A world-beating performance in the Rio Olympics, with a Silver Medal convincingly taken in the final excruciatingly tense double-scoring Medals Race, has elevated the National YC’s Annalise Murphy to global sailing superstardom.
The final two countdown months to this great Irish sailing success were a major drama in themselves, as Annalise had to concentrate with the closest focus from the end of May on transforming herself into a potential winner from being an off-form competitor who was above the ideal weight for the Rio sailing conditions.
In barely eight weeks, she changed radically to become a significantly lighter athlete at peak physical and mental condition, fit in every way to stage a sensational Olympic comeback from being the sailor who’d seen a seemingly-certain medal slip from her grasp in the final race in the 2012 Olympiad.
Annalise – who has already achieved such fame in Ireland with her medal win that her surname is now superfluous – has been generous in her praise for her training and support team, particularly for her coach Rory Fitzpatrick who has been with her for many years, and her sailing training partner Sarah Winther. She, having very narrowly failed in late May to be selected to represent New Zealand in the Women’s Laser Radial in the Olympics, was then able – as New Zealand didn’t send any Women’s Laser Radial representative to Rio – to offer her gifted coaching services to her friend Annalise.
Specialist advice, coaching and guidance was also provided by Gary Keegan of the Institute of Sport, while another tower of strength was Sports Psychologist Kate Kirby. As for the family support in the high-powered Murphy-McAleavey household, this was total as they chucked all carbs out of the kitchen and joined Annalise in a diet that was carefully monitored to maintain peak fitness and nutrition.
While weight loss helped the Rio result, it was a whole package - meticulous preparation, good support from her personal sponsor and having more race and training experience at the venue that was ulitmately the deciding factor.
Yet even with all this support, when it finally came down to it, there was just this one 26-year-old Irish sailor competing utterly alone, out on her own against the world’s best in the world spotlight on the arena of one of the planet’s most fickle sailing locations. And all that in a final race made even more stressful by having been postponed for 24 hours. But Annalise rose to the challenge, and she rose above it. Her control of that final race in volatile conditions was pure textbook stuff from a textbook which has yet to be written. Trying to find the words to do her performance full justice has been one enormous challenge. But it has been very easy indeed to decide that Annalise Murphy is the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for August 2016.