Olympian Ryan Murphy finds a way to stay in his favourite

Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy talks about life in the water with atopic dermatitis, and learns to live with it so he’s in the most comfortable spot.

Do swimmers have the best bodies?

The question may be subjective, but the popular answer tends to be a resounding yes. An impressive physique is a byproduct of sliding across the pool, for hours at a time.

Ryan Murphy loves being in the water. It always was, since he can remember.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder in the 100m featured a bookish swimmer’s body, yet the 27-year-old champion still feels self-conscious at times wearing a speedo.

That’s because Murphy, like professional surfer Coco Hu, deals with atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema.

Eczema can be irritated by the sun and water, which is a mystery to six-year-old Ryan and his parents. He was troubled by swimming meetings, but despite the pain, nothing could remove him from his favorite environment.

In the water is where Ryan is most comfortable; Where he can be one with nature and enjoy the moment. Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, he was surrounded by water, spending summers floating in the vicinity of Atlanta and the St. Johns River. Taking into account the abundance of natural springs and pristine swimming places Near Jacksonville, it’s easy to imagine how Ryan’s connection to the water was enhanced, especially when I was a student at the Bulls School. Ryan is even planning to marry his fiancée, longtime girlfriend Bridget Kontinen, on the shores of picturesque Lake Tahoe.

From his competitive high school days to representing the Cal State Golden Bears to coding American success as an Olympic medalist, Ryan has worked endlessly to get to the podium.

Now, Murphy is using his platform to draw attention to a health issue that affects one in ten Americans. Murphy and Ho partner with Sanofi and Regeneron to “Now I: Beach Mode“To prove that eczema doesn’t have to keep athletes off their element.

Murphy spoke with FanSided about how his battles against eczema got to where he is today, providing insightful lessons he learned along the way.

27 July 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Ryan Murphy (USA) before the men’s 100m final back during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics at the Tokyo Aquatic Center. Mandatory credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy talks about fighting eczema and being one with nature

I understand that atopic dermatitis is something that has been a challenge throughout your career, and I imagine there are a lot of other people who love to swim and deal with this as well. How has this affected your swimming career?

Yes, I think I see it in a slightly broader sense rather than how it affects the swimming career.

Certainly while growing up there was some concern about wearing a small speedo while suffering from eczema. But I think in general, it’s something I’ve learned: relief techniques, things that have worked for me, and which treatment plans work for me. Overall, I’m really excited to share my story and hope to inspire everyone with moderate to severe eczema to feel comfortable with their skin.

I really love it because now you’re on the world stage, and see you at the Olympics. This is a really powerful thing to do, especially promoting self-love and acceptance.

Is there a particular moment you remember where you overcame these symptoms to win?

Yes, there is a very specific moment. And I think, frankly, it makes sense for me to go back to one of the first times I dealt with my eczema symptoms.

I grew up – I think it started at the age of six – that I thought I had a rash. My parents thought I had a rash. I was constantly itchy. My arms, my legs, wherever the seizure is, that’s what I really thought. I thought it was related to allergies.

As I got older, there was a meeting – I had just entered high school, and we were meeting swimming in Austin, Texas. At the beginning of the meeting, eczema started on my legs. By the end of the encounter, eczema flared up my neck. It was hard to turn my neck. Very flaky skin.

So it’s really uncomfortable. Every time I get in the water, I constantly get in and out of the water, I dry with a towel, I dry with a wet towel at that time. These are all things that weren’t necessarily great in terms of improving symptoms. So this was a scenario where I was able to get through the competition in order to keep competing while my eczema wasn’t that big.

I can’t believe you’ve been through all of that, especially knowing where you are today and that’s where it all started.

Was there a moment with you or even with your parents who might have been worried where, “We know this is eczema, and we know sun and water can make this worse”—was there a moment where you wondered, “Should I do this?”

To be very honest, no. I think we felt really comfortable when we went to the doctor and discovered that moderate to severe eczema (or atopic dermatitis) felt comfortable creating a way forward. And I think it was a really positive experience for me at this point.

It’s great to be in a place now where I feel comfortable sharing my story, and I hope to inspire everyone with moderate to severe eczema, to feel confident with their skin. I really appreciate Sanofi and Regeneron for trying out and for being part of the “Now Me: Beach Mode” campaign.

I’m so happy to share that, because you are already a role model for kids, but also in this way for kids with eczema.

