Irrepressible Flora Duffy becomes Bermuda’s first Olympic champion
A dream 25 years in the making became reality for Flora Duffy after she stormed to an emphatic victory with a flawless display in the women’s triathlon to earn Bermuda’s first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo yesterday.
The 33-year-old led the field shortly after the final transition on to the ten-kilometre run and never looked back as she gradually put more distance between herself and the chasing pack before breaking the tape in a winning time of 1hr 55min 36sec.
“This has been my dream since I was 8 years old,” said an elated Duffy, who secured Bermuda’s first medal since heavyweight boxer Clarence Hill won bronze at the Montreal Games in 1976. “I grew up in Bermuda doing triathlon and always wanted to be an Olympic champion.
“This is Bermuda’s first gold medal and the first woman to do it. It’s an incredibly special moment and I feel like I crossed the line today, but I did for everyone in Bermuda.
“It’s just an incredible moment and I could not have done it without every single person back home cheering me on.”
She added: “My family are like going crazy. I think the whole of Bermuda is and I think that’s what makes it so much special for me.
“Yes, this is my dream. But I also knew that it was bigger than me and I think when you’re in that sort of space it just makes everything that much more special and incredible.
“I’m just so proud I could do this and be Bermuda’s first gold medal-winner, first female medal-winner and just hopefully inspire everyone back home that this is possible.”
Duffy finished 1min 14sec ahead of second-placed Georgia Taylor-Brown, of Great Britain, to smash the previous largest victory margin of 1:06.97 held by Australian Emma Snowsill at the 2008 Games.
American Katie Zaferes claimed the bronze to complete the women’s podium.
Duffy went into the race among the medal favourites and quickly established herself among the lead group after exiting the 1,500-metre swim in sixth.
“I knew the swim would be crucial and I could pretty much tell from the first lap that I was in a very good position,” she said. “Establishing a good position in the swim just set the race up so much that everything went so much more smoothly after that.”
Duffy was part of a group of seven who broke clear at the start of the 40km bike on slick roads with no margin for error and the occasional rain squall.
“On the bike in these conditions, and it’s a very technical course, really the main thing was trying to stay safe and not have anything silly happen,” Duffy added.
“I raced with Jessie [Jessica Learmonth], Georgia and Katie often. I know they are strong riders and I heard the split to the second group and I thought this is game over. Not that I was going to win, but this was game over. This is us fighting for the podium so just stay safe, keep fuelling and I think that’s pretty much like the perfect scenario for me."
Duffy trailed Zaferes at the start of the run only for a few seconds before hammering out an early lead that grew and grew and grew.
“My running has also come a long way that I knew I was very confident in my run,” she said. “I felt pretty good and of course I’ve raced them before, so I sort of know their strengths and weaknesses.
“I just took it hard and established a gap and then just hoped that I would still feel pretty good. I just kept my composure and only allowed myself to sort of let the thoughts drift in that I was going to win. With a kilometre out I saw Dan [her husband] and kind of from there I knew it was going to happen.”
She added: “I’ve had an extra year with this pressure [being among the favourites] on me.
“Although it was difficult to manage and navigate all that pressure, what a special moment to come down the finishing chute and just to enjoy it and have my moments. It’s incredible.
“It’s a massive relief, as you can imagine. It’s been a heck of a lot of pressure for five years. I would never recommend being an Olympic favourite for five years.”
Duffy’s triumph more than compensated for the disappointment of coming up short on three previous attempts at Olympic glory and recent injury.
“It was worth it; there’s been many tears, many heartbreaks,” she said. “Many times I was like ‘am I ever going to be healthy again, can I ever race at the top?’.
“I just kept believing and I have a really great support system around me. My coach is incredible and so I just had to trust the process that I would be ready just in time.”
• Additional reporting by Kageaki Smith in Tokyo