Flora, our living, breathing flag
Any red-blooded Bermudian fancies himself as somewhat an expert when it comes to riding bikes, with many of us counting one of our key skills as being able to “take that nip”.
Roughly translated, that means finding an acute angle to weave through traffic. Others among us profess to know every square inch of the road like the back of our hands and thus are able to skilfully get away from other riders.
It would not be a stretch of the imagination to say most Bermudians have never participated in the sport of triathlon. After all, we are, by definition, a nation of footballers and cricketers. Throw in a dash of netball, softball, athletics and chasing rounds at the local pub and that could possibly be the summation of the top sports in our island of approximately 64,000 inhabitants.
So, when it was announced that we would host a major international triathlon event here, there was no initial euphoria from all sectors of society.
Not like it was football World Cup or ICC World Twenty20, right?
While we are a society that has diverse views, likes, dislikes and interests, most Bermudians of all hues have never personally participated in triathlon; nor have most of us followed it on an international basis.
We have heard of the legendary exploits of Jim Butterfield and his son, Tyler. However, up until recently we, as an island collective, have not consistently followed the sport. Well, not until the international blooming of our very own Flora Duffy.
Over the past few years, little by little, viewer by viewer, Ms Duffy has not only conquered triathlon after triathlon, she has perhaps as importantly, conquered the hearts and minds of more and more of her fellow 64,000 Bermudians.
Think about it, how could one not become addicted when, seemingly, month after month one of our own is standing on podiums around the world, flying our flag and spreading that “onion juice”.
Fittingly, the Bermuda Tourism Authority has invested time and money into making Ms Duffy one of our living, breathing flags. Quite a smart investment, as our living, breathing flag jumped into the waters of Australia during the recent Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Some 56 min 50 sec later, our flag — emblazoned on the chest and heart of Ms Duffy — crossed the line first to secure our first Commonwealth Games gold medal, and second of any colour, since the record-setting feat of high jumper Clarance “Nicky” Saunders at the 1990 Games in Auckland.
So much more than a gold medal was achieved that day, as more and more Bermudians were converted to triathlon fans. There are rare moments in history that we have diverse crowds in one spot, tuned into one radio station or glued to one event on the television. Unfortunately, it does not happen for Bermuda Day, nor does it happen for Cup Match.
Saturday, April 28, 2018, became a watershed moment in our history, as our capital of Hamilton was shut down for the day to allow MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda to take place. Thousands watched as our living, breathing flag dived into Hamilton Harbour.
From that moment on, a near 64,000 hearts beat in sync.
Those dry on shore became wet with excitement, as we imagined ourselves fully immersed in the water making those laps. As our living, breathing flag emerged from the water, so too did our wildest dreams emerge through our vocal chords.
For a few minutes, we held our collective breath as American Kirsten Kasper was neck-and-neck on the bicycle with us during the initial stretch of Front Street, heading to East Broadway and then on to Crow Lane. Then, still next to us on the left turn up towards Corkscrew Hill.
Without a doubt, it was at that point that all 64,000 of us looked back at Ms Kasper and then pooled our collective emotions.
Emotionally, we all pumped those pedals.
Emotionally, we all steered those handlebars.
Emotionally, we all took that nip.
Ms Duffy, our living breathing flag, was at the top while the nearest competition was struggling to reach halfway up Corkscrew Hill.
So far was the gap that the chase motorcycle seemingly took for ever to catch up with the leader.
As they say, the rest is history.
A nation watched in awe as this young lady grabbed a larger version of our flag to wrap around herself as she crossed the finish line.
What was not lost on many was that she actually wrapped an entire nation around herself as she grabbed the tape. As she stood front and centre on the podium, the sound of our national song Hail to Bermuda permeated not just through the air but through the hearts and souls of each one of us.
On behalf of those thousands of us who have recently become triathlon converts, I truly thank you, Flora.
Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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