Raising an Olympian: Ponte Vedra parents share their efforts to support son Ryan Murphy’s dream of Olympic gold


When Ryan Murphy was 7 years old, he wrote a book for a school assignment at Ponte Vedra’s Palmer Catholic Academy. The title: “My Swimming Life.”

Complete with hand-drawn illustrations, the book described Ryan’s love of swimming and concluded with, “I hope my swimming life continues and I become an Olympian when I grow up. I hope I will break the world records. I want to be the best swimmer in the world.”

Ryan’s parents, Patrick and Katy Murphy, displayed that book last week during a presentation to the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach. The Murphys were on hand to attest to the fact that, just as he hoped, their son became an Olympic swimmer, winning three gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and breaking the world record in the 100-meter backstroke.

“It’s so cool that Ryan’s dream came to fruition,” Patrick Murphy said.

The Murphys shared stories about their efforts to support their son’s love for and dedication to the sport of swimming – including traveling for meets and driving him to early-morning practices at The Bolles School.

“I had my alarm set for 4:28 (a.m.) for the longest time,” Patrick said.

At the same time, the Murphys worked hard to ensure that their two older children didn’t resent their younger brother’s athletic prowess. That became more of a challenge, they said, when Ryan began beating his older brother in swim competitions.

“We tried as parents to always support each child based on their needs at that moment and be advocates for them,” Katy Murphy said.

As a result, Ryan’s siblings have supported and celebrated his accomplishments.

“Shannon and Patrick are Ryan’s biggest fans,” Patrick said, “and that was really helpful through this whole process.”

Now that Ryan has graduated from the University of California-Berkeley and become a professional swimmer, the Murphys no longer have to set the alarm for 4:28. And they have no regrets for the time they invested in nurturing their son’s dream.

“It was a heck of a commitment,” Patrick said, “but we wouldn’t change a thing.”