Since last summer, let’s recap: You now have six Olympic medals in just two games, which is unbelievable. You set an Olympic record, and won your first world title this summer. This is a win at the highest level, you’ve explained a little bit about how challenges come your way and you’ve always, like I said, found a positive way forward.

What is the driving force behind winning at the highest level?

I honestly think the driving force has been that I’ve been really fortunate to have incredible people around me throughout my career. Back in high school, really by chance, I stumbled upon a program that ended up becoming pretty much a high school swimming program. Every four years I was in high school. My teammates from high school – Four different people – They went on to win Olympic medals.

Then I was able to come to Cal, and I was around really great athletes, they had really great coaching staff, and they taught me everything. My job is to come in, work really hard, implement the game plan, and communicate the best of me so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability. But it’s really about people.

I’m glad you brought the special people into your life because I heard you were getting married to your college sweetheart Bridget, who was a rower at Cal.

I wanted to know more about your wedding plans, and I was also wondering: I saw on Instagram that she was hoping to get a dog, so did she get a dog yet?

Yes, no on the front dog at the moment. Now, we’re still in an apartment building. So, living on the seventh floor with a dog, it’s going to be a little tricky, but she keeps pushing on that.

But really excited. We are getting married in September of 2023 which by chance will be a beach wedding. It’s in Lake Tahoe on the water. So it would be a really, really nice place. And you know, we’re just at the beginning of planning. So right now, I’m really excited about it, and I’m really excited to see what kind of weekend it will look like.

This is very exciting. I love the whole waterfront wedding, especially since you both are athletes in the water. So you’re marrying someone from Cal, and I know you’re still on the show. How big of a place does Cal keep in your heart?

Oh, wow. Yes, Cal was an incredible experience. I grew up in Florida. And this is where my love for water began. I grew up swimming obviously, but in Florida and in Jacksonville. There is a lot of water everywhere. So I would go to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean. I was going to the St Johns River. I felt that what I enjoyed was just being around the water.

And when coming out to California, it was a completely different culture, a completely different experience. But it was really cool, and I found myself really excited. Since I’ve been here, in class surrounded by really cool people, driven, and also in the pool. Just being surrounded by people with Olympic aspirations is something I’ve really been able to feed, and I think has made me a lot better.

It’s just so incredible to be a part of a program like this, to reach out to the Olympics and to be so connected to all of that.

And speaking of those Olympic ties, you know, in the past, Americans often thought of Michael Phelps when we think of American swimming, and now they think of You are.

I love it and Rio 2016, you both won the gold in the medley relay. I think this is like passing the wand, literally and figuratively. How was your relationship with Michael, and what does passing the baton mean to you?

Yes, it is really cool. And honestly, I don’t think about it in those terms. I always try to think of it as…there’s this great quote, and I really hope I’m not saying this the wrong way. But in general, we are able to see farther because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.

That’s kind of something I’ve thought about throughout my career. You are constantly trying to build on the people who came before you in this sport. I did both: From a specific competitive standpoint, I study these guys and learn what they did. I’m talking to them about their mental make-up. I talk to them about how to inspire the next generation.

So you learn all of these traits that he really value, and then you do what you think will help move the sport forward and you do what you think will inspire as many people as possible.

This is really special. And so I’d like to ask you since you talked about it, and we talked about how much you love water, so I know it’s been a challenge with Alzheimer’s, but what does being in the water really mean to you as a safe space and a place to relax? What does that mean for you over the course of your life and career?

I honestly think what I appreciate about water in terms of being a comfortable outlet is right now, it’s the only place I can’t bring the technology. It’s the only place where I don’t have my phone.

Even now, if we’ve been training in the weight room, my workouts are on my phone. So swimming and being in the water, being on the beach, it’s the only place where I can put all the technology away and be one with nature. Just enjoy the moment

And that’s where I feel most comfortable, which is no distractions, just being with other people. Some of the best experiences of my life happened at the beach, and this was a great reason why I wanted to be a part of the Now Me: Beach Mode campaign with Sanofi and Regeneron.

This is an important message for all of us, and we see what you do in the water without being distracted, right? Go ahead and win.

Ryan and server pro Coco Ho team up to join “Me Now: Beach Mode‘, in partnership with Dupixent, to educate the public about the realities and challenges faced by people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, and help them find treatment plans so they can revitalize ‘Beach Mode’ throughout the year.

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