It was disappointing not to see Paige Railey win a medal at her first Olympic Games. I’ll admit: I had her down as one of the favourites in the singlehanded women's Radial class when I wrote the Yachts and Yachting Olympic form guide way back in May. Still, the Olympic arena does strange things to people, and after eleven races Paige finished eighth overall. Heartbreak, check.

But if one can rank heartbreak on any kind of scale, even Paige’s disappointment can’t compare to that of the Irish sailor, Annalise Murphy.

Olympics 2012 Radials IRL and USA

Two sailors who won't be bringing home medals from the 2012 Games: Ireland's Annalise Murphy, and USA's Paige Railey. Photo credit: Richard Langdon / Ocean Images

Annalise began her event by inspiring her nation. She was young and pretty—and when she posted four straight wins in the first four races, the Irish got right behind their girl. She dominated Irish sports headlines and sparked the interest of comedians; even though they didn’t really understand her sport, they were loving watching her. One even posted a video parody of Olympic sailing that has gone a bit viral the past few days.

Over the next six races, Annalise’s lead slipped away – though she was still lying third. A medal looked likely. There must have been a sudden rush to fill any empty seats on flights across the Irish Sea; supporters traveled to Weymouth, gathering on 'Murphy Mound' in the Nothe spectator area to cheer her to victory. Amazingly, after ten races, just one point separated the top four sailors in the class.

Sadly, the Irish support – however vocal—wasn’t enough. It all came down to the last minute of the medal race, a race that saw so many place changes barely anyone on ‘Murphy’s Mound’ had much of a voice left. At the finish, it was the Irish girl who’d lost out on a podium position.

After the race Annalise said: "Coming fourth was definitely the worst result.” That is certainly true, but it was the best Irish sailing performance for over thirty years, and her supporters proceeded to take over a pub in Weymouth to celebrate her incredible result. As far as they were concerned she was a winner – and they were right to celebrate. Annalise’s performance has inspired a new generation of sailors and brought the sport to the attention of her nation. And she’s only 22.

Olympics 2012 IRL Murphy planing

After winning the first four races, Ireland's Annalise Murphy also won many Irish hearts—including several who knew nothing about sailing. Photo credit: Onedition

She wrote on her Facebook page: “So overwhelmed by all this support from everyone! I really can't believe it. I have done a lot of crying today but going to try enjoy tonight as a load of my amazing friends have all come over! Roll on Rio!”

Editors' Note: Gael is providing special reports on the US Sailing Team throughout the events in Weymouth. For previous posts, see below: