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‘It’s really exciting to be on a start line once again’

Flora Duffy returns to Japan, the scene of her Olympics triumph (Photograph by David Goldman/AP)

Dame Flora Duffy will be taking a few nervous steps as she prepares to make her long-awaited return to international competition.

As the most successful female athlete in the history of her sport, the very notion of nerves would seem unexpected for an athlete who boasts an enviable list of honours during her illustrious career.

However, ahead of taking to the start line in the World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama on Saturday, the Olympic champion finds herself in an unfamiliar position as she prepares to race for the first time in 18 months after battling with a near career-ending knee injury.

“I really don’t have any hopes and expectations and the main goal is just to get through this race and feel good on the other side,” said Duffy.

“I'm hopeful that my knee can handle the demands of racing and really just get back into the flow of competing again.

“It’s been 18 months and so I know it's going to be a huge shock to the system. I just hope I can get through it and be able to enjoy that feeling of racing again.

“It’s really exciting to be on a start line once again, but of course it is still nerve-racking because I haven’t raced in so long and I just really don't know where my form is going to be, which is a little daunting.

“However, I'm just grateful that I'm able to race again because last year I didn’t think that would be possible again. I’m just happy to be back.”

Despite conceding she is not race ready at this stage of her continued recovery, Duffy is well aware that a return to action is necessary at this point if she is to stand any chance of realistically defending her Olympic crown in Paris this summer.

“My knee is much better than it was last year, but it is still something that I have to constantly manage,” she added.

“It is allowing me to train a fair bit, although I’m still not quite at full volume just yet, particularly on the run, but I’m building back up.

"This race and then in two weeks’ time in Cagliari [Italy, May 25], will be my only races before the Olympics and so I know there are not many opportunities after that.

“That is the reason why I really made a push to do these two races even though I’m not quite ready to race to my full level.

“However, with the Olympics looming it made sense to jump into these events, remember how to race again and blow off the cobwebs, because you can’t practise everything that goes into a race in training.”

As well as relishing a return to the country where she fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming Bermuda's first Olympic champion, Duffy has also taken confidence as she has no pressing concerns over her chances of qualifying for the Games.

Despite not competing since winning a record fourth triathlon world title in Abu Dhabi in November 2022, Duffy is still in 30th position in the Olympic rankings ahead of the two-year qualification period ending on May 27.

“I’m just really excited to be going back to Japan because I have very special memories racing there,” she said.

“I think what has helped me the most ahead of this race is that I don’t have a huge amount resting on this race and so it just was more about getting back, starting again and racing the best that I can.

“That is a major positive and bonus. Some of the other competitors are trying to make a team for the Olympics. They have a huge amount on the line in Yokohama, whereas I have a slightly easier step back into racing which has really helped.

“This is the first step and then we will see where I’m at and go from there.”

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Published May 08, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 09, 2024 at 8:19 am)

‘It’s really exciting to be on a start line once again’

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