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Flora’s childhood coach Troy Custodio full of pride

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Troy Custodio could not hide his overwhelming pride after watching Flora Duffy fulfil her lifelong aspiration of being crowned Olympic champion.

Then: a young Flora Duffy starts her journey as a triathlete
And now: the 33-year-old stands on top of the podium in Tokyo having fulfilled her lifelong dream of being crowned Olympic champion

Like the majority of the island, Mr Custodio struggled to hold back the tears as the 33-year-old stormed to victory in the women's triathlon in Tokyo on Monday, rewriting history to become Bermuda's first Olympic champion and second ever medal winner, following in the footsteps of heavyweight boxer Clarence Hill won bronze at the Montreal Games in 1976.

For Custodio, seeing a triumphant Flora Duffy finally realise her dream in such dominant fashion, proved a particularly poignant moment, having first introduced her to the sport as a seven-year-old within a newly formed triathlon club at Port Royal Primary School.

"I have nothing but immense pride and I was really choked up watching her cross that finish line," said her former Physical Education teacher and coach, who was transported back all those years ago watching his former pupil cross the line as a gold medal-winner. "She's taken on the world and come away with a gold medal.

"I started a triathlon club at Port Royal Primary School but Flora was too young to join at the time. However, her mother Maria came and spoke to me and I agreed to let her join. Back then she was tiny and could barely reach the pedals on her bike but you could see that inner determination that she had, even back then.

"When I saw the focus on her face during the race, I could just see that same face as when she was seven years old. It took me back to all those years ago of watching her win races as a young athlete, she really hasn't changed at all.

"This is a lifelong achievement and what she wanted when she started out on her triathlon journey all those years ago. It's a brilliant moment for her and all of her family who I know are incredibly proud.

"It will mean absolutely everything to her. She's always been a shy person but at the finish line you could see it just meant the world to her to finally become an Olympic champion.

"She always used to say how she wanted to be the best in the world and now she's completed that journey, she's accomplished everything she ever wanted to."

Despite watching on with pre-race nerves; Mr Custodio revealed any lingering apprehension quickly faded as Flora seized the initiative heading out of the final transition and into the 10-kilometre run, going on to race clear of her rivals in a stunning performance to finish more than a minute clear of Georgia Taylor-Brown, of Great Britain, and American Katie Zaferes.

"As soon as she got off the bike and broke away from the field at the start of the run, I just knew she had it," he added. "She is such a determined athlete and from there I had no doubt she would go on and win the gold medal.

"It's an incredible achievement and one that is so truly deserved.

"She had already put Bermuda on the map in triathlon with her previous accomplishments but this will further put the nation on the wider sporting map.

"It's a truly incredible achievement and the entire nation will be proud of her. Everyone has gone through such a tough time over the past year or so with what has been going on in the world and this is the perfect news to lift spirits."

Having finally fulfilled her lifelong ambition; the question remains as to whether Flora will aim to build further on her crowning glory or opt to step away from the sport after what would be a fitting finale to her triathlon career.

While Mr Custodio is adamant Flora could continue competing at the top level for years to come; whatever she ultimately decides, he is no doubt that she has already cemented her status as a national hero alongside Mr Hill.

"I know other athletes have taken time away from the sport to have a family and perhaps that is something Flora might want to do," he said. "However, if she decides to carry on competing then she can certainly perform at the top level for some time yet. Triathlon is a sport where some athletes don't peak until their mid-thirties and if Flora stays injury free then she can keep going for sure.

"Whatever she decides to do going forward she has cemented her place as a national hero. It has been a long time since Clarence Hill won that first medal and this is arguably the biggest sporting achievement ever for a nation of just 60,000 people. To now have two Olympic medal winners from Bermuda is amazing and to have one as an Olympic champion is just incredible."

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Published July 28, 2021 at 7:56 am (Updated July 28, 2021 at 7:30 am)

Flora’s childhood coach Troy Custodio full of pride

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