Duffy and Butterfield World Cup wonders

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Bermuda has long produced athletes punching above their weight but the performances of Flora Duffy and Tyler Butterfield at a World Cup triathlon in Mexico last Sunday almost belies belief.

In a women’s elite race that attracted triathletes from 19 countries, Duffy beat ‘em all.

In a men’s elite race that saw entrants from 26 countries, Butterfield beat all but three.

Bermudians placed in the top four in each elite division.

No matter what their size, no country could match that.

They didn’t even come close to challenging a 21-square-mile speck in the Atlantic with a population of some 60,000.

The finishes of Duffy and Butterfield were nothing short astonishing.

Flora wrapped up her place in this summer’s London Olympics and Tyler is now well on track to join her.

And no matter how they perform at those Games, they’ve already established themselves as major contenders in a sport which at that both amateur and professional levels has become not only one of the fastest growing in the last 20 years but one of the most competitive.

Duffy and Butterfield are both full-time and if you think you’ve had a tough day at the office, take a look at their training schedule.

They’ll often combine a 10-mile run or more, with a 50-mile bike ride, sometimes much longer, with perhaps a mile or so swim for good measure.

Rarely do they get a day off. If you want to stay at the top of this gruelling sport, there’s no slacking.

Not all of the world’s elite were at Huatulco over the weekend, but there were plenty who have already booked their ticket to London and quite a few still chasing that dream.

There’s enough pressure just to get into the Olympic field and at this stage nobody should be talking in terms of a Bermudian on the podium.

That’s almost mission impossible, although given Sunday’s results it seems nothing’s impossible for the Island pair.

If that wasn’t enough Bermuda glory for one week, sailing siblings Jesse and Zander Kirkland were leaving many of the world’s 49er Class sailors in their wake at the World Championships in Croatia to seal their spot at the Games.

On Monday, they posted a first place. They dropped down the standings on Tuesday but on Wednesday bounced back with a vengeance. A second and third saw them finish eighth overall in an entry of 75, and passage to the prestigious Gold Fleet.

That was sufficient to allow them to uncork the champagne bottles after a campaign that has taken them around the world in their quest for Olympic qualification.

Add to that Taylor-Ashley Bean’s 800 metres national record at a meet in North Carolina and Bradford City’s almost desperate attempt to keep their high-flying Bermudian striker Nahki Wells, it wasn’t, all told, a bad weekend for Bermuda sport.

* * * *

Of course, there’s always one sport to spoil the party, and it came as no surprise that cricket was the culprit.

Last weekend’s season opening matches saw at least two brawls (in a supposedly gentlemen’s game), two clubs, St. George’s and Somerset Bridge, missing from the action for separate reasons and a number of fields unprepared.

The perennial problem of insufficient umpires was again evident, although that’s hardly surprising. Why would anyone want to sacrifice their weekend for a torrent of abuse?

It seems the domestic game is very much like the international game — in dire straights.

Naturally Bermuda Cricket Board haven’t commented on the disciplinary problems or acknowledge the incidents took place. They did confirm St. George’s had requested to rearrange both their Twenty20 and 50-over games but didn’t explain why and had resolved the Somerset Bridge situation which saw the West Enders banned after failing to meet their financial obligations. Bridge should return to the field this weekend, providing they can field team, which it seems St. George’s can’t.

However, the governing body shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame. The clubs have to take their share, in fact a lot of it.

If they can’t control their players, have made little attempt to prepare pitches or made the effort to ensure at least 11 fit players are available on the weekend, then what chance our national sport surviving.

It’s that serious. If the clubs can’t get their act together, cricket could quickly degenerate into a minority sport. These days athletics, swimming, cycling, triathlon and sailing seem to be of more interest to the public.

Take away Cup Match and County games, it’s already lost much of its appeal. Cricket spectators have become a rare breed. Given the events of last weekend it won’t be long before they become extinct.

Bermuda Cricket Umpires Association executive Richard Austin sounded a stark warning in an interview with this newspaper this week.

While suggesting that gang violence might be a part of the problem, much like it was in the football season, he implored both the governing body and the clubs to become more pro-active.

If match managers, appointed by the BCB, aren’t employed to attend games and intervene when incidents occur then, according to Austin, bad behaviour might escalate.

And if it does, the umpires’ ranks will be further depleted and those who do turn up will have no hesitation in abandoning games as happened on occasions last season.

There could also be more severe consequences.

Austin, a police officer, issued what appeared to be a veiled threat when he noted that clubs could lose their liquor licences if they couldn’t control their players.

“Clubs seem to fail to realise that a lot of them are liquor licence clubs and they have certain responsibilities under the liquor licence act,” he said.

Clubs’ revenue is largely generated behind the bar. Should that veiled threat become a real threat, then perhaps they’ll get serious about the problems that are destroying the game.

If last weekend’s incidents are indicative or what we can expect for the rest of the season, the BCB should brace themselves for even more criticism than they have had to endure in recent years.

ADRIAN ROBSON

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Published May 11, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated May 11, 2012 at 8:14 am)

Duffy and Butterfield World Cup wonders

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