Duffy facing ‘hardest chapter’

  • Bitter decision: Flora Duffy, the former two-times world champion, has been sidelined since August last year 

(Photograph by Wagner Araujo/ITU Media)

    Bitter decision: Flora Duffy, the former two-times world champion, has been sidelined since August last year (Photograph by Wagner Araujo/ITU Media)


Understanding Flora’s pain

What is the posterior tibial tendon

The posterior tibial tendon is a little-known, but hugely important anatomical structure along the inside of your ankle. The tendon itself is not much thicker than a pencil, but it plays an essential role in stabilising your foot. The tendon inserts into your foot along your instep, runs up beside the medial malleolus — the large bump on the inside of your ankle — and attaches to the tibialis posterior muscle, which is buried deep inside your calves. By applying tension along the inside of your ankle, the tibialis posterior muscle and the posterior tibial tendon play a critical role in maintaining your arch and supporting your foot.

The symptoms

Tenderness and swelling along the tendon

Inner foot pain

Difficulty pointing toes inward

Unsteady gait

Inability to stand on your toes

The prognosis

If you were trying to run through this injury, stop! It’s not worth risking permanent damage to your arch. The posterior tibial tendon is slow to heal; probably because the portion of the tendon that runs along the medial malleolus has poor blood supply. Therefore, you should take plenty of time off and try to cut back on other activities that aggravate your tendon. Cross-training activities such as swimming and biking are OK as long as they don’t cause pain.

Compiled by Dexter Smith

Flora Duffy has been forced to face the realisation that the “hardest chapter” of her sporting career has become even harder after taking the bitter decision to withdraw from the MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda.

Having failed to recover from an injury in her left foot, that has kept her sidelined since August last year, the two-times former world champion, who thrilled thousands on local soil during a dominant, wire-to-wire performance in her 2018 victory, took to social media yesterday to release news that many had feared was inevitable.

“I’m beyond disappointed to be missing out on WTS Bermuda, where my community have rallied around the event,” she said in a statement released on Twitter.

“I am not yet at full health and will need to take the bitter decision to withdraw, and all races thereafter until I am fully recovered. This has been, and continues to be, the hardest chapter of my sporting career.

“Thank you for all the support, the belief and the understanding. I am devastated and feel like I am letting so many down. It has not been for the lack of trying. I’ll continue to strive towards being my best with all I have. Just for now, I need to heal.”

Duffy has been struggling with a tear in the posterial tibial tendon in her left foot. Conflicting medical advice resulted in her soldiering on, which she now accepts was the wrong thing to do.

“Earlier this week, we confirmed that a small tear in my post tib tendon remains present,” she added. “This is basically in the bridge of my left foot. I have known it is not 100 per cent since returning to training in October last year, but hoped that it would continue healing while I built back to full load through my summer in Stellenbosch.

“I was able to get through some 60-kilometre run weeks with some quality sessions. Even a 20km-long run or two. However, always with some amount of feedback from my left foot.

“There are many similar tendon injuries that have healed fully if given complete rest for 12 weeks. I was told this back in May, immediately after WTS Yokohama which was the final breaking point.

“However, I did have conflicting advice that suggested no running and complete rest is not necessary. Regrettably, I took the wrong advice and continued to do everything I could to stay fit in hopes of racing late-season. I believe this delayed my recovery.

“I did not have the confidence to stop training and simply rest. I now have no remaining options but to wait it out for as long as is needed.”

Duffy, who won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, last April, added: “The line in the sand was ten days out from the season-opening WTS in Abu Dhabi. Doing some high-end speed session accentuated the reality of the tendon not being fully ready. I did another MRI and an ultrasound on February 26. The tear is too small to identify on the MRI but clearly visible under ultrasound. We decided on no running for three weeks — hoping that somehow the recovery would be sufficient — before starting the final build towards WTS Bermuda.

“This week’s ultrasound confirmed, however, that there is positive inflammation, a clear sign of healing activity, but that reintroducing running would very likely set me back to square one. It needs another three weeks, if not six.”

Duffy still wants to be involved in the event as much as possible. Her injury is only preventing her from competitive running at this time, so she now intends to form a relay team to compete in the age-group race in the morning. Home-town crowds will be able to watch the former two-times world champion in the bike leg through the streets of Hamilton

However, despite the devastating news, the 31-year-old in her typical determined mindset, has refused to concede her ultimate aspiration of clinching Olympic medal glory, with the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year very much in her focus.

“I am still dreaming of fulfilling a lifelong goal in Tokyo next year, and need to get to full health as soon as possible, for as much runway towards the Olympics as possible.

“Risking another three months now, given the past nine, feels suffocating. I plan to be back in 2020 and finish my ITU career at the Grand Final in Bermuda in 2021.

“There is a lot left to do, but for now I need to be patient, I need to surrender more than I have these past nine months, and let my body heal fully.”

To read the full statement from Flora Duffy on her withdrawal from the MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

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Published Apr 16, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 16, 2019 at 8:06 am)

Duffy facing ‘hardest chapter’

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