Duffy confident of gold
Gold is almost certainly on Flora Duffy’s mind as she heads into the first medal event of the Commonwealth Games tonight.
After clearly establishing herself as the dominant force in women’s triathlon, winning back-to-back ITU World Triathlon Series titles, Duffy no longer feels the need to temper expectations.
Gone is the uncertainty, the ambiguity, the self doubt.
These days Duffy has the aura and confidence of a world champion and make no mistake, her trip to the Gold Coast — Australia’s premier tourist destination — is strictly business.
“It’s exciting to be heading to my third Commonwealth Games and this one’s a lot different from the previous two as I am one of the medal hopes and have actual confidence that I can achieve that,” Duffy told The Royal Gazette.
“That’s been a big goal for me this year that we set out to have a great race at Commonwealths and make it one of my ‘A’ races.”
With the Commonwealth Games being held so early in the season, Duffy has raced just once, crashing out on a corner that claimed several other riders during slippery conditions in Abu Dhabi last month. She was, typically, in the lead at the time and feels in medal-winning form.
“So far the prep this year has gone pretty well,” said Duffy, who finished eighth at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. “I only started training towards the end of December and OK, I’m racing at the beginning of April, but in terms of training weeks it’s not that many to get ready, so thankfully everything’s gone pretty smooth.
“It’s been a great summer in Stellenbosch and I have a great training group down there, so I can just slot right in and it all works pretty well.”
Duffy, who has opted to stay at a hotel in Southport near the triathlon venue rather than the Games Village, will join her team-mates Tyler Butterfield, Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley in the mixed relay on Saturday.
The 30-year-old will perform the third leg of the super sprint distance race — a 250-metre swim, 7-kilometre bike and 1.5km run — before handing off to Butterfield.
“I think people don’t understand how small Bermuda is and to have four world-class triathletes competing at the mixed team relay at the Commonwealth Games is really, really incredible,” Duffy said. “Much bigger countries struggle to field a team so for us to be there, it’s very special.
“It’s great to have Tyler Butterfield on the team. He’s someone I looked up to when I was growing up. It’s pretty cool that he’s done a lot in short-course racing, he’s done a lot in Ironman racing and is still keen and excited to race for Bermuda. [He’s] coming back down to short-course, which is not really his level of expertise any more.”
Duffy admits it is odd to think of herself as the “elder stateswoman” of Bermudian triathlon, but is happy to help in Smith and Hawley’s transition to the elite level. Both are aged 19, a year older than Duffy when she outlined her potential by coming eighth at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
“It’s great to have them on the team and I think it’s pretty special for them because, obviously it’s weird me talking about this, but I am the reigning world champion,” said Duffy, one of two athletes on the Gold Coast to have competed at Melbourne 2006 and Glasgow 2014, the other being New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt.
“I suppose it’s quite special that we’re all in different stages of our careers and we get to compete on the same team and this might be the only time we can do this at the Commonwealth Games, so that in itself is really special.
“Hopefully, I can, I don’t know, give them some tips or help them, it’s a pretty high level to be racing on.
“My first Commonwealth Games was when I was 18, also in Australia, so those two are at similar points, so I know from first-hand experience how massive of a jump it is to be racing junior levels normally and then jump into one of the most competitive elite fields.”
As a four-times Xterra world champion — the earthier form of triathlon — Duffy has also qualified for the mountain biking, which takes place next Thursday in South East Queensland.
Although she holds no hope of a podium finish, Duffy is certain of biking competitive.
“There’s no medal hopes there, it’s truly just for me, a life experience that I want to do,” she said.
“I know I’m at the level to race there and hold my own and I just think it’s pretty special for me to race at a Commonwealth Games in both triathlon and mountain bike.
“Not many people have that opportunity or have the skill-set to do so, so that’s the main motivation there and I’m just really excited to be given that opportunity. I’m very confident in the triathlon and know how to execute a race there, but then I stand on the mountain bike start line and feel like a total beginner there and that’s actually pretty cool for me at this stage of my career to have that totally out of your comfort-zone excitement.”
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