Ireland's Annalise Murphy clinches an Olympic silver medal in a dream finish following the heartbreak of London 2012 and wins the first Irish sailing medal in 36 years
Ireland’s Annalise Murphy today won an Olympic silver medal in the Laser Radial Women’s class in a dream finish to the sailing medal race in Rio.
It is a triumphant and fitting result for Murphy, 26. She failed to gain a medal four years ago in the London 2012 Olympics. Her performance unravelled in the crucial double-scoring medal race, sending her home not with the expected bronze but heartbroken with only a 4th place.
This time it was different, and Murphy went into the race defending a decent margin on bronze position. Her strategy to mark her nearest competitors and sail the centre of the course paid off.
She spotted a wind shift to gain an advantage on the right hand side of the course. For a few tantalising but ephemeral minutes it even looked as if a gold medal were possible, as she carved out six places between her and series leader Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands.
But in the end gold was not to be, Murphy finished comfortably enough, though, to take silver medal position. This is a result she has dreamed of and worked for unrelentingly since that crushing defeat in Weymouth four years ago.
After the finish, Marit Bouwmeester sailed up to Annalise Murphy’s boat and the two embraced. The win was just as fitting a result for the Dutch sailor, who took silver in London and is currently Laser Radial World Champion.
Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom took the bronze medal.
Some doubted Murphy’s medal ambitions in Rio, citing the likelihood of light and fluky winds that might disadvantage her. Murphy is a 6ft (1.8m) tall powerhouse sailor who revels in stronger winds. But in the last week Murphy has proved her mastery of the full variety of wind strengths and sea states.
Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTE after winning her medal, she said: “It’s amazing. This time four years ago I finished 4th and it was the hardest day of my life. I said I would come back and get a medal and to actually go and do it is incredible.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“It was just… that last race, it pulled together really well, I’m over the moon. I didn’t think I would be in this position. Even a few months ago I was sailing really badly. And to come and do it is incredible.
“I knew I had to treat it like every other race I did this week. I knew if I got scared I would lose and I’d be out. I went and tacked the race and it worked out well for me.
“When I went around the last marker, I just knew it would be gold or silver so I relaxed at that stage.
“My whole family are here and they’re just incredible, and everyone back in Ireland. It’s amazing for Irish sailing. We haven’t won a medal since Moscow Olympics so hopefully I can inspire a new generation.”
Ireland last won an Olympic medal for sailing 36 years ago when David Wilkins and James Wilkinson took silver in the Flying Dutchman.
Throughout, Annalise Murphy has been cheered on by a green army of Irish supporters in Brazil and at home. She has built up a huge following rallying to the hashtag #COYGIG (‘Come On You Girl in Green’, a twist on the Irish football and rugby teams’ call to arms).
Murphy, from Dun Laoghaire, is one of a small group of second generation world class sailors. Her mother, Cathy McAleavey, competed for Ireland in the 1988 Olympics in the 470 class, when she was coached by her husband, Annalise’s Dad-to-be Con Murphy.
The Murphy seniors are still passionate and successful sailors who race in the historic Dublin Water Wag class. This is the oldest one-design class in the world, which dates back to 1886, and they own Mollie, No 41.
Con Murphy was also acting as an official at the Rio Olympics – in fact, he was out on the 49er course while Annalise was sailing today and so missed her medal race.
Annalise Murphy and her family are members of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, where Annalise began sailing in Optimists at the age of 7. The National has a great record of producing top class youth sailors, which also include her two siblings, Claudine and Finn. (Finn gained Facebook fame himself for his Olympic commentaries wearing a truly hideous green shamrock suit.)
Recently Annalise has been racing a foiling Moth, and it will be very interesting to see where her sailing career takes her next.