Duffy eyes fifth title in Hawaii
Flora Duffy says her form since returning from a 12-month injury layoff has exceeded expectations and is confident of winning a fifth Xterra World Championships on Sunday.
Duffy is favourite to reclaim her crown in Kapalua, Hawaii, where the championships are held, having won the race from 2014 to 2017 before a career-threatening foot problem prevented her from continuing her dominance.
Although she only returned in August, winning the Tokyo Olympic Test Event controversially after Britain’s Jessica Learmonth and Georgia Taylor-Brown were disqualified for causing a deliberate tie, Duffy appears to have lost none of her dynamism.
She followed up with fifth place at the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland, came third at the Banyoles ITU World Cup in Spain before storming to victory at the Beijing International Triathlon last weekend, which she considers her “first official win” since May 2018.
“The return to racing after injury has gone really well, much better than I could have anticipated,” Duffy said.
“You can never really know how things are going to go after such a long break, especially at the WTS level, which is extremely competitive.
“I was really pleased with my performance at the Grand Final. It was a very challenging course and, of course, it was the final of the WTS series and everyone was super fit and ready to race.
“For me, it was only my second race back from injury and I was still building form. My run is still building, still coming together, but it was a good step in the right direction.”
Already the most decorated women’s athlete in the history of Xterra — Duffy moved ahead of English triathlete Julie Dibens, who held the title from 2007 to 2009, when she won in 2017 — the Bermudian is eager to make up for lost time.
She admits the earthier form of triathlon can be a crapshoot at times because of its rugged and challenging terrain but, a drama-free race permitting, expects to be standing on top of the podium on Sunday.
“If I was to win, I’d be the first person to win five times, which is pretty cool,” she said. “It would be really special to achieve that. Of course, this is Xterra racing and anything can happen, but I need to just have a safe and clean race.
“The course looks great; it’s has changed from the previous few years, a lot more technical. It just feels like a totally different course, but I think it still suits me.”
“It’s a good field of women, but I’m pretty confident of where my form is at and my fitness. I’m just excited to race here again after missing last year.
“You really appreciate being here when you’ve had to skip a year and miss out on the fun.”
Duffy will sign off for a month after the race, returning briefly to Bermuda next month before heading to Stellenbosch, South Africa, where she will begin her preparations for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer.
“[The World Triathlon Series Grand Final and Banyoles ITU World Cup] offered great Olympic points, as I look to secure my spot for next year, which is really the goal because my ranking had slipped quite a bit because of the time off racing,” Duffy added.
“Next week I’m off to Osaka, Japan, to visit the headquarters of my main sponsor Asics and visit their high-performance centre. We’ll also take a train to Toyko to scout out the Olympic course again and take a closer look at whatever we may need out there, just so there are no surprises and we feel right at home [next summer].”
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