LIMERICK-based swimmer Gráinne Murphy is celebrating this week after qualifying for the London Olympics next year.
Murphy secured her seat on the plane to London after finishing third in the 800m freestyle event at the Dutch Open Championship in Eindhoven last weekend.
She finished over two seconds inside the FINA A Standard Olympic qualification requirements, with a time of 8:31.14, securing a bronze medal in the process.
Murphy trains at the Limerick High Performance Centre in the UL Arena under coach Ronald Claes.
Claes was delighted her performance in Holland but stressed that the big test is yet to come.
“Qualifying for the Olympic games is obviously a fantastic achievement.
“For both Grainne and myself it’s the first time this has happened so we’re very happy with that.
“Qualifying now is a great step in the right direction but not the end goal,” Claes said.
Murphy’s magnificent performance came as no surprise to Claes and he was full of praise for the commitment she has given to training.
“Grainne made the qualifying times already in 2009 and 2010 - but it was too early to be ratified - so it was only logical she would do so again in 2011.
“(But) things don’t always go as you plan. She has had a tough year to deal with, but in the end she showed how serious she is about what she does as well as the huge talent she has got,” he said.
Murphy narrowly missed out on a place in the World Championships 800m freestyle final in Shanghai earlier in the year, falling short of her own high standards.
Claes though, was adamant that Murphy had performed well in Shanghai and did herself and the country proud.
“Looking back at the World Championships, I can only praise the results she put out there.
“The disappointment everyone seems to be talking about is Grainne’s only and she probably wasn’t looking at her results at the World Championships, but in the months leading up to that,” Claes said.
The 18-year-old spends up to 30 hours a week training, which perhaps explains the excellent results she has recorded in the last year.
Murphy first took up swimming competitively at the age of 11 and made her international debut at the European Youth Olympics in 2007, picking up a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle event.
The following year, she reached the final of the European Juniors and in 2009 picked up three golds at the same tournament, in the 200m and 400m individual medley and in the 800m freestyle event. She also secured bronze in the 1500m freestyle.
She won her first senior medals when she claimed bronze in the 400m and 800m freestyle events in the European Short Course Championships last year.
Later in the year, Murphy went on to win silver at the European Long Course Championship in Budapest, breaking the Irish record for the 1500m freestyle event by 26 seconds.
Originally from New Ross in Wexford, Murphy has also received personal awards during her career, among them the Texaco Young Sportstar Award and the Irish Times Sports Woman of the Year Award.