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Duffy sucks it up for one final push

Photograph by Blaire SimmonsPicture perfect: Duffy, receives a gift from seven-year-old Ryley Wilson, after a question-and-answer session at City Hall

Flora Duffy’s season has resembled a veritable rollercoaster of escalating highs, including the ITU World Triathlon Series title, and a relative low of finishing eighth at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

But with one more ride remaining — the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships — Duffy admits that as she approaches the end of the line, and with a much needed vacation to New Zealand on the horizon, it has been difficult to keep her focus on track.

Held in Snowy Mountain, Australia, the World Championships will be Duffy’s final race of the season. Should she defend her title, it would be her third world title of the year.

“Managing my emotions has been one of the big things this year and I’ve only recently been able to relax and soak it all in,” Duffy said. “I’ve had such a successful season and basically done everything I wanted, so [World Championships] are a lot more low-key this year.

“It’s a nice race to go into as I don’t feel any pressure and the outcome will not really impact how I’m feeling. It’s so late in the season and a lot of other athletes have skipped it, but obviously I’ll go there and do my best.”

Regardless of where she finishes on November 18, nothing can diminish Duffy’s bliss after securing the WTS title when she held off Gwen Jorgensen, the two-times defending champion, at the Grand Final Cozumel in Mexico in September.

Duffy followed that up by claiming a third successive Xterra World Championship title in Maui, Hawaii, last month to become the first woman to win both the off-road circuit and WTS title in the same season.

“This season has exceeded my expectations and I just wanted to be consistent and finish in the top ten of every ITU race,” Duffy said.

“My lowest finish was fourth and then I won the overall title. I was never expecting to achieve that.

“When I took the overall lead in April, I was thinking, “That’s great, just hold them off until the next race and at least get to wear the gold numbers once’.

“I’ve won the one that truly mattered to me, so it will be the icing on the cake if I manage to win three titles in a row.”

Duffy has been in Bermuda this week and took part in a wine-tasting question-and-answer session last night at City Hall, having spoken to students at her former school, Warwick Academy, earlier in the day.

Meeting up with familiar faces who have helped on her journey, as well as being greeted by well-wishers in the street, is a humbling experience for Duffy who has been “blown away” by the support she has received since returning home.

“Being here now, it’s really soaking in and I’m starting to reflect on the year,” she said. “It’s nice to come back and really see first-hand how much people have got behind me.

“My parents always tell me about it, but it’s hard to believe until you see it when you’re physically here. It’s blown me away and I’m really thankful for everyone’s support.”

Although triathlon will be the farthest thing from her mind during her vacation with her boyfriend, Dan Hugo, Duffy confesses that her bicycle will also be making the trip to New Zealand.

“After this big year it’s even more important to have an extended period of downtime just because it’s been so intense and successful,” she said.

“It will be nice to go on an actual holiday, not just come back here or stay in Boulder [Colorado], and actually escape the world. Although the bikes will still be coming with us, that’s like fun, riding trail and then coming back and going to a nice restaurant!”