Flora Duffy skips championship opener in Yokohama to focus on Tokyo
Flora Duffy has confirmed she will not be competing at the World Triathlon Championship Series opener in Yokohama, Japan, as she continues preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games.
After an agonising wait for the Championship, as well as the World Triathlon World Cups to resume, owing to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, elite triathletes are set to take to the start line once again on Saturday, in the first of the eight-race series.
However, despite the opportunity to compete again, one triathlete who will not be present is Bermuda’s two-times world champion, who confirmed she is not planning a return to competitive action until what would be a title defence at the World Triathlon Cup Arzachena, in Italy from May 29, or the second race of the Championship Series in Leeds, England, on June 5, at the earliest.
“There is a combination of reasons why I’ve decided not to compete in Yokohama,” Duffy told The Royal Gazette. “There is quite a strict bubble protocol for that race weekend and still quite a lot of risks with flying over to Japan because of Covid.
“As a result, my coaching team thought it would be best to skip that event and keep preparing for the Games here in Boulder [Colorado, United States] as the Olympics remain my main priority.
“There are still a number of events that I am looking to do nearer the end of the month [World Triathlon Cup Arzachena], and in June [World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds] that have slightly more relaxed protocols prior to the race which make it a lot easier and simpler to go over and compete.”
While some athletes are still sweating over their Olympic qualification — with rankings reopening in Yokohama, having been frozen since March of last year — Duffy remains in line to qualify for the Games on the basis of her present ranking.
One hundred and ten participants, split evenly between men and women, are expected to compete in Tokyo with each of the eligible respective National Olympic Committees selecting their athletes who are inside the top 140 of the rankings.
Having claimed victory at the Tokyo Olympic Test Event in August 2019, Duffy earned an Olympic berth for Bermuda, with the 33-year-old 27th in the Elite women’s Olympic rankings on 3903.98 points. Compatriot Erica Hawley is 123rd on 636.44 points, meaning both would be eligible for selection.
“We decided that I should take a slower start to the season just so that I can prepare fully for the Olympics at the end of July,” Duffy added. “Training has been going well and I’ve just been trying to stay as consistent as possible.
“There is no real point being super-fit too soon, particularly with the uncertainty about what races would be available to compete in this season
“It is a case of building up nicely and hoping to peak and time it right for the Olympics.”
After finishing joint top in the World Triathlon women’s final rankings for last season alongside Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown, Duffy ended the year with a niggling knee injury, forcing her to withdraw from the Valencia ITU Triathlon World Cup and Professional Triathletes Organisation 2020 Middle Distance World Championships.
However, having recovered in Stellenbosch in South Africa's Western Cape province, she has now stepped up her Olympic preparation, tailoring her training with a focus on high-altitude work in Boulder.
“I got back to Boulder about three weeks ago and it is great to be back at altitude for training,” she said. “There is different stimulus and a different location, which has been really nice, particularly when training is very repetitive and similar.
“I’ll be based here for the rest of the year and do all of my main Olympic preparation from here.”
While a lot of uncertainty remains around the Games — scheduled for July 23 to August 8 — because of the continued affects of the pandemic, Duffy is fully focused on returning to the biggest sporting stage; where she will have the hopes of a nation that she can cap off her expected Olympic swansong in fitting style, with gold-medal glory.
“There’s no doubt the Olympics are going to be very different from the ones that I’ve been to in the past, obviously because of Covid,” added Duffy, who represented Bermuda in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of strict protocols and measures in place and, sadly, no spectators. It will make it a completely different experience on top of the general stress of competing at an Olympics.
“Going in these Covid times means there will be a lot more elements to navigate, but I’ve been getting really great support from the Bermuda Olympic Association, which has extremely helpful, as well as my coaching team, who have been excellent throughout.
“It’s made it pretty simple for me to just focus on training and my preparations have been going smoothly. I’m just looking forward to racing.”