Ireland’s Annalise Murphy sails into her final race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games this afternoon with a new sense of expectation after a week of stunning performance in the Women’s single-handed event.
After months of less than optimal performance in preparation for Rio, Murphy’s form was anything but medal territory.
However, in the final phase of preparation for the Games, she discovered her missing motivation and re-emerged as a solid all-round sailor who delivered in the crunch of the qualification round of the Olympic regatta.
But her task isn’t ended just yet.
Although from the outset of the series last Monday, when she took and maintained and top three standing all week, the points calculus in the 10-boat medal race final is such that only five boats are in the race for a medal.
And of these, only the overall leader Marit Boumeester of The Netherlands is assured of a podium place and is hoping to improve on her silver from London four years ago.
In turn, Murphy hopes to improve on her fourth place, the so-called “leather-medal” she ended up with after a blistering performances in the windier conditions of Weymouth & Portland in 2012.
She goes into the medal final in third place. However, as she trails Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom by just two points and the medal final counts for double-points, she is effectively tied for the silver medal.
Murphy is 10 points behind Boumeester so would need to beat the Dutch sailor by five places to displace her.
In turn however, Murphy will need to watch for Belgium’s Evi Van Acker who trails in fourth place by nine points. The London bronze medallist would need to finish five places ahead of the Irish sailor to dislodge her from a podium result.
Finland’s Tuula Tenkanen is also a threat from fifth overall.
Numerous shock outcomes are in play, including good and bad news for Irish hopes.
But this isn’t four years ago and despite Rio’s uncertainty, Murphy has attacked her blindsides with purpose since winning the class European championships on her home waters of Dun Laoghaire three years ago.
Her previous strength in windier weather was matched by a weakness in light airs where her height/weight combination was of little advantage.
Since then, she has shed weight and her blistering first places on windy days have all but disappeared.
Instead, an all-round sailing athlete who has achieved consistent results in all the wind conditions possible has emerged with renewed confidence.
Put another way, she has peaked beautifully and her day has come.
This is her Olympic medal to lose.
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