Annalise Murphy told nobody but she came to Rio for this Olympic medal

After heartbreak four years ago, the sailor has a massive opportunity today.

–Sinéad O’Carroll reports from Rio de Janeiro

HUDDLED AROUND TWO iPhones, a family adds and subtracts numbers in the two to 20 range.

The scene, even more unusual given one member is dressed in a tailored green suit covered in shamrocks.

Its owner, Finn Murphy, borrows another phone.

“I can work out the maths,” he says.

The Murphy family are gathered at Marina de Gloria in Rio de Janeiro as Annalise – their daughter and sister – comes out of the water from her 10th and final race in the laser radial class series in the Olympic Games.

She’s lying in third place going into the medal race in three days’ time. They know that. But they want to figure out if she’s guaranteed a medal. If it is mathematically possible to avoid the heartbreak of London four years ago where the talented competitor finished an agonising fourth after a week of brilliant sailing.


During the 2012 Games, the Olympic debutante won four of the 10 races but failed to do the necessary in the medal race, finishing fifth, pushing her just out of the podium positions.

“It will be hard for a while,” she said at the time, wiping away tears during an emotional interview televised on RTÉ.

“I’m only 22. All the other girls are older than me. I’m going to work so hard for Rio 2016 and hopefully I’ll be ready then.”

She has learned lessons since then. She has built a stronger team. She has spent an inordinate amount of time in the litter-strewn waters of Rio. She has stayed away from the Athletes’ Village (opting for an apartment closer to the sailing venue for practical reasons – but one wonders if there is an element of making everything different to London).

The Murphy family have been strangers to the venue too on race days, choosing to track her boat on a laptop from their Rio rental rather than bring the tricolours (and suit) to the beach.

Friday was their first venture out and it was an emotional rollercoaster.

Because the family, including mother Cathy McAleavey, sister Claudine, training partner Sarah Winther and sports psychologist Kate Kirby (her father Con is a race official for another event at the Rio Olympics), were in on a secret.

Annalise is here for a medal and she knows she can do it.

In the past eight months, while admitting that ‘winning a medal is all I have been thinking about for the last four years’, she has – publicly – played down her own chances of achieving that dream.

Annalise Murphy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Speaking to The42 in May, she said: “I think I actually had more confidence going to London than I do going to Rio. I had performed well there in the two years before the Olympics, I had been the bronze medallist in the world cup that year and the year before so I knew I had good form there.

“I also spent a lot of time training there so I felt really comfortable and familiar with the venue. With Rio, I have gone out seven times so I have probably spent more time out there than a lot of people I’ll be competing against, but it’s still quite far away. It’s different, conditions are different to home, and it’s definitely going to be a different experience.

I am going to go to try and sail my best and do as well as possible.

“If you go there saying ‘I’m going to win a medal’, you can’t just do that because you have to go through the processes to win a medal. You can’t say ‘I’m going to get the gold’ and have no idea how you’re going to actually win it.

“It’s about having processes. We have 11 races so it’s about taking it one race at a time. It’s about not getting ahead of myself if things are going really well and if things aren’t going well, it’s about not panicking and thinking it’s all over because it’s a big series and it’s about sailing well consistently throughout the entire week.”

Speaking to The42 last week, Annalise’s brother Finn revealed just how much work has been undertaken by his sister, her team and their family (including removing all carbs from the house in a show of solidarity).

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“Annalise is a lot more confident now in all conditions. She used to be called the Queen of the Breeze. In big breeze, she won pretty much every race.

“What Annalise has done is really spent the last two years focusing on how Rio, as an event, will work. She’s been out training here for 128 days total over the last four years.

She’s been really working on keeping her weight, keeping her fitness, keeping everything in check so that when these changeable conditions happen, that she’s able to adapt to whatever is going on.

“That consistency is what is going to get you ahead. Winning races doesn’t really mean anything… if you win four races but come last in two, there’s no medal there. It’s all about consistency.”

There is no such thing as an individual athlete. Annalise is set up in Rio with Winther and Kirby, and according to Finn, they have a routine that has got his sibling into “as good a mental space as she can be in”.

“I don’t think she could be any stronger right now. Sailing is about keeping that complete mental calm throughout the entire event. You can see people saying, ‘Oh the bookies’ odds, Annalise was 50/1 and then she was down to 7/2 and in Weymouth at one point they had her at for every €100 you put down, you got €101 back. Sailing just doesn’t work like that.”

The math didn’t work out for the Murphys: here’s what they came to realise on that windy seafront on Friday.

Annalise will secure a bronze unless she finishes five places (or more) behind the Belgian boat in the medal race. To get a silver, she has to finish ahead of Denmark. For the gold – a much tougher ask – she not only has to beat Denmark, but has to be five places ahead of the Netherlands too.

She’s been betting on herself, albeit quietly, for the past four years.

Annalise Murphy races at 5pm Irish time today.

More from The42′s team in Rio:

Belief but no expectations yet: Murphy family quietly proud of Annalise in her quest for Olympic glory

We spoke to Annalise Murphy’s brother about what to look out for in Olympic sailing

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