Perfect race blows Duffy’s mind
It is a case of one down, two to go for Flora Duffy who remains on course to become a triple world champion this season.
Duffy executed one of the all-time great sporting performances by a Bermudian to claim the ITU World Triathlon Series championship after winning the Grand Final Cozumel in Mexico on Saturday.
Things could get even better for Duffy who goes in hot pursuit of a third straight Xterra Series title in Maui, Hawaii, next month before defending her ITU Cross Triathlon crown in Snowy Mountains, Australia, in November.
She said her maiden WTS title had “blown her mind” and admitted her disappointing eighth-place finish at the Olympic Games in Rio had further fuelled her fire to fend off Gwen Jorgensen, the title favourite.
“This was my Rio race,” Duffy said. “It didn’t quite go as planned in Rio ... I’m glad the Rio race happened today.
“It’s almost equally as important. It clinched the world title, which is mind-blowing to me.”
Making Duffy’s triumph all the more special was being able to share her moment with several Bermudians competing in the Cozumel age groups, including her mother Maria in the women’s 60-64 division.
“It’s really exciting to win [for Bermuda] — there were quite a few Bermudians who came to do the age group race and a couple of juniors, so I had a whole Bermuda contingent cheering me on — the flags everywhere,” Duffy said.
“It puts us on the map. We’re a little country, but we have a lot of passion. I think everyone back home is going to be pretty excited.
“This year kind of blew my expectations out of the water. I think it’s going to take a couple of days to process what just happened. It’s what you train for — races like this — and then it just happens.”
Duffy was in a dominant and determined mood in Cozumel, comfortably warding off Jorgensen’s attempts to win an unprecedented third successive title.
She said she knew she required a “perfect race” to thwart Jorgensen, who galloped to the gold medal at the Olympics on what was an off day for Duffy.
Her stirring showing in a sizzling Cozumel certainly helped dispel any lingering disappointment she may have still been feeling from Rio.
“I’m kind of speechless right now,” Duffy added. “I have no idea how that happened. You always hope and wish and train for the perfect day. The perfect day came exactly when I needed it, when the pressure was on.”
Duffy entered the race as the series leader and knew she had to finish within one spot of Jorgensen, of the United States, to take the title.
Needing to establish a sizeable lead in the 1,500 metres swim and 40km bike to keep the gazelle-like Jorgensen at bay in the run, Duffy made a strong start and exited the water in third place behind Lucy Hall and Jessica Learmonth.
The British pair worked well with Duffy on the bike as she lived up to her reputation as one of the best cyclists in the history of ITU, leading the trio for the entirety of the ride.
Despite the soaring temperatures, which briefly threatened to reduce the race to a sprint distance, the triumvirate extended their lead from the chase group, which included Jorgensen, and were a minute up by the start of the 10k run.
With the title in her grasp, Duffy delivered what commentators described as the “run of her life”, as she soon established a gap on Learmonth and Hall, who she later thanked for their assistance.
“It was really great working with them, and I thank them for working with me,” said Duffy, who posted an overall time of 1hr 57min 59sec. “In triathlon you want to make the bike count.
“Anything is possible. I hope this inspires, no mater where you’re from, a little country, you can be up there with the best.”
Jorgensen, who won 13 straight top-level triathlons in 2014 and 2015, forced her way into second but never managed to gain on Duffy, who proudly held the Bermuda flag aloft as she crossed the finish line.
“Flora had a great race, she was better today than me,” said Jorgensen, who finished in 1:59:16. “Flora has been great this year, she’s really pushed me to be a better athlete.”
Duffy completes the series with two WTS wins as well as two other podium finishes.