Swimming: Murphy takes huge leap in bid to conquer Europe
WHEREVER Grainne Murphy finishes in the final of the 800m freestyle this evening, the Wexford teenager will leave the European Long Course Championships as potentially the finest talent Irish swimming has ever had.
The 17-year-old's progress over the past couple of years was highlighted in Budapest yesterday when she qualified fastest for the 800m free final in 8:28.91, a new Irish record by a massive eight seconds.
Having made the 400m individual medley final on Monday, she opted out of this morning's 200m IM to focus on the freestyle and the man behind her development at the High Performance unit in Limerick, Belgian Ronald Claes, was wearing a very satisfied smile.
Claes has now taken Murphy from triple European junior gold -- the first Irish swimmer to claim such an accolade -- to top European senior competitor in the space of a year and his master plan has included splitting her Leaving certificate exams at Castletroy College over two years.
"It has allowed us to have more time in training and, just as importantly, it has allowed Grainne to have the rest that she needs," said Claes.
"It also means that, come Olympic year, she can plan it in whatever way we need to. Last year she did incredibly well at the European juniors but stepping up to senior level required a lot of work on her technique and the physical side of things.
"When you're a junior going in against some of the best in the world -- she lined up in the same heat as the world champion Lotte Friis -- you have to just go for it in the heats because they can allow themselves to keep something in reserve. Grainne raced exactly to the plan and it was a fantastic performance.
"Now she has the final to look forward to against the likes of Friis, Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington and the world record holder for the 200m and 400m freestyle, Federica Pellegrini, so it's going to be a great experience."
Reflecting on her display, Murphy said: "It was an amazing swim, I'm really happy with my performance, but Lotte is well able to go faster in the final so we'll have to see what happens. I have a day's rest now, so my plan is to get as much sleep and rest as possible.
"I had a fair idea how fast the others were going to take the race out and what they were trying to do but I just focused on my race, which was really really good -- I started off strong and was able to hold on throughout the whole swim."
Murphy's performance came on a day when Andrew Bree fell a long way short of his best. He missed out on the 200m breaststroke semi-finals with a disappointing time of 2:15.02, which was two seconds slower than his time at the Mare Nostrum series in May.
"I'm disappointed, you know, it was just a very disappointing morning -- I didn't feel as smooth as I'd hoped," said Bree. "I can't dwell on this because if I do it's going to affect every other part of my preparations.
"I do have the Commonwealth Games coming up in October and then refocusing on the big one next year -- the World Championships in Shanghai."
Elsewhere, Melanie Nocher finished her heat of the 100m backstroke in a respectable 1:03.46 but failed to make the semi-finals.
Irish in action today
800m freestyle final, 4.0 :
100m freestyle: Ryan Harrison, Barry Murphy.
(Heats commence at 8.30)
Live, Eurosport, 8.30 / BBC2 , 3.0