Champion of champions – and she’s all ours

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  • Champagne moment: Flora Duffy clinches her second successive ITU World Triathlon Series title by winning the Grand Final in Rotterdam on Saturday (Photograph by Wagner Araujo/ITU Media)

    Champagne moment: Flora Duffy clinches her second successive ITU World Triathlon Series title by winning the Grand Final in Rotterdam on Saturday (Photograph by Wagner Araujo/ITU Media)

Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.” These are the words of Vince Lombardi, the legendary former Green Bay Packers head coach. Thank goodness we have Flora Duffy to totally disprove that load of nonsense.

If ever there was an image that summed up the ITU World Triathlon Series, it was the one that appeared on the front page of this newspaper on August 28.

It shows a smiling Ashleigh Gentle pouring champagne over Duffy, the Bermudian world champion’s face a mixture of delight and faux outrage. It sums up exactly what sport should be and what makes Duffy’s triumph on Saturday so absolutely wonderful.

Duffy had more or less sealed victory that weekend in Stockholm, with her fifth win in six races, Australian Gentle having been the only woman to have beaten her this season. Duffy had won four consecutive races before Montreal on August 5. When Gentle broke her streak, our Flora was the epitome of Lombardi’s “good loser”.

“I knew it would come at some point,” Duffy said of Gentle’s triumph, which was her first WTS victory. “[Gentle] is one of the best out there. Often it’s her swim that lets her down, but the way the race played out she was in the front group. I was hoping to run with her for at least a couple of laps, but she just kind of took off.”

There is no false modesty about Duffy, either. Her platitudes are not cheesy and empty. Her explanations not clichéd or boring. She is the genuine article.

“It’ll be a bit of a letdown if it all went wrong now!” Duffy exclaimed in the press conference before the Grand Final in Rotterdam, seemingly fully aware of the magnificent season she was having. “I’m just joking, sort of!”

It appears to be ever more fashionable to be disrespectful in victory and defeat, before and after the contest. Heck, even in draws. Check the petty, childish non-handshake between the ever-ungracious José Mourinho and Mark Hughes after Manchester United and Stoke City drew 2-2 the weekend before last.

Duffy’s triumph in Stockholm occurred hours before a healthy proportion of the island was gripped by the Floyd Mayweather Jr-Conor McGregor fight; a bout between a rookie and someone who hadn’t boxed competitively in two years. It was a bout between two unquestioned greats in their respective sports, but so much of the event was about the build-up — the back story of misogynistic and homophobic insults; profane crowd baiting — “F*** the Mayweathers” — domestic violence and alleged racism.

You didn’t need any of that “drama” in the WTS. All you had to do, as a spectator, was just bathe in the glory of Duffy and marvel in the athleticism, the determination and the sheer awesomeness of the ability of her and her competitors.

Triathlon is tough, the risk of injury is high. Indeed, Duffy missed the start of the WTS campaign with a hip problem. It would be easy to get in a hissy fit if things didn’t go your way, but Duffy even turned that injury into a positive.

“I think the extra rest actually helped me,” she said before racing in Hamburg — another victory, naturally — in July.

Fast forward to the weekend, and another picture. Duffy is in the middle, bottle of champagne held aloft, gold medal round her neck. Gentle, Katie Zaferes and Jessica Learmonth are there celebrating their own achievements, even though all were vanquished by Duffy. Are they “losers” because they are good losers?

One of the definitions of “sporting”, according to Collins, is: “relating or conforming to sportsmanship; fair”.

In a “sporting” world full of “win at all costs” machismo, it’s wonderful to have a great champion, in every sense, in Duffy. And she’s all ours!

Duffy had not even won a WTS event before Stockholm last year. Now she has won six races in a season and two world titles in a row.

She’s a good loser, but, sorry Vince, she has proven she’s no loser. And, unlike Lombardi, Mayweather, McGregor and Mourinho, she proved that you don’t have to be a jerk to be a winner, too.

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Published Sep 18, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 18, 2017 at 9:15 am)

Champion of champions – and she’s all ours

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