Wednesday 24 January 2018

Swimming: Murphy in buoyant form ahead of Olympic plunge

Barry Murphy during a Swim Ireland media day prior to departing for the London Olympic Games
Barry Murphy during a Swim Ireland media day prior to departing for the London Olympic Games
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

FOUR years ago he was utterly disillusioned after being overlooked by the selectors.

But Dublin swimmer Barry Murphy says he has put that setback firmly behind him as he looks forward to his Olympic Games debut on Saturday.

The 26-year-old from Fairview, a nephew of Eamonn Coghlan and soccer international Con Martin, comes from good sporting stock but had a tough time getting over his Beijing disappointment.

"I felt really bitter for a long time about it, maybe a year," Murphy admitted yesterday, confessing that he largely ignored subsequent events in the iconic Beijing Swimming Cube, apart from checking out how his best mate Andrew Bree was doing.

The US-based swimmer missed the 2008 Olympic 'A' standard by only one 10th of a second, but the real source of his anger was that Ireland sent two 'B' standard swimmers to China and he was not one of them.

Murphy insisted that he has now put that disappointment behind him and used it as extra motivation.

"Going back into the college season immediately afterwards was the best thing because I could focus on getting ready for college swimming and I also wanted to prove people wrong," he said.

Since then, Swim Ireland has re-arranged its high performance programme, which is now led by Peter Banks, who has coached American Brooke Bennett to three Olympic titles and also previously worked as women's coach for the USA.

And after graduating from the University of Tennessee, Murphy moved to Michigan two years ago to join a world-class training group called 'Club Wolverine', run by top US sprint coach Mike Bottom. That resulted in him getting the 'A' standard for the 100m breastroke very early in 2011 when he was the first Irishman, in any sport, to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

Murphy will also compete in his old speciality of 50m freestyle in London but it hasn't all been plain sailing.

Going to altitude training ahead of last year's World Championships did not have the desired effect and illness forced him to miss the last European Championships.

Murphy is a severe asthmatic who has to take two different inhalers (for which he has official exemptions) every day to keep his lungs clear. He leads a particularly careful lifestyle to avoid any setbacks and does not eat dairy products.

But he feels that Bottom's coaching and training in a group that includes Croatia's Duje Draganja (a silver medallist in Athens 2004), Milorad Cavic (who took silver behind Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly in Beijing) and China's Wu Peng (fourth at 200m butterfly in Beijing) has put him in great shape ahead of his long-awaited Olympic debut.

training

"I swam a good meet a couple of weeks ago when I did the sixth fastest time in the world at 50m breaststroke so everything feels good," he said, just back from a training camp with his club in Gijon, Spain, before departing for London.

Swim Ireland's performance director Banks certainly left Murphy and his London swimming team-mates -- Grainne Murphy, Melanie Nocher and teenager Sycerika McMahon -- in no doubt yesterday as to the challenge ahead.

"Our goal is to get our swimmers into the top 16.

"They are probably going to have to do lifetime bests to get there but their rankings are close to that and they are capable of that," Banks said.

"The Olympic 'A' standard is very tough, only 438 swimmers worldwide achieved it," he stressed.

"So for Ireland to have four there is a particularly big step for our sport and this is just the start of a journey towards the 2016 and 2020 Olympics."

Irish Independent

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