Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern finish a creditable 10th

Silver medallist Annalise Murphy positive about future of Irish sailing but not making plans yet

Ireland’s Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern in action during the men’s 49er medal race at the Rio Olympic Games. Photograph: PA.

Ireland’s Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern in action during the men’s 49er medal race at the Rio Olympic Games. Photograph: PA.

 

Ireland’s most successful foray in Olympic Sailing for the past 36 years ended in Rio de Janeiro yesterday with the medal race final for the men’s skiff event. Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern were in eighth overall with fifth open to them but in the end they placed 10th.

The pair had a good opening to the short race off Flamengo Beach near Marina da Gloria, leading their training partners up the first leg before Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen passed them out.

The Australian Gold medallists from London 2012 went on to finish fourth and take the Silver medal behind the dominant New Zealand pairing of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke who had already secured the Gold.

Nevertheless, from an Irish perspective, the regatta belongs to Annalise Murphy and her silver medal that marked a comeback performance from last place at the practice race in Rio a year ago to complete a transition to “all-rounder” a year later. In the aftermath of her performance, the enormity of her achievement has yet to sink in fully.

She has dedicated her medal to Rory Fitzpatrick, her full-time coach for the past seven years. “This is half Rory’s and definitely his medal as much as mine,” she said this week. Recalling the moments after she finished, his joy was over-whelming. “He was being pretty high-pitched, he was so happy. He’s normally pretty calm and collected but I had to calm him down - I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like that!”

Highs and lows

The key to her result has been the pure pleasure from enjoying sport.

“Looking at sport, that’s half the battle – everything is so much easier when you’re enjoying it. When I was younger, that’s how I got good, going to all these different regattas around the world, having great friends from all different countries and every time I got a good result it was a bonus.

“When the pressure of expectation came, that’s when I stopped enjoying it, all I could think about was my results.”

The turnaround in her performance only occurred practically on the eve of the Olympics in large part due to the involvement of her New Zealand friend and Laser Radial sailor Sara Winther who was controversially unselected to represent her country at the Games despite placing 11th at the world championships. But over a much longer period, and she credits Mark McCabe of SportsMed Ireland, for her strength and conditioning over the last 10 years of injury-free competition, and Kate Kirby with her Sports Psych who was in Rio throughout the competition period.

Looking ahead, Murphy isn’t committing to much just yet.

“I want to go home and see the my friends and the rest of my family, go and sail my Moth, chill-out a little bit and do some cooking.” she said. “I definitely want to keep on sailing but I really don’t know what my plans are.

“I’d still love to be a world champion – I’ve achieved European champion and an Olympic medallist so it’d be pretty awesome to be a world champion.”

As for the future and impact of the medal on Irish sailing, she has several hopes.

“We’ve got some serious talent coming up through the ranks. I think I’ve shown that it’s possible although it’s taken a while,” Murphy told The Irish Times. “But I’ve finished fourth and second in two Olympics and I think that’s nearly as good as it gets.

“The ISA are pushing ‘Try Sailing’ to introduce more people to sailing and I think this is something that the clubs around the country could pick up on and not just for members but get everyone out on the water. The more people that are sailing, the better it’ll be for the sport.”

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