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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 14 October, 2019
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'I wouldn't have said yes if I didn't think deep down that I could do it'

Katie Tingle’s journey to becoming Annalise Murphy’s sailing partner is a rather interesting one.

AROUND THIS TIME last year, Katie Tingle got a text on her way to school that has ultimately changed her life.

Can I give you a ring in a while?

sailing Katie Tingle (far left) and Annalise Murphy are part of Team Ireland. Source: James Crombie/INPHO.

Next thing, she had 2016 Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy on the phone.

“Have you decided what you’re going to do with your career break yet?” she asked the 29-year-old primary school teacher. “Would you fancy coming and trying to doing an Olympic campaign?”

Still friendly from their younger sailing days, Cork native Tingle didn’t have to think twice about the offer. There and then, she was sold. 100%, all in.

“Everyone was like you must have had a lot of time to think about it but no, straight away I was like ‘Yes,’” she smiles.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity, I know Annalise really well and know that apart from being an amazing sailor, she’s also a really lovely person.

“If someone else had asked me I’d have been apprehensive because it’s basically an arranged marriage you’re getting into. You’re living in each other’s pocket, it’s really high pressure. But I know Annalise. We’ve lots of friends in common and I had no qualms about that. She’s an amazing person.”

Tingle — yes, her family are the only of that namesake in Ireland — has always been deeply rooted in the sport. The Douglas native’s parents met sailing in Crosshaven and are still sailing every week, her brother and sister sail, as did her grandparents on both sides.

“A superstar sailor when she was younger,” as described by Murphy herself, Tingle just never got the right chance. She represented Ireland at junior team level in the Optimist class, but after that her time was spent travelling, teaching and coaching, with recreational sailing of her own on the side.

That right opportunity may have just come now.

“I definitely had aspirations when I was in school but just didn’t have anyone to sail with,” she concedes. Yes, Olympic aspirations. “There was no one the right size. I didn’t sail Lasers because I’m not tall enough. There was no one I could sail with because I’m too small (5’2″). This was a perfect opportunity because Annalise wanted someone small.”

Tingle started her professional career off the water in St Mary’s National School in Cobh, before heading to Dubai for two years. There, she taught in an international school and sailed at the weekends. Shortly after her return to home soil, an opportunity arose to coach an U15 state team in Australia so she spent a year with friends Down Under.

Three quick years followed in Greystones Educate Together, before she opted for the career break. All the while she’s been based around the capital, Tingle has competed with her parents at the weekends down in Cork.

Wednesday night sailing in Dublin led to her first reconnecting with Murphy. She’d also know her parents quite well, and saw them regularly while their daughter was on the Volvo Ocean Race — and that resulted in more contact between the now team-mates.

And ultimately, the big question.

“You know the way Annalise is very blasé about things… she was like ‘We’ll see how it goes.’ I was like absolutely 100%!

“I don’t think she’d have asked me if she didn’t think I could do it and I wouldn’t have said yes if I didn’t think deep down that I could do it either.”

Eager as can be, Tingle was down with strength and conditioning coach Mark McCabe within the week.

Half expecting him to say she wouldn’t be able to take on the 49er FX with Murphy, she was delighted to get the all clear and was straight into the gym for insane amounts of cardio and weights.

Annalise Murphy celebrates winning her silver medal Murphy lifting her silver medal in Rio. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Almost immediately into full-time athlete mode, and that high performance environment.

“It’s a big change alright,” she grins. “I was under no illusions abut what I was going into because sailing is a really small sport here and you end up knowing a lot of people.

“I’d know exactly what they’re up to all the time and especially because I’d be friendly with Annalise, I’d know what’s involved. But it’s obviously different when you have to do it yourself.”

But yes, just how rapid has the learning curve been?

“Totally vertical in every sense, from the physical to the mental side but the support team have been amazing. I didn’t know so much went on in the background of high level sport.

“Straight away I was able to access a nutritionist, a psychologist, S&C. It’s been pretty vertical all the way and will continue like that. There’ll never be a time where we have a lull and say ‘Oh we’ve got it all down.’”

While things were obviously pretty challenging as they were — Annalise was also experiencing great change as she switched from the Laser Radial class — the situation was made even more difficult last September.

Tingle broke her arm after a freak accident in training, which meant four months out of the water.

“I have a scar from here to here,” she points from the inside of her right elbow up to her shoulder. “Twelve pins and two plates. There’s no difference between the two of them now.”

Four days after her surgery, she was back in the gym.

“You lose the fitness so quickly. Also when you train so much you feel really horrible and really down when you can’t so it was great to get back to it. It cheered me up.”

“Basically I did everything I’d normally do just with a little lighter weight,” she explains, crediting McCabe for his stellar work. “The very same routines. And lots and lots of time on a Watt bike also indoors, so my cardio got really good in four months.”

Simultaneously, Murphy was doing Trojan work on the water and sailed with 21-year-old Adam Hyland every day for that period. Both admit that she did more with him than they would have together, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

“Obviously it wasn’t ideal but I think we made the best of a bad situation,” she beams. “There’s pros and cons to it.”

It’s not been easy for either of them, getting used to this new boat. Tingle, perhaps, has a slight advantage as she has sailed in two-person boats before, but that extra time has definitely helped Murphy adjust more and more.

“It’s really difficult to sail but really fun,” she says of the 49er FX.

“Even if you have a bad day on the water racing it is still really fun to sail. They’re really fast. They’re basically like the Formula 1 of sailing so that makes it easier to go training every day. You know you’re going to have a good time!

“There’s a lot technically going on in the 49er but thankfully Annalise has taken to that like a duck to water. She has a real head for numbers, so she’s able to list off all the different measurements and settings.

“I had no idea of how amazing her mental game is. On days that I might be tired or find things difficult she’d be like ‘Now in this situation what I would do is like, think about the positive things.’

“Annalise has never done any mindfulness courses or anything but she just has that naturally. I’ve done a lot of yoga teaching over the years and I’m still so surprised by a lot of the things she comes out with.”

They both come across as extremely laid back, easygoing people and they get on really well, so this does appear as a match made in heaven and all is going pretty well thus far.

Irish Sailing Performance HQ launch Tingle at the launch of Sailing Ireland's new High Performance HQ last Friday. Source: David Branigan

All will be revealed in the coming weeks how and ever, with their first event starting on 15 April in Genoa. Their ‘big event’ for Olympic qualification is the World Sailing World Championships in New Zealand in November, but the duo won’t get two carried away just yet.

The World Cup in Italy is first up.

“We’re going to Genoa primarily to learn, to go through all the processes and see what we can put into place in competition. Hopefully by the time we get to World Championships we’ll have learned everything we need.”

And after Genoa come Europeans in Weymouth — the London 2012 venue — in mid-May.

Their coach, Ian Barker, actually hails from that neck of the woods. 

“He coached Ryan [Seaton] and Matt [McGovern] in the 49er for the last two Olympics and he also won a silver medal in Sydney… so I’m hanging around with two silver medallists all the time! 

“It’s amazing. It’s not these crazy, intense people that’d be like ‘never take a breath or do anything’ and then you see they’re actually normal people and have good and hard days like me, that’s really cool.”

Both good and hard days, there have been many. 

But the best are yet to come, hopefully.

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Emma Duffy

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