The Dutch sailor had trailed badly after suffering a penalty turn at the outset of the race and placed seventh.
Although she was assured of at least Bronze, Murphy had to beat her by five places to take the overall win. She was in second place until the very last dog-leg to the finish when she was unable to protect her position at the turning mark.
“Marit thought she’d lost the gold medal, she was so far behind in that race. Because I was celebrating after the finish, she thought I’d won it and was celebrating winning, not coming second,” Murphy said yesterday, 24 hours after her historic win. “I sailed over to her and said ‘you won, you won’ but she said ‘you’re joking!’”
So is missing out on gold likely to bother her when the dust settles? “It’s already starting to bother me just a little but I’m really happy with my silver medal. From one year ago, what I’ve managed to around from last to second place is pretty good going and I just can’t believe it still.”
The decisive moment that made the difference between silver and gold came at the second-last mark when that she rounded jointly with Alison Young of Britain who was out of contention for the podium.
“At the second windward mark I was in joint first and I looked and could see that Marit and Anne-Marie were hundreds of metres behind me and they were never going to catch me so I knew I was guaranteed a silver medal at that stage.”
She was actually in gold medal position but she was already “over the moon” and while her concentration didn’t slip, everything happened so fast and she knows she should have protected the inside more before the left-hand turn for the finish.
Murphy’s joy even before the race had ended was unsurprising considering her difficult road to Rio when even just a few months ago she was not considered a prospect for a medal or possibly even the top 10.
At the Olympic test regatta exactly a year ago, she placed exactly last in the series and this became the low-point of her campaign that heralded a series of close to last places at successive regattas.
But from the heartbreak of her infamous fourth place at London to commit fully for Rio 2016 and a completely different and highly unique venue, does she feel that this silver medal is worth as much or more than the medal she missed at Weymouth & Portland?
“It’s definitely been harder work than a medal four years ago. I’ve had to grow up a lot as a sailor, work on so many different things, on my strategy and especially not being as much of a risk taker,” she said. “Also might light winds work and not being afraid of light winds — if I’d had to do that (medal) race four years ago I would have been terrified.” Achieving that light wind ability that was absent at London 2012 was the critical missing element of her puzzle that only slipped into place at a training regatta in Rio a month ago.
In total, she spent 128 days training in Rio since the last Olympics and also shed 10 kgs, which was painful given the amount of physical demands she placed on her body but the end result is that sailing out to the final, she didn’t feel that she was disadvantaged over the others and was in fact just as good.
She woke yesterday morning, the morning after winning the silver and it took five minutes of planning for the day’s medal race before spotting the medal beside her bed, where she placed it after she woke in the night fearing it might choke her the night before.
And while the weighty silver medal was won by her, she had dedicated half of it to her coach, Rory Fitzpatrick who first coached her 11 years ago and has been full-time with her since her journey to London and onwards to Rio began.