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Flora Duffy: ‛I could be talked into another Olympics’

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No retirement plans: Flora Duffy has refused to rule out the possibility of defending her Olympic title in Paris in three years’ time as she quashed suggestions of stepping away from the sport in the immediate future (Photograph by David Goldman/AP)
Lifelong dream fulfilled: Flora Duffy, of Bermuda, holds her gold medal during the ceremony for the women's individual triathlon the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (Photograph by David Goldman/AP)

Flora Duffy refused to rule out the possibility of defending her Olympic crown in Paris in three years' time; quashing any suggestions of calling an imminent end to her triathlon career in the process.

It was a little more than a week ago that the 33-year-old fulfilled her lifelong aspiration of winning Olympic gold as she stormed to victory in the women's triathlon in Tokyo, rewriting history to become Bermuda's first Olympic champion and second medal-winner, following in the footsteps of heavyweight boxer Clarence Hill, who won bronze at the Montreal Games in 1976.

While the magnitude and significance of the achievement continues to sink in for Duffy, she has given herself no time to rest on her laurels as she prepares to compete in the World Triathlon Championship Series race in Montreal, Canada, on Friday week, and the championship finals in Edmonton, just a week later.

“It’s been such a whirlwind since I crossed that finish line and I haven’t really had time to just sit down, pause and let the moment just sink in," Duffy told The Royal Gazette from her base in Boulder, Colorado.

"However, I actually have two races that I previously committed to in the next two weeks, so as much as it would be amazing to be back home in Bermuda and celebrating, I have to race. Because we didn't really know how the Olympics was going to go, I wanted to have some more races lined up to keep me going.

"Since I'm second in the standings, it makes sense to go over to Canada, push through and give it my best shot again. Given the injuries I've had in the recent past and the effects of dealing with the pandemic, it's actually kind of really nice to be able to race again and make the most of my form, and then finally have the chance to head home to Bermuda and celebrate the moment with everyone."

Despite conceding to struggling both mentally and physically through what proved a gruelling five-year Olympic cycle, because of the pandemic, and having reservations about doing it ever again, Duffy is adamant she will continue competing at the elite level in the sport, with a special homecoming for the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris still very much at the forefront of her thoughts.

“It was such a unique build-up to this Olympics, with it first being postponed and then dealing with injury issues," she added. "It was very stressful dealing with that in the months before the Games and then on top of that I was dealing with the pressures of being one of the favourites for five years leading up to the Olympics.

"That added extra pressure, and all while dealing with the pandemic that is still going on and the restrictions that are in place, it just added a bit of stress and anxiety. Particularly in Tokyo because we were tested every day and if you tested positive, you were out, no matter what. For me, that was one of hardest parts, knowing a lifetime’s work preparing for this moment could be taken away because of that. It was really crazy and so much to deal with.

"However, I definitely will still be racing in the years to come. Obviously after the World Triathlon events in Canada I have the big event in Bermuda in October, which I'm extremely excited about because I will be racing back home as an Olympic champion. Not many athletes get the chance to do that in their careers.

"Before Tokyo I said no way would I be going back to another Olympics, but I don't know — I think I could be persuaded otherwise. It's only a three-year cycle as opposed to five and it is completely different now; I have a gold medal I always wanted.

"To go into another Olympics would be a completely different experience and hopefully I can be joined by the likes of Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley because it would be such a special moment to experience that with team-mates.

"Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to racing a few more years at least."

Taking a moment to reflect on her historic achievement, Duffy conceded the greater significance of the moment is still yet to dawn on her, and admittedly will not fully, until she returns to Bermuda to witness the true impact of her success.

“Beforehand I knew it would be such an historic moment for Bermuda, with it being a first-ever gold medal, but I wasn’t quite aware