Duffy not fazed by favouritism, says Petty
Flora Duffy has “no chinks in her armour” and is comfortable with being the Commonwealth Games gold-medal favourite, according to Steven Petty, the Bermuda Triathlon Association president.
Duffy has dominated women’s triathlon for the past two years, winning back-to-back ITU World Triathlon Series titles, and will again have a target on her back in the Gold Coast.
Petty believes that Duffy will hardly be fazed by the favourites tag and has backed her to become the first Bermudian woman to medal at the Games.
Bermuda’s first medal came at the 1966 event in Kingston, Jamaica, when John Morbey won silver in the long jump, while Clarence “Nicky” Saunders won the island’s first gold in the high jump in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1990.
“I’ve often wondered whether there’s a chink in Flora’s armour? Will she buckle under pressure?” Petty said.
“She appeared so confident in Abu Dhabi [in last month’s opening WTS series race] and looked in really good form. That should bode well for her medal chances.
“You never want to tempt fate but fingers crossed her good form will continue. Psychologically I think she’s at a good point against her competitors.”
Duffy was, typically, in the lead in Abu Dhabi when she crashed out on a corner that claimed several other riders during slippery conditions in the United Arab Emirates.
Among the riders to suffer an accident on a course Duffy later described as “dangerous” was Gold Coast native Ashleigh Gentle, who is expected to be the Bermudian’s main rival for gold.
“We’ve never had a female medal-winner at the Commonwealth Games,” Petty added. “It would be a big deal as the Commonwealth Games is one of the most prestigious events in triathlon.
“A lot of the best triathlon countries — England, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa — will be there.”
Petty believes Duffy’s dominance on the world stage has sparked a “renaissance” in Bermudian triathlon and helped inspire her teenage team-mates Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley.
“Flora has really given the sport a boost it needed,” Petty said. “Triathlon has been going through a bit of a renaissance, not that there hasn’t always been a lot of interest, and the WTS Bermuda will only help that rejuvenation.
“When Flora was nine she watched an ITU race in Bermuda [the Hamilton World Cup] and said, ‘Boy, I’d like to do that one day’. It’s a pretty neat story.
“She’s only 30 and has a lot left in her. For Flora, the Olympics in 2020 is what she’s really pushing for.”
Joining Duffy on the Gold Coast is her husband Dan Hugo, who has been handed an official role as Bermuda’s triathlon coach.
The native of Stellenbosch, South Africa, raced in the very first Xterra South Africa Championship in 2004 and is regarded as a key factor behind Duffy’s rise to the top.
He was hailed by Duffy as “half the reason I was able to race so well” when she won bronze at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, and is also lending his expertise to the rest of Bermuda’s team.
“Dan is an accomplished athlete in his own right and he’s very meticulous,” Petty added. “He brings a very calming influence and he’s a very understated guy. Very knowledgeable.
“Flora would tell you that he’s had a lot to do with her success over the past few years. We’re looking forward to having him as part of the team.
“He’s quite happy to get stuck in and help the juniors in particular. He seems to think we certainly won’t be embarrassed [in the mixed relay] and may even cause a few surprises.”
Petty is particularly excited about the mixed relay on Saturday, which has been added to the Olympic programme for Toyko 2020, and features two men and two women each completing a “super sprint” triathlon before tagging their next team-mate.
Duffy is expected to perform the first leg in a bid to get Bermuda off to a flying start.
“The order is woman, man, woman, man, and it’s been interesting chatting to Dan Hugo about how we will position the team,” Petty said.
“This could be an opportunity we won’t see for a long time because Tyler [Butterfield] will go back to concentrating on ironman distances after this event.”
Petty says he has no concerns about Smith and Hawley, both 19, competing on the big stage against some of the top triathletes in the world in Thursday’s races.
“It’s not like they haven’t done big races and they’re both at university,” Petty said. “They’re definitely up for the challenge and I don’t foresee any issues with those two.
“At the previous Commonwealths in Glasgow it was Olympic distance [as opposed to sprint distance] and if you were lapped you were out. That’s what happened with Jonathan Herring and Tucker Murphy.
“It’s different this time around and you will be allowed to finish. The Commonwealth Games likes to portray itself as the ‘friendly games’ and I think that was an important change made by the organisers.”
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