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Flora signs up for Cup finale

After taking the world of triathlon world by storm this year, it might have been safe to assume that Flora Duffy would be content to put her feet up with the season all but finished.

But the 18-year-old athletic sensation is certainly not done yet, revealing yesterday that she had decided to travel to Cancun, Mexico early next month to compete in the last World Cup race of the year ? despite saying only a few weeks ago that she would be looking to wind down for the winter.

After placing eighth in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Duffy topped that stunning performance in Hamburg in September when she placed ninth in only her second World Cup race ? beating scores of world-class female triathletes and giving further credence to the view that she may well develop into one of the world?s best.

While she continues to pursue an education in the UK, Duffy?s life at Kelly College in the county of Devon is centred around preparing her body and mind for the rigours of professional triathlon and the dream of representing Bermuda at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

And after three World Cup races, in which she has produced finishes of 24th, ninth and 19th, Duffy finds herself at 43rd in the Olympic qualifying rankings ? and as long as she stays within the top 55 her place in Beijing is assured.

?My original plan was not to do any more World Cup races this year because I was feeling quite drained and ready for a bit of a break,? said the world junior triathlon silver medallist, who flew back home on Saturday.

?But when I found out that quite a few of the top girls had decided to finish their seasons, I saw it as a good opportunity to gain some extra points towards qualifying for the Olympics.

?In the last few weeks I?ve found a few of the training sessions quite hard and it?s been difficult to focus sometimes, but for the most part things have been going well in training.

?I?m not sure where I could finish in Cancun, we?ll have to wait and see. Obviously if I managed to get into the top ten again that would be terrific, but anywhere in the top 20 I?d be reasonably happy with.?

As she demonstrated on Sunday in the Crimestoppers 5K road race, where she finished third overall behind only Larry Marshall and Jay Donawa in a time of 17 minutes and 34 seconds, Duffy?s running is clearly her strongest suit at present.

And she was prepared to admit that she still has work to do ? most notably on the swim ? if she wants to consistently challenge for top honours in the upper echelons of her sport.

This was certainly clear during her last World Cup race in Beijing at the end of September, where on the same course that the 2008 Olympics will be contested, a sluggish start saw the youngster emerge from the water near the back of the 58-woman field, scotching her chances of another top-ten finish.

?A few years ago the swim used to be my strongest discipline, but for one reason or another things have switched around and it?s my run that?s really come on this year,? she said.

?The frustrating thing about it is that in training, my pool times are where they need to be, but I haven?t yet been able to put that into practice in a race.

?But to place well in World Cups you have to be in the first or second pack out of the water ? otherwise you?ve got no chance.

?There are definitely some technique issues which I will need to work on in the off-season, but to be honest I?m not too worried about the swim. I know I?ve got it in me and I?m pretty confident it won?t be long until I?m producing the sort of race times I need.?