‘New Year’s honours are ‘surreal’ and ‘breathtaking’
Bermuda’s first Olympic gold medal winner said it felt “surreal and special” to be made a Dame in the latest New Year’s Honours.
Flora Duffy, OBE, said she was surprised to be told that she would be recognised as Dame Commander of the British Empire for her services to sport in Bermuda.
And Joseph Froncioni, an orthopaedic surgeon and road safety campaigner, described his Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to road safety in Bermuda as “breathtaking”.
Ms Duffy: “I was told about five weeks ago as I prepared for my final race.
“It was really nice to hear that and very special to receive it for my service to sport in Bermuda. It’s pretty incredible the places that sport has taken me and what doors it has opened.
“I am really happy and excited and looking forward to going to the formal ceremony. It has really capped off a beautiful year, and it was a great way to end 2021.”
The New Year’s Honours list said Ms Duffy was recognised for “her exceptional contribution” to sport in Bermuda, including her victory in the women’s triathlon at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The win made her the first Bermudian to win Olympic gold – and made Bermuda the smallest country, in terms of population, to win gold at the Summer Olympics.
The list also highlighted Ms Duffy’s successes at the 2021 Xterra World Championship, the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series in Abu Dhabi and the Groupe Copley 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series, in Montreal.
Dr Froncioni said he was shocked to receive a call from the Governor to ask if he would accept the award.
“It was about a month ago,” he said. “It was breathtaking because I was just sitting with a friend having a glass of wine when I received this call completely unexpectedly.
“It was a big surprise. And then I had to keep quiet about it until they announced it. The fact that you are even nominated gives you such a good feeling.
“I have been involved in road safety for about 30 years, but this isn’t something you ever expect. You don’t do this kind of work for rewards, monetary or otherwise, but it feels good to get that recognition.”
Dr Froncioni said he got involved in road safety shortly after he arrived in Bermuda in 1988 because of the “carnage” on the island.
Dr Froncioni said: “The number of deaths was still extremely high and there were some obvious holes in our management of the problem. Drinking and driving was rife, speeding was a big, big problem.”
He said that legislation that required helmets in 1976 had helped slow the number of deaths on the roads, but there were still major issues that had to be addressed.
He said that he and other campaigners have made some progress, but much more work must be done to prevent speeding and impaired driving.
Dr Froncioni added: “We are still not doing well. The main causes of the problem have not been totally worked through and I wish they were.”
His work in road safety included co-founding the Road Safety subdivision of the Bermuda Medical Society in 1995 and becoming the medical representative on the Bermuda Road Safety Council in 1998.
In 2001, Dr Froncioni founded the charity, BermudaSmartRisk, with the goal of addressing risky road behaviour among young people and advocating a more positive approach to injury prevention.
In 2008 the results of a study, Road Traffic Injuries in Bermuda 2003 to 2004, were made public.
The study, led by Dr Froncioni and funded by BermudaSmartRisk, ”brought to light the magnitude of Bermuda’s road safety problem and made specific recommendations for improvement“.
Dr Froncioni is currently chairman of the Board of A Piece of the Rock Limited, a non-profit company whose stated mission is to raise funds for a comprehensive road safety campaign.
Ms Duffy and Dr Froncioni were two of four included in the New Year’s Honours list for contributions to Bermuda.
Other honours recipients included Erica Smith and Owen Ellsworth Simons, who received the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for services to the community and for services to music education in Bermuda respectively (see separate story).