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Making waves at the Games

physician serif;”>For the casual observer, view Annalise Murphy – Ireland’s surprise Olympic sailing package – was an unknown quantity before her London 2012 surge to stardom. In reality, Murphy’s road to the Games started back in 2009, when she postponed her UCD science degree to focus on sailing.

I kind of had to make a decision. If I’d stayed and tried to do both, I probably would have been disappointed with both. I might not have done quite as well in sailing as I would have wanted to do, and maybe I would have done terribly in college. I was away 270 days last year, I wouldn’t have had time to think never mind go to college. It definitely paid off.”

A second generation Olympian, Murphy’s mother Cathy featured for Ireland in Seoul in 1988. 24 years on, the Rathfarnham native captured and set alight a somewhat dormant Irish interest in sailing with a stunning performance in the Women’s Laser Radial Class that saw her finish an impressive, but rather cruel, fourth place.

She put in a mesmerising display to lead the race overall for much of the week. By the medal race, she had dropped to third, but still had a good shot at a medal and could, at worst, finish fifth. In the end, it was not to be for the Irishwoman, who left London having come tantalisingly close to the podium, but with plenty of new experience and a fine showing under her belt.

Annalise knew she had it in her. “I thought that everything went right for me I could definitely be in with a chance of winning a medal,” she explains. “I had won a bronze medal in the World Cup event in Weymouth (the Olympic venue) a month beforehand, and everyone that was going to be competing at the Olympics was there.”

As for the disappointment of the final race, she has adopted an impressively mature view. “People have been asking me how I feel, and I just feel that I couldn’t have done anything more. In the three years before it, I feel like I did everything I possibly could have to prepare. I went into it quite relaxed and thinking that whatever happened, whether I came first or last, I had put everything into it.”

I had an amazing Olympic experience. It was incredible going there and meeting so many incredible athletes. It was disappointing for me in the end. It’s not going to take away from the fact I had a great Olympics, but it is hard to get over.”

Outside the competitive arena, one couldn’t help but get the impression that the Olympics were a blur of activity for everyone involved. For Annalise, the highlight was the camaraderie between athletes. “I really enjoyed the opening and closing ceremonies. We had the Jamaican team behind us, and got pictures with Asafa Powell. It was so cool to see these global superstars and you’re able to go up to them and nearly chat with them. They kind of have a sort of mutual respect for you. Talking to the likes of Bradley Wiggins, who was just a normal guy, and he’s just won the Tour De France!”

Now, Annalise is looking to the future, and to improving on her feats in the English capital. When asked what stands between her and Rio in 2016, her answer is typically frank: “Another four years of hard work.”

In the last four years I’ve come on a huge amount. I was a youth sailor back then and I feel like if I could improve ten percent on how much I improved in the past few years that could be enough. It’s really difficult, it’s quite competitive; it’s the biggest sailing fleet to be in and there’s people competing from every country, so it’s a hard class. I just have to keep on working, not let anybody else get ahead of me.

Obviously I have to qualify again, and it will be a difficult qualification process but I’m hoping that with a bit of unfinished business with the Olympics, next time I can change that. I might not be there anyway, but I’d like to think I can.”

Having reapplied to the CAO this year for a course with a lighter workload, Health and Performance Science, Annalise is a fresh-faced first year again. No doubt, whether there are medals in her future or not, the next few years have a lot in store for Ireland’s brightest young sailing talent.

– Amy Eustace

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