Sunday 25 September 2016

Murphy's silver lifts the gloom

Sean McGoldrick

Published 17/08/2016 | 02:30

Ireland’s Annalise Murphy celebrates after winning silver in the women’s laser radial medal race. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland’s Annalise Murphy celebrates after winning silver in the women’s laser radial medal race. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Four years after being cruelly denied a medal at the London Games, there was redemption day for Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radial class at the Rio regatta when she became the fourth Irish women to win an Olympic medal.

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The 26-year-old Rathfarnham sailor secured the silver behind Holland's Marit Bouwmeester, who was second four years ago at Weymouth.

"I'm a bit shell-shocked. It's incredible to come here today and get a silver medal after four years ago when I was fourth and completely heart-broken," she beamed.

The fear of losing cost her a podium place in 2012. On this occasion she concentrated on the race rather than the consequences of the result. Her strategy paid off she finished ahead of the other two medallists and leap-frogged Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom to finish second.

Rarely has finishing second felt so sweet, though Murphy's post-race celebrations left a different taste in her mouth! Immediately after crossing the finishing line at Pao De Acucar, Murphy threw caution to the wind and together with Rindom leapt into the choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

"Anne-Marie and I did a joint jump into the water. I swallowed about three litres of water when I jumped in, because I was screaming as I was jumping in. I feel a bit sick right now," she laughed.

Class

It was Ireland's 31st Olympic medal and the first in sailing since David Wilkins and James Wilkinson took silver in the Flying Dutchman class in Moscow in 1980.

The other three Irish women to win an Olympic medal are Katie Taylor (boxing), Sonia O'Sullivan (athletics) and Michelle Smith de Bruin (swimming).

Family members including her mother Cathy McAleavey - who competed in the first Olympic race for women's sailors in Seoul '88 - waited patiently on shore to greet the new heroine of Irish sport.

Going into the race which would decide the destination of the medals, Bouwmeester led on 47 points;Rindom was second on 56, one ahead of Murphy. With double points awarded in yesterday's race everything could change, as Murphy had discovered to her cost in 2012.

She finished fifth in the medal race as she did four years ago. But crucially her two closest rivals were behind her.

It didn't matter to Bouwmeester that she finished seventh - the 14 points she picked up kept her in the gold medal position on 61 points. Murphy's ten points for finishing fifth took her tally to 67 but the 16 points Rindom earned for finishing eighth brought her points tally to 71 and dropped her to the bronze medal position.

In every sense Murphy was a different athlete compared to the one who failed to deliver on final day four years ago.

"I went out today knowing that I couldn't treat it like any different from any other race, I was just going to attack it and not be afraid of losing because that's what happened four years ago, when I was afraid of losing instead of trying to win," she said.

"I just went out and attacked the race. I sailed pretty well, it was light winds so it's not conditions that really suit me but I proved I was able to do it. I think I was in gold medal position for a while. I lost out a little on the last downwind but I'm just delighted."

She paid tribute a warm tribute to her coach Rory Fitzpatrick, who has guided her career since her early teens.

"This is as much his medal as mine, he's stuck by me when I've probably been really difficult," she said.

"I've had a pretty hard time this year, I hadn't been sailing very well but we've worked very hard over the last couple of months. We knew we could do something special here, but to go and do it is just amazing."

So low, indeed, was her confidence of the start of 2016 that she wondered whether her fourth-place finish in London together with securing a gold medal at the European championship in 2013 would be the highlights of her career.

"I thought maybe my best was past me. So to be able to come back when it actually mattered, and just get a result in such a difficult week of racing, I'm just so happy," she said.

"Four years ago I went out terrified of losing the race, I was afraid I was going to lose the gold medal or any medal, and today I couldn't do that or else I was going to end up fourth again. I'm just so happy."

Murphy revealed that a New Zealand sailor, Sara Winther, who was controversially omitted from the Kiwi squad, played a key role in her medal triumph.

"I asked her a couple of months ago would she come and help me prepare. She said she'd love to and she got me so much faster," she added.

So against all the odds, it has been the water sports which have rescued Ireland at the 2016 Olympics, with medals in rowing and sailing. Changed times, indeed, in Irish sport.

Irish Independent

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