Duffy memorialised by Warwick Academy
Warwick Academy honoured its most famous former student yesterday after naming its pool the Flora Duffy Swimming facility to recognise the world's top women's triathlete.
Duffy, her parents Charlie and Maria and brothers Joel and Campbell were at the school along with politicians, including Zane DeSilva, the sports minister and new Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden, along with students and staff for a ceremony around the pool.
“Flora demonstrates the epitome of hard work, dedication, determination and sheer guts,” Colin Smith, chairman of the Warwick Academy Board of Governors, said.
“It is indeed an honour to recognise this unique and extraordinary person so that everyone who visits our school and competes in our pool can see that great sportspeople start somewhere, even in such a small place as Bermuda.”
The timing of the event was perfect, coming just three days after Duffy won the season-ending Island House Triathlon in the Bahamas, her ninth victory since her season started in May with victory in Yokohama.
Duffy won the ITU World Triathlon Series for a second successive year and the Xterra World Championship for a fourth time in a row this season.
“Today marks a unique opportunity in that we want to honour a former student who has reached the pinnacle of achievements in the world of triathlons because we can directly trace her beginnings back to this very location,” Smith added.
“Today we celebrate a Bermudian who inspires greatness through hard work, many sacrifices and a passion to pursue a dream to one day stand on top of the world. Those following Flora's accomplishments will know that she has been on top of that mountain several times recently.
“We know the world can be fiercely competitive so the message to all of you, whether in business, sports, politics or whatever your calling, nothing stands in the way of sheer determination, support from family and friends, and an adventurous spirit to continuously learn and grow.
“These, I believe, are the ingredients that form the foundation of success and Flora Duffy represents that no matter how young you may feel while swimming in the lanes of this pool, or running the lanes of the track behind me. Everyone begins their journey somewhere.
“We are truly grateful we have another champion who once studied here who is well on her way to becoming a sporting legend.”
Duffy, a student at the school from 1999 to 2004, was involved in many sports at Warwick Academy, including badminton, volleyball, football, cross country, swimming, running and cycling, after she began competing in triathlons at the age of seven.
In 2003 Duffy was named Bermuda's junior triathlete of the year and since then has gone on to become one of the world's top triathletes. She never forgot her days at Warwick Academy and said yesterday's recognition was right up there with her top accomplishments.
Duffy was also awarded a belated prefect's badge during the ceremony, which she gratefully accepted. “This prefect's badge is going to go a long way, you have no idea how much it means to me, so sorry Joel and Campbell, finally we can put an end to that,” she said, referring to her brothers who constantly teased her about not having been a prefect.
“Just after I won my first overseas triathlon, probably about [age] nine, my parents asked me what my goals were and I said I'm going to compete in the Olympics and become a world champion. They laughed and replied, ‘Oh, is that all?'.
“I said, ‘No, I also want a swimming facility named after me', so thank you Warwick Academy for completing my wish list.”
Her mother Maria said: “Flora has achieved the goals she set for herself, I'm sure she exceeded her own expectations. Steve [Burgess] was her running coach and wanted her to be a runner while Martin [Allen] and Ben [Smith] were the swim coaches and wanted her to be a swimmer, but Flora wanted to be a triathlete.”
Father Charlie recalls the hard times before the good times. “There's been a lot of ups and downs along the way, real downs where she basically quit triathlon which was really upsetting for us all,” he remembers.
“Then she went to Colorado University and then meeting [boyfriend] Dan [Hugo] who was a big influence and taught her off-road triathlon. That has translated into the bike on the road where she is really strong and I think a lot of that comes from the off-road stuff.”
Charlie Duffy said the honour bestowed by the school was special for Flora. “This is a big thing and has really touched Flora, to see everybody out there who are appreciative of what she has achieved. It's quite touching.”
Flora urged the students to pursue their dreams like she did. “It's up to you,” she said. “You know the difference between what's right and what's wrong for you.
“It is also up to you to give yourself the best chance of achieving your goals and who knows, maybe one day you will also have a facility named after you.
“My long racing season finally came to an end three days ago in the Bahamas. I won nine races and was second in the other so things went quite well.
“They say school days are the best of your life, but sorry Mr Horan, I'm not so sure about that.
“When Warwick Academy first approached me they asked my permission to name the facility after me. I was so touched and humbled in a really weird way, so thank you, Warwick Academy, you've made me so proud.
“Thanks for coming today, and thanks for everything along the way. I couldn't have done it without you.”
David Horan, the school's principal, praised Duffy for her achievements as a sportsperson from a school more known for it academics.
“Here we are on a most special day in our school's very long history and it's not often that we get the opportunity to dedicate part of the school to one of our own and one who has achieved so much,” Horan said.
“I can think of no better role model than Flora to dedicate this swimming facility after. We talk about inspiration at Warwick Academy, we talk about resilience at Warwick Academy and you are, without a doubt, an example of both.
“For our students seated here today, the reality is that Flora walked these halls, took lessons in these classrooms, swam in this pool and ran around the fields that you play on. Knowing that should ignite so many possibilities for you.”
Horan added: “Flora, I can think of no better role model for our students and Bermuda as a whole. Like with anything in life there are ups and downs and I know you've been through those.
“I think the powerful message for all of us is to set your mind on something, be prepared to put in the thousands of hours of hard work and when things go wrong pick yourself up and keep the prize as the goal and don't be distracted by all those things in life that may derail you. You are a true champion.”