When Annalise Murphy takes her cap off and wipes the saltwater and sweat from her forehead, the strong coast wind ruffles up her brown hair immediately. Her cheeks are still rosy. Slowly her breath gets back to normal. The sports sailor from Dublin has just finished her daily trainings. She stows away her equipment quickly into the Mercedes-Benz Vito – and then it’s off back home. The masts, sail and lines all fit perfectly inside the metallic-black van and she secures the boat to the roof-rack. “I love my Vito,” says the 27-year-old. “I can get everything I need for training and competitions inside my Vito. With the strong 119 motor, it’s also easy to tow my coach’s motorized dinghy.”
In the discipline “Laser Radial” Annalise Murphy is one of the best competitive sailors in the world. At the 2016 Olympics in Brazilian Rio de Janeiro, the likeable Irish sportswoman won a silver medal. Now Murphy is preparing herself for the next competitions: the World Championships in Medemblik in The Netherlands in August, the qualification for the Olympics in the coming year and, naturally, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo 2020. “My aim is to get a medal at the World Championships and to qualify for the Summer Games in Japan,” explains Murphy as she drives home in her Vito.
“It’s very important for me to remain mobile despite all my equipment”, says the exceptional sailor from Rathfarnham, a suburb of Dublin. The Mercedes-Benz Vito makes that all possible. “The van’s really comfortable and great fun to drive. The Vito is just perfect for my long trips to the competitions all over Europe.”, says Murphy, who comes from a family of sailors. Her mother, Cathy McAleavey, wailed in the 1988 Olympic Games for Ireland and her father, Con Murphy, was an official supervisor for years at international sailing competitions.
The van’s really comfortable and great fun to drive. The Vito is just perfect for my long trips to the competitions all over Europe.
After making very respectable achievements as a junior sailor, it was during her first year of active competition in 2009 that Murphy decided to invest everything in her sport. She broke of her studies, trained six days a week and soon celebrated her first successes: eighth at the World Championships 2009; in 2010 she was the first woman to win the Irish championships. At the World Championships 2011, she came in sixth and in 2013 she won her first gold medal at the European Championships for the small sailing nation of Ireland. She describes her path to a top international sailor as one of steady progress. It takes stamina, discipline and talent of not losing heart despite setbacks. “I love the whole training procedure, for example,” says the Olympic athlete, who takes part in triathlons as part of her preparation. “Noticing how the daily grind is really benefiting motivates me to stick at it.”
The road to the top of competitive sailing was not easy for Annalise Murphy. The athlete had to deal with setbacks and doubts. And there were people who did not think she would manage to win a silver medal in Brazil in 2016. She also had her doubts sometimes – especially as the races before the Summer Games did not really go according to plan. She therefore kept a low profile before Rio and pointed out the stiff competition. Many experts also expressed their doubts that the course in Guanabara Bay would not be her thing. And, of course, Murphy still had memories of the bitter end to her race in 2012 at the Summer Olympics in London when – at her first Olympics, she didn’t have the strength for the last few meters of the race and narrowly missed winning a medal when she came in fourth.
With tears in her eyes, the then 22-year-old, who had been considered a potential gold winner, announced in a TV interview that she would be back at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain. Four years later, Annalise Murphy is making good on her prediction – and crowning her career eight years since her first regatta in the active class with a silver medal. “When all my training and preparation worked out in Rio and I was able to stand on the winners’ podium, it just felt incredible and confirmed that our master plan had been a success.”
But Murphy is not at the end. In three years she is aiming for Olympic gold in Japan. “I know that I can improve,” says Murphy. “I’m curious to see how much more I can get out of myself. Winning the gold medal in Tokyo would be a dream come true.”
Photos: Sailing Energy, World Sailing