Four years is a long time for another Olympics to come around, but after Annalise Murphy slipped out of the medal positions into fourth in 2012, she was determined to come back and put right what had happened.
The dreaded leather medal. For an Olympic athlete, there is a long wait to put right what happened from London 2012, it’s not like you can go out the following weekend and fix what went wrong previously.
Annalise has had to bide her time and set out a plan of how to be standing on the box in Rio. She won the European Championships in 2013 in her home club and that would have helped banish some of the demons from that medal race in 2012.
In sailing, there is a World and European Championships every year, unlike other Olympic events, therefore there was plenty to keep the mind occupied in the interim years between London and Rio. Annalise didn’t set the world alight in 2014 and 2015. She had to qualify Ireland for the Olympic country place and then win the Irish selection trials against the other Irish girls to be the Irish representative in Rio. Her levels of performance during that period dropped off, but her dedication to training and managing her body from a weight and strength point of view to be ready for the Olympics never dipped.
You will not come across a more determined and driven lady. Annalise has spent a lot of time in Rio during these last four years becoming acclimatised to the conditions and figuring out the likes of tidal effects and wind patterns. Rio’s conditions were a lot different to London 2012 and Annalise has had to change her physique to suit the venue. The biggest string to her bow for this Olympics is how familiar and comfortable she has been with the various racecourses in Guanabara Bay. Her results have shown her familiarity with the venue, as she has managed to claw her way back into good race results from positions that didn’t look too promising to begin with. Those results defined her elevated position on the leaderboard.
It has been a joy to watch her put it all together and she’s done it with a smile on her face. Once again, Annalise has done herself, her family, her club, and country proud. The medal race was perfectly executed and she was not far away from winning gold either, with only three boats between her and first place.
This past week has been an emotional rollercoaster that made for incredible viewing, albeit from a tracker rather than live TV, as the Olympic broadcaster did not have cameras on every course at the sailing venue.
The results from Rio have been fantastic. Our team has produced some inspired results on the world stage. The performances at both Olympic and youth level have been impressive and are building nicely for 2020 and beyond.
Sailing being an equipment-based sport means there are large costs associated with running a successful Olympic campaign. Teams can’t just hop on a plane to a venue, boats need to be transported, equipment needs to be in top condition and a coach needs to be on site with a coachboat. These are all expenses that need to be covered. This Olympic silver medal will help greatly when it comes to funding being divided between the various sports for the next four-year cycle and beyond.
Ireland’s medals so far at this Olympic Games have come from water-based sports, with Annalise’s medal added to the silver in rowing for the O’Donovan brothers from Skibbereen. It proves the point that Ireland, as an island nation, will be looking to get on the podium in 2020. Hopefully both sports receive funding to grow from this Olympic success.
It was amazing to watch Annalise bring home Ireland’s first sailing medal since the 1980 Olympics. It’s richly deserved and one we can all be very proud of.
Peter O’Leary sailed for Ireland in the Beijing and London Olympics
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