.
But Morikawa hit his second shot into the sand on the fourth playoff hole (No. 18) and missed a long par putt before Pan made his par putt to take the playoff and the bronze medal.
Camryn Rogers qualifies for hammer final
Camryn Rogers, who was the 2021 NCAA women's hammer-throw champion as a Cal athlete, easily qualified for the hammer finals.
Rogers, who represents Canada in the Olympics, surpassed the distance needed to qualify for the final on her first throw. Athletes needed to throw at least 73.50 meters in the preliminary round to automatically qualify for the final, and Rogers had a throw of 73.97 meters (242 feet, 8 inches) on her first attempt.
Competitors get three throws to qualify in the preliminaries, but since Rogers qualified on her first throw she did not throw again.
The final is scheduled for Tuesday at 4:30 a.m. Pacific time (7:30 a.m. Eastern time).
Rogers will to improve on her qualifying throw to medal, and she is capable of doing so. Rogers broke the collegiate record this spring while defending her NCAA title, and her mark of 75.52 meters (247 feet, 9 inches) is the best by a Canadian since 2014, when Sultana Frizell set the national record of 75.73 (248-5).
Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland, who captured the gold medal in the women's hammer throw in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, had the longest throw in the preliminary round at 76.99 meters (252 feet, 7 inches)
Cover photo of Ryan Murphy and Caeleb Dressel by Ron Schumacher, USA Today