Murphy drops medley to ease load
SWIM Ireland have stressed that Grainne Murphy has been pulled out of tomorrow's 400m individual medley heats in order to allow her concentrate solely on her freestyle events.
Murphy hit the headlines in 2010 when, aged just 17, she won three European senior medals. The Wexford teenager is a three-time European junior champion who is regarded as the star of Ireland's four-strong swimming team in London.
The 19-year-old was hit with a virus earlier this year which cost her some training, but Swim Ireland's high performance director Peter Banks said that yesterday's decision was merely for practical reasons.
She has also qualified to race in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle in London and swimming tomorrow would have meant an intense workload of three consecutive days of racing before she even got to her best event -- the 800m freestyle -- next Thursday.
Murphy and her family have made remarkable sacrifices to further her swimming career.
They bought a house in Limerick -- which has allowed her to train full-time in the University of Limerick since she was 13 -- but also maintain a family business back in Ballinaboola in Wexford.
She has essentially been living in Limerick for five days a-week and only returning home at weekends for most of her teenage years. She will now make her Olympic debut in Sunday's 400m freestyle heats.
Murphy's withdrawal leaves Barry Murphy -- in the 100m breastroke -- to become Ireland's only competitor on the first day of action at the Aquatic Centre.
The Fairview man has been drawn in lane eight in the fourth of six heats tomorrow morning (at 11.53). All seven of his opponents have a faster qualifying time than Murphy's 1:00.77 and two of them -- top American Brendan Hansen and South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh -- are sub-one minute men.
It will be the fastest 16 overall who go through and the Michigan-based Irishman is expected to need a lifetime best to have a chance of making it.
Ireland's other two swimmers -- Melanie Nocher and teenager Sycerika McMahon -- open their campaigns on Sunday morning.
Superstar Michael Phelps, whose intense rivalry with American team-mate Ryan Lochte is expected to be one of the highlights of the London Games, looked in remarkably relaxed form yesterday.
The man, who won a record eight medals in the pool in Beijing, reversed roles by pulling out his phone at a crowded press conference to take photos of the media.
He is swimming in one less event in London and said this will be his last Olympics.
"This is closure," he said. "Now it's just a matter of how many toppings I want on my sundae!"