‘An inspiration to us all’
It was quite a day for Flora Duffy who will now see her name emblazoned around the island in recognition of her historic Olympic gold medal.
During a national holiday honouring Flora yesterday, the National Stadium was named the Flora Duffy South Field Stadium – shortly after Corkscrew Hill was renamed Flora Duffy Hill.
New stamps were also made in her honour – with children encouraged to write letters bearing the new Flora Duffy design – and a mural will be painted on a wall at the General Post Office.
Then, to finish a day of celebrations – one week after arriving in Bermuda for the first time since her medal winning exploits – Flora closed out the festivities by tearfully addressing a crowd at Victoria Park with her own tribute to her island home.
“I am from Bermuda where at 6.30pm on Monday, July 26, 2021, the streets fell silent because an entire nation believed I could do it,” she said.
The triathlete recalled the jubilation after her gold medal win in Tokyo, the island’s first.
She added: “Whoever knew there were so many Bermuda flags in existence?”
Flora fought tears as she added: “I am from Bermuda – where little girls will drive down a twisty hill while hearing their Moms say this is Flora Duffy Hill, and that will mean something.
“And I hope that little girl will look out the window at that wooden street sign and dream big. Thank you.”
Clarence Hill, the boxer who brought home an Olympic bronze medal from the 1976 Montreal Games, embraced her after she left the stage.
Celebrations began at the corner of North Shore Road and Loyal Hill Road, where the tight-knit Devonshire neighbourhood hangs its regular Loyal Gazette (LG) banner giving encouragement, congratulations and condolences.
Flora drove up for a ceremony with Kevin Goater, LG president, with his wife and group organiser Maria Goater and Gaylhia Le May, the LG writer, who presented a Loyal Gazette T-shirt and some muscle rub.
Ms Le May said Flora’s acceptance of the last-minute invitation showed “Flora is a big fan of the LG, and it really speaks to her sense of community at a grass roots level”.
From there, she went to Corkscrew Hill for the renaming ceremony before heading to the National Stadium.
David Burt, the Premier, welcomed Flora to the dedication of Flora Duffy National Stadium – speaking “not just as Premier, but also as a proud Bermudian who cheered as loudly as anyone as I watched Flora break the tape and claim the gold in Tokyo”.
He told her: “No venue could be more appropriate to continue the tributes to our champion.
“The sense of pride that Flora gave to us that day will be something we will not soon forget.”
Ernest Peets, the youth, culture and sport minister, hailed Flora as the most accomplished athlete of our time.
He told her South Field was “where you’ve trained and worked so hard and we're pleased we are able to recognise you in this way”.
Katura Horton-Perinchief, the National Sports Centre deputy chairwoman and an Olympic diver, said she hoped the renaming would remind “every Bermudian that we belong at the top of every ladder”.
Judy Simons, president of the Bermuda Olympic Association, surprised Flora with the presentation of a medallion, making her the BOA’s first order of merit recipient.
Flora said she was honoured to see her name added to the stadium wall.
She said her “greatest hope” was to show young athletes they could be champions, and young women “that they can do this too”.
Nate Wilson, Flora’s triathlon coach, told The Royal Gazette of his emotion watching Flora’s win from Spain.
“To win in the moment when everybody knows you could win is very challenging,” he said.
“The weight lay with her. The grace with which she handled that pressure, for me is really inspiring.
“That grace is an individual trait. That’s not about training.”
Flora joined her husband Dan with her family outside the General Post Office on Church Street, where Wayne Furbert, the Cabinet Office minister, unveiled the stamps created in honour of her “phenomenal athletic achievement”.
Two Flora Duffy stamps will be available from November 18, while a Flora mural will be added to the side of the building.
Rena Lalgie, the Governor, opened the evening’s celebratory concert in Victoria Park with a promise to be brief.
She added: “I wanted to make way for the Bermudian woman who achieved such greatness that everyone else got the day off work.”
Ms Lalgie told Flora: “The hard work and sacrifice that made you the very best in the world takes a very rare set of qualities.”
She added: “Your achievements to date are an inspiration to us all.”
Ms Lalgie called her “a Bermudian icon and a role model around the world”.
“I certainly cannot wait to see what you go on to achieve next.”
Mr Burt said: “I hope today’s events have brought you at least a portion of the happiness and pride that you gave all of us three months ago in Tokyo.
“You have blazed a trail and inspired a generation of young people.
“It has been an incredible day of celebration and tributes to a daughter of Bermuda’s own soil.
“No one will forget where we were when Flora Duffy won Olympic Gold for Bermuda. Flora, you are an inspiration to all of us.”