Sunday 1 February 2015

Olympian Grainne left in the lurch by Swim Ireland



Published 06/11/2012 | 18:27

Swimmer Grainne Murphy with parents Brendan and Mary and her coach Ronald Claes in happier times, after she won silver in the Women's 1500m freestyle at the European Championships in 2010. Her coach's contract has now been controversially and abruptly...

IRISH SWIMMING BOSSES have pulled the plug on Wexford Olympian Grainne Murphy's highly ranked coach, and the Ballinaboola swimming sensation has moved back home where she is currently considering her future in the pool.

In what is a huge blow for Grainne, Swim Ireland has decided not to renew the contract of Ronald Claes, the highly ranked Belgian coach, for the next Olympic cycle.

The national governing body for swimming has also failed to offer Grainne any assurances about the future of the high performance centre in the University of Limerick, where the 19-year-old has been training out of.

Grainne, who is considered one of Ireland's brightest prospects in the pool, is now back home in her native Ballinaboola, where her family run the well-known Horse and Hound Hotel.

She is understood to be considering where to resume her promising swimming career, or indeed whether she will, after reportedly being 'devastated' by how Swim Ireland treated her both at the Olympics and following the London Games.

Grainne ended up bowing out from the Olympics Games this summer, still suffering from the effects of glandular fever.

The teenager made the immensely difficult decision to pull out of the 800m freestyle heats, bringing her Olympic dream to an end. Having finished last in her 400m freestyle heat, Grainne also pulled out of the 200m freestyle heats in the hope that she would be okay for her strongest event, the 800m. However, the talented teenager was forced to make the difficult decision to withdraw from the 800m.

In the wake of her decision, Grainne said at the time that she had little choice but to withdraw from the London Games on medical grounds and said she thinks it's the best decision for her.

A national newspaper reported this week that Grainne was 'strongly urged' by a top Swim Ireland figure to swim in the 800m and was advised that if she did not future funding for the sport could be affected. It is reported that Grainne did not appreciate such pressure being imposed on her.

The decision not to renew Ronald Claes' contract is a major setback for Grainne, who trained under the Belgian for five years.

It is understood that Grainne had hoped to study at the University of Limerick as well as continuing swimming at the university, however these plans are now is disarray as reportedly Swim Ireland could not guarantee the teenager that her coach would be replaced. Seemingly, Grainne was also informed that the future of the high performance centre at UL and the structure of Irish swimming were under review.

With Swim Ireland's strategic plan for 2013-2018 ongoing, there is a feeling within the sport that the organisation wants its only high performance centre to be the existing one operating in Abbotstown, which would demote Limerick to just regional centre status.

' This is a very tough blow for Grainne and her family,' said Dave Mahedy, UL's director of sport and recreation, who is understood not to be impressed by the lack of consultation Grainne and the university were afforded over the whole debacle.

' The only reason Gráinne didn't do well at the Olympics was because of glandular fever. It wasn't because of her training regime or anything like that but now it's as if all the work she and UL have put in over the years is being judged on that one meet,' he said.

'Her family's grievance isn't that Ronald's contract was not renewed, although they weren't happy about that either. It's that Ronald hasn't been replaced and the whole support structure she had at UL is under threat,' said another person close to the family, adding that both Grainne and her family are 'devastated' and ' livid' with how they've been treated.

The Murphy's have declined to comment on the matter for the moment, while Swim Ireland could not be reached for comment.

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