"It can be quite overwhelming" - Annalise Murphy on performing on the Olympic stage and preparation for Rio

The solo Laser Radial sailor speaks to Newstalk.com about up the upcoming Games and gives advice to first time athletes

BY Cian Roche 14:00 Tuesday 17 May 2016, 14:00 17 May 2016

Expectation weighs differently on people. By becoming an elite, you are accept that pressure and with success, you become more open to criticism if you fail to live up to the high standards of others.

Not that Irish sailor, Annalise Murphy, warrants a lot of criticism. Her rise over the past seven years has been a product of the work and dedication that she and other Irish athletes who aspire to compete at the Oylmpics put in on a day-to-day basis.

An 8th place finished at the World Championships back in 2009 was followed by her qualification for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Here, she she produced a number of stunning individual performances, leaving her in contention for a medal heading into the final day, but a finish of fourth position meant she agonisingly missed out on a medal.

"When I finished racing in London I was feeling a little sorry for myself" she tells Newstalk.com. 

"Now I kind of wish that I had relaxed a little and enjoyed a bit of the atmosphere and got to spend more time with the other athletes and stuff like that. I just felt a little bit shell-shocked. However you compete in your sport, it’s important just to go out and enjoy it afterwards."

Still, this was our best performance since the 1980s when David Wilkins and James Wilkinson secured silver in the Flying Dutchman class in Moskow Games.

Despair turned to to joy when in 2013, she captured gold at the European Championships in Dublin. The Rathfarnham sailor finished comfortably ahead of Marit Bouwmeester (Netherlands) and  Alison Young (Great Britain) after winning eight of the 10 races this week.

Her ability to handle the pressure was evident, proving her performances the big stage were not a fluke. 

With Rio 2016 in sight, Murphy once again must prepare herself for the biggest stage of all and knows that preparation will be key to success once again in Brazil.

"I’ve been out there seven times in the last two years training and I’m going to go out two more times for two more training camps between now and the Olympics.

"Apart from that, I’ve got one World Cup Regatta in June. Those are the three things between now and the games that will keep me busy, but for now I’m just looking forward to getting to Brazil and feeling really prepared.

"I think everything is going to be pretty mental over the next two months. I got back from my World Championships in March and I went down to Lough Ree and sailed another type of boat.

"So that was sort of my downtime, going sailing for the weekend, just having fun doing it because I enjoy sailing this boat and there's no pressure for results or performance. Purely for enjoyment."

London was, as she puts it, was "the closest thing we'll get to a home Olympics" and with the Games of the XXX Olympiad on our doorstep, she explains there were positives having it so close to home.

"Last time around it was pretty convenient for me. I got to live at the Olympic sailing venue for six months in the build up to London, so I had a pretty big advantage. This time around I’ve spent a lot of time in Brazil but it’s too difficult to go and live there for six months. It’s different preparation of course but it’s going well."

Memories of her disappointment may not have fully faded, but there is little doubt that her success since will drive her to perform at the highest level in August. Her experience is invaluable during times like these, but there are those who are experiencing the Games for the first time. So what would she say to these athletes?

"Just go and enjoy it. Go get to see everything that’s going on. It can be quite overwhelming, you’re in these huge stadiums, there’s crowds that you’re not used to. A lot of people are playing minority sports that  once every four years there’s a lot of attention on them but other than that you’re doing your own little thing.

"Enjoy it, don’t get too overwhelmed on it all and no matter how you perform remember that you can go and relax a little bit.  It’s really exciting and it'll be totally different to the London Olympics."

While achieving an Olympic berth may quantify success for some, for others, medals, places or finishes in the top ten may be the prize. Murphy says she's aiming as high as she can.

"Winning a medal would be a dream come true. When I go over, I just want to be able to perform well and throughout the week, it’s six days, I want to be able to finish the Olympics  and perform to my best every single day.  I don’t want to finish and think I’ve made a complete mess of that. I want to feel satisfied with my performance at the end of it all."

Perhaps it is not the expectation of others that weigh on the shoulders of athletes and maybe Murphy will park the hopes of a nation as soon as she climbs aboard her vessel.

As the wind blows softly at Guanabara Bay and she breaths in to set off on yet another Olympic adventure, it will be the expectation she puts on herself that will weigh heaviest.


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