Different class: Swim star Murphy facing real tests

AFTER PASSING one national test, star Irish swimmer Gráinne Murphy faces an examination of a different type this week.

Last weekend Murphy starred in the Dave McCullagh Meet at the University of Limerick, where the European junior champion broke the national 200m breaststroke record.

She set a new junior and senior best of 2 mins 32.54secs in the heats, taking 2.32 seconds off Fiona Doyle’s junior record and 1.04 seconds off Emma Robinson’s senior record.

She then went on to take gold in 2:32.40 in the final, and also collected gold in the women’s 400m freestyle in 4:17.13.

This week, however, it’s a different challenge: the mock-leaving certificate, which the 17-year-old is sitting in Castletroy College, Limerick.

“It’s a bit of reality after the weekend,” laughs her mother Mary.

“She has exams all the week and then she’s off to South Africa for three weeks’ training.”

Murphy is currently Ireland’s top ranked swimmer. A native of Ballinaboola, New Ross, in Wexford, she lives in Limerick where she is a sixth year student at Castletroy College. The family moved to Limerick in 2007 to avail of the facilities and training programme at UL, Ireland’s first-ever Swim Ireland High Performance Centre, where she’s coached by Belgium native Ronald Claes.

“We got to a stage where for Gráinne to improve it was the way forward, she needed to be training in a 50-metre pool,” says her mother.

“Her older sister Niamh is in college, so it wasn’t as much of an upheaval as it might have been.

“Everybody in Limerick has been very supportive, in particular Castletroy College.”

Castletroy have been practical in their support: due to her outstanding achievements in swimming, the school has allowed her this year to split her Leaving Certificate into two years, sitting three exams this year and three exams next year – “A huge help,” says Mary Murphy.

Gráinne holds 10 Irish national records (seven junior and three senior); last summer she won three golds and one bronze at the European Junior Swimming Championships in Prague and went on to compete at the World Swimming Championships in Rome, where she was the youngest Irish competitor. Her premiere swimming events are the 200m butterfly, 200m and 400m individual medley, 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle.

At the World Championships, Gráinne broke the Irish senior record for the 200m individual medley, making her the fastest female Irish swimmer in history over that distance since Michelle Smith de Bruin won gold in the event at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Murphy’s ultimate goal is to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“All going well that would be her target,” says her mother.

“Hopefully training will go well and she won’t suffer any injuries; she’s said herself that she’ll take it one day at a time, though that (Olympics) would be her aim.”

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