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Ironman Butterfield a true Bermudian

Bestowing honourable membership at Port Royal on Adam Scott at the end of Wednesday’s Grand Slam of Golf, Premier Craig Cannonier congratulated the Australian for being a wonderful ambassador for Bermuda.That may be so but in this same week a sportsman of a different kind laid claim to similar recognition.Tyler Butterfield produced a special performance at last Saturday’s Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.But more special might have been the image of Butterfield holding aloft a large Bermuda flag as he crossed the finish line.That picture appeared on the front page of this newspaper and more significantly it was flashed around the world courtesy of Associated Press and other news agencies.It will have been in other newspapers and magazines and, of course, the video was distributed to various networks.It’s worth reiterating, sportsmen and women have done so much more to promote this tiny island than the politicians or dignitaries could hope to achieve.Scott may never play in Bermuda again — although given his abundance of talent another major seems inevitable, and with it invitation to the Grand Slam — and there’s nothing better than a Bermudian exhibiting pride that stems from his place of birth.Clyde Best, Shaun Goater, Nicky Saunders, Brian Wellman, Peter Bromby and so many other have carried that badge of honour.Butterfield can be added to that list.That he had the forethought and strength to snatch that flag within the last 100 yards of a race which started with a 2.4-mile swim, continued with a 122-mile bike and finished with a full marathon (26.2 miles) when his brain was frizzled and his body on the point of shutting down, showed steely determination.The handful of Ironmen — and how they deserve this title — ahead of the Bermudian included a Belgian, a German, an Australian and an American.Did anybody see them carry their national flag over the line?Now based in Boulder, Colorado, where many other professionals not only triathletes, train, Butterfield said afterwards he was disappointed to have dropped from fourth to seventh in the last couple of miles, particularly when one of his training partners ‘sprinted’ past him in the last half mile.He could have maybe gone with him but seemingly the flag held more appeal than the finish line.Given his pedigree — his father Jim is a past Olympian and the first Bermudian to finish the Ironman and his mother Debbie a multiple May 24 Derby winner — and the gruelling training regime he puts himself through week after week, there was hope and anticipation for a good performance.But seventh in a field of over 2,100 is mighty impressive.Jim also finished seventh more than 30 years ago when triathlon was an emerging sport and as outstanding an athlete as he was, he’ll probably concede the competition now is tougher.All of those who take part in the Ironman these days have to earn that entry through qualification.Tyler has already made his mark within the pro ranks but there’s dozens who strive to earn a top 10 in Hawaii and will never achieve that goal.Even at 30, Butterfield still hasn’t reached his peak. In order to combine speed and endurance and use it to full effect can take years.Could he ultimately be a world champion?Commentators covering the event seemed to think that he has the potential.He ‘was a dark horse’ who can only get better, they said.Hopefully he will and hopefully when he travels to major events he’ll pack up his running shoes, his cycle helmet and his swimming shorts, and find room for that same flag.