Gracious Duffy a cut above
Barber Ricky Spence got the shock of his life last week when world champion triathlete Flora Duffy paid him a visit at his Angle Street barbershop.
She wanted to thank him for an award she received recently from Spence’s annual Health Day on June 2, when Spence honoured Duffy and high jumper Clarance “Nicky” Saunders, who won Commonwealth Games gold medals 28 years apart.
Duffy was abroad competing at the time, so her father, Charlie, showed up at the shop to collect the award. However, when Duffy returned to visit family last week, she made a point to go to see Spence on Angle Street. “She came here to personally thank me for honouring her with the award. Her husband and father were with her,” Spence said of the surprise.
“I gave her a plaque with a picture of her running. It said ‘congratulations to Flora Duffy from Ricky’s Health Day’. She couldn’t make it, so her father came and picked up the award, saying that his daughter was in South Africa. The Premier [David Burt] presented it to him.
“Last week she came in to personally thank me. At first I didn’t know who it was. I said ‘can I help you?’ She said ‘you don’t know who I am? I’m Flora Duffy’. The shop went up in stitches. People had their phones out and started taking pictures.
“It was some experience, I felt honoured. I never thought it would happen this way. I told her ‘I know you are so busy, I never thought you would take out time to thank me for what I did’.
“She said, ‘no, that was a good thing, my father spoke very highly of it’. She told her husband to get in the chair and get a haircut. She then got in the chair.
“It was really amazing, everybody was quite moved by it. She is so down to earth. You don’t know people until you actually get to know them. She stayed here a good hour.
“For somebody to thank you like that for recognising them is a humbling feeling. I’ve learnt that no matter how small something is to one person, it may mean a lot to somebody else. I felt she needed to be recognised, but I never felt she would be right here in my shop. I thought that was amazing.”
Duffy said she couldn’t pass the opportunity to visit a fan and thank him. “It was fun to surprise him, he was definitely caught off guard to see me walk through the door, but it was really cool to see his genuine excitement,” she said this week.
“I’ve never met Ricky before and to meet somebody so excited to see me is a cool thing. He said he follows me and is proud of what I’ve done. He invited me to his health day that he has in the community every year but since I couldn’t go to that, I thought that while I’m back I should pop in and say hi to him.”
Charles Duffy was happy to receive the plaque on his daughter’s behalf, just like he has done for her recent Government Female Athlete of the Year Awards. “Aaron Smith, who is on the triathlon board of directors, gets his haircut there and Ricky approached him and Aaron referred it to me,” Charles Duffy explained.
“He wanted to present the plaque to Flora and another to Nicky Saunders, but because Flora wasn’t on the island, I went and accepted it on her behalf.
“She and I had the idea at the same time to go in and surprise him because he is such a big fan. He nearly fell over when he realised who it was; it was great to see. And then she and [husband] Dan got a free haircut! The whole family have been proud of her for years, no more so than now.”
Just as he did when his shop was located on North Shore Road, Spence has adorned the walls with pictures of local sportsmen, including an image of Duffy on the podium when she won the MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda race in April in front of packed crowds on the streets of Hamilton.
That she took the time to visit Spence at his shop to thank him for his support, even giving him a signed picture of herself on the podium with Vicky Holland, of Great Britain, and American Katie Zafares after the Bermuda race, was not lost on the veteran barber.
He is the brother of community activist Gina Spence, who has her own charity, Gina Spence Productions.
“I told her that ‘you represent Bermuda and we need to honour you to show that we appreciate what you have done’,” Spence said. “That helps Bermuda, with tourism and all that.
“We have a lot of talented people in Bermuda and we need to honour our own people. It was letting her know that I appreciate her for what she has done. At the same time I gave her the plaque, I also gave Nicky Saunders’s family a plaque.”
Duffy left Bermuda yesterday to return to Boulder, Colorado, for about a month, and after that will be in South Africa until April as she prepares for the new season. She is recovering from a foot injury.
“The goal is to rehab that and since my season was cut short, we’ll just go back to South Africa a little bit sooner,” she explained.
“It’s rare that I come back here and training is not the focus. Dan and I explored the island and got to do a lot of nice touristy things like hang out at the beaches and tour St George’s.”