Sunday 25 February 2018

Swimming: Murphy displays Olympic potential

Grainne Murphy looks up to check her time after missing out on a bronze medal in the final of the women's 800m freestyle by five hundredths of a second yesterday.
Grainne Murphy looks up to check her time after missing out on a bronze medal in the final of the women's 800m freestyle by five hundredths of a second yesterday.

Mark O'Driscoll

SWIM Ireland's High Performance director Peter Banks last night hailed Grainne Murphy's fourth-placed finish in the 800m freestyle at the European long course championships in Budapest as "one of the greatest performances by a young Irish athlete."

Murphy, who was in her second final of the championships, produced one of the all-time great swims in the history of the sport in Ireland as she took on the world's best and just missed a medal by five hundredths of a second.

The 17-year-old demonstrated the coolness of a seasoned performer as she closed in on a bronze medal with 50 metres to go only to be pipped by World 200m and 400m freestyle record holder Frederica Pellegrini, the Italian touching in 8:24.99 with Murphy clocking 8:25.04.

Gold went to World champion Lotte Friis in 8:23.27, with French woman Ophelie-Cyrielle Etienne taking silver with 8:24.00, while Britain's Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington was well behind Ireland's new star in seventh, 8:27.48.

Champion Friis took time out to praise her young rival, the Dane saying: "I have trained with her and she is a real talent and has a very bright future."

Murphy admitted she was left "amazed" by how well she has done at these championships and the Wexford teenager isn't finished yet as she will compete in the 1500m freestyle heats today.

"It was an amazing swim, to finish fourth in my first Europeans is just incredible. It hasn't sunk in yet," said Murphy.

"I was just going in there to go as well as I could and see where it got me. I could see Pellegrini coming up but I kept my head down and kept going and she just snuck in."

Meanwhile, swimming chief Banks, who is determined to see Irish swimming compete at the highest level on a consistent basis, believes Murphy can now inspire a generation of top competitors.

"If you're a young swimmer and you can't get excited about this then you never will. Grainne must be an inspiration to every Irish swimmer because this was a fantastic swim. It's the best performance by an Irish swimmer in years because you had the Olympic champion and World champion in the race as well as other world record holders," added Banks.

"Grainne's performance was one of real grit, determination. She has shown she now has the potential to go to the Olympics to challenge the best. It's the kind of performance that we want from more of our swimmers."

Elsewhere, Ryan Harrison finished third in his 100m freestyle heat 51.16 but didn't make the semi-finals and neither did Barry Murphy who, in the same heat, went 51.23.

Irish in action today

200m freestyle: Clare Dawson, Melanie Nocher

50m backstroke: Melanie Nocher

50m backstroke: Barry Murphy

1500m freestyle: Grainne Murphy

(Heats commence at 9.30)

European Championships,

Live, Eurosport, 8.30 /4.0

Irish Independent

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