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Flora brings it home

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Flora Duffy on the final stretch with thousands cheering her every step (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Flora Duffy hailed her comprehensive destruction of the MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda field as being close to perfection before declaring her victory as the “absolute highlight of my career”.

Duffy’s display was simply breathtaking in its complete dominance over a quality field, underlined by her becoming the first woman in World Triathlon Series history to win a race after being the fastest in all three disciplines of swim, bike and run.

Unsurprisingly, Duffy came out of Hamilton Harbour in first place before relentlessly building a mammoth lead with every purposeful pedal of her Bermuda-pink bike and each assured stride of the run.

Duffy owns the ITU circuit, having lost only one race she has completed in the past two seasons, and at times in Saturday’s race it seemed hardly worth the other triathletes turning up.

“I guess you could say that was close to perfection,” said Duffy, who carried the Bermuda flag in one hand as she high-fived spectators along the home straight with the other.

“It was an incredible day, the absolute highlight of my career and it was amazing to see so many Bermudians come out in support. It was amazing to see how diverse the crowd was.”

Thousands of supporters waving Bermuda flags and dressed in “Go, Flora, Go!!” T-shirts descended on Hamilton in anticipation of Duffy delivering the dream result.

She did not disappoint with arguably the finest performance by a Bermudian athlete on home soil in terms of its faultlessness when considering she was up against the crème de la crème of women’s triathlon.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect but the crowd was incredible and the streets were lined with people,” she said. “All I could hear all day was ‘Flora, Flora, Flora!’

“It was incredible and I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who came out and supported me. I was hoping to have a special day and a great performance.”

Duffy achieved both of those objectives and then some.

Although she insists her triumph was anything but a matter of course, despite finishing in a time of 2hr 1min 39sec, beating Vicky Holland, of Britain, into second place by a gargantuan margin of 1:46.

“I had a lot of pressure and expectation on me and had my picture everywhere,” said Duffy, referring to the 50ft banner of her plastered on to the east-facing wall of the Seon Place building on Front Street.

“From the outside it might have always seemed like I was going to win, but it’s hard to race at home.

“The biggest win for me today was keeping my composure and delivering. That’s a very valuable skill to be learning going into bigger pressure races.”

Duffy has competed in more significant races — at least in a global perspective — than WTS Bermuda; she stormed to the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games 3½ weeks ago.

But the two-times world champion insists her golden moment on the Gold Coast, Australia, could not rival reigning supreme in her own backyard.

“It feels very different to winning at the Commonwealth Games,” said Duffy, who won Bermuda’s second Commonwealth gold and first of any colour by a woman. “This is way better!

“I knew April was going to be pretty big and we planned for that. I said that I wanted to win these two races and if I don’t do anything else for the rest of the year, that’s fine. Those were my two main goals and I executed them. It was perfect.”

Duffy was swarmed for autographs, handshakes and photographs by fans of all ages after the race, many of whom would have never previously witnessed the 30-year-old compete in the flesh.

It was also a sure-fire sign of Duffy’s new-found mass appeal among her people, who will have at least two more chances to watch the darling of Bermudian sport, with the island securing stops on the 2019 and 2020 ITU series.

“All of the kids who came up to me and wanted something signed or a picture taken ... it’s very cool,” she said.

(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
On top of the world: Flora Duffy takes the applause from a jubilant Front Street crowd, along with Vicky Holland, left, and Katie Zaferes (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)