All eyes on Duffy
Flora Duffy says she feels like her career has come full circle before her “showcase” to the island as the most dominant force in the sport in MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda tomorrow.
Duffy vividly remembers, more than 20 years on, her first encounter with professional triathlon, watching the Hamilton ITU World Cup and being inspired by the likes of Australian Emma Carney, the race winner, and Canada’s Carol Montgomery.
The Bermudian, who was only 10 years old, could have hardly imagined she would one day have her own event built and packaged solely around her as the home favourite and world No 1.
“Watching that race is what inspired me to become a professional athlete because that was the first time I thought, ‘Oh wow, you can actually do this sport and make a living’,” Duffy said. “It’s pretty cool to come full circle and be here doing that. I grew up doing the Front Street Mile, running up and down Front Street, so I know how hard that can be. It’s pretty deceiving. It’s a very tough, gritty course, but that’s great.”
Duffy could not have scripted her homecoming any better after storming to the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games three weeks ago. She says the pressure is off to some degree, having achieved her objective on the Gold Coast.
“For me, April was my peak month of the season, with the Commonwealth Games and the WTS Bermuda,” Duffy said. “I had to make sure I was in really good form for those two races.
“I said if I nailed those two then the rest of the year doesn’t really matter too much or it would be very relaxing almost. It’s a big deal and, of course, it would be very special to win.
“Obviously, I want to race well here and showcase what I do around the world. It would be a bit of a shame if the race doesn’t go as I’d like it to on Saturday.”
The reigning two-times world champion admits the extra attention she now attracts, particularly in Bermuda, can be jarring at times and brings a different type of pressure.
“[Racing at home] is a very different pressure from the Commonwealth Games,” Duffy said. “It’s really cool and special and kind of overwhelming all at the same time.
“The pressure going into Gold Coast I felt a lot more because it’s a Games and it comes around once every four years. Plus, Bermuda had only won one gold medal and it wasn’t a female one. That has a whole new level of pressure and for me that was a big deal.”
Duffy’s next goal is to become the first woman to win three consecutive ITU world titles.
Triumphing in front of her adoring public would be her first series win of the season, having crashed 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.
“It almost takes a bit of pressure off me coming into this race as it’s part of a series and you don’t have to necessarily win every race to be the world champion,” the 30-year-old said.
“I can look at it like that, but of course I want to win on home soil.”
Among those posing a threat to Duffy, the overwhelming favourite, is Rachel Klamer, of the Netherlands, who won the season-opener in Abu Dhabi, and Katie Zaferes, the world No 3 from the United States.
Jess Learmonth, of England, who worked in tandem on the bike with Duffy on the Gold Coast to pull away from the rest of the field, a tactic they have used countless times in WTS races, has not made the trip.
“I’ve been checking out their social media and it’s so cool to see, because I have always been bragging about Bermuda and about how pretty it is and how cool the vibe is here.
“For them to be here on the island and sharing it on their social-media platforms, from what I’ve seen they’re really enjoying being here.”
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