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Olympic-Bound Buckeyes: Hunter Armstrong

The Ohio State swimmer joins Team USA in men’s 100-meter backstroke.

Swimming: U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Swimming Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

The last time an Ohio State men’s swimmer represented Team USA at the Olympics, Ford Kono, George Onekea, Yoshi Oyakawa and Albert Wiggins were headed to the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. But Hunter Armstrong will break that 65-year drought when he heads to Japan next month for the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The rising junior, who transferred to OSU from West Virginia before the 2020-21 season, qualified for the United States Olympic Swimming Team after finishing second in the 100m backstroke behind reigning Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder Ryan Murphy. Murphy’s time of 52.33 seconds was just a hair faster than Armstrong’s 52.48, his personal best.

Under current qualification rules, the top two swimmers per event make the team. Additionally, up to the top six in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events qualify for relay purposes. The roster cannot exceed 26 names, so the number of people who ultimately make the cut is dependent upon swimmers qualifying for multiple events.

“We are so incredibly thrilled for Hunter and the opportunity he now has to represent the United States at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” Bill Dorenkott, Ohio State director of swimming and diving said in a statement issued by the university. “He is swimming extremely well and is within striking distance of the world record (51.97 set by Murphy in 2016). I think he will have some terrific Olympic Games swims.”

Prior to his qualification for the Tokyo Games (which are branded as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics though they are taking place in 2021 due to the pandemic), Armstrong — a Dover, Ohio native — played a pivotal role in helping the Buckeyes to a third-place team finish at the 2021 Big Ten Championships, where he scored in seven events (including second in the 100-meter backstroke). He also helped the team to a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championships and earned four All-America honors, including an honorable mention for 100-meter backstroke after a 13th-place finish.

Should Armstrong earn a medal, he will be carrying on a tradition of domination by Team USA in the men’s 100-meter backstroke. An American has won gold in the event at every Olympics since 1996.

Following his recent success at the Olympic Trials, Armstrong is off to Hawaii on June 27 for training camp with the Olympic team before heading to Tokyo. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics officially kick off on Friday, July 23. The swimming events run from July 24 through Aug. 1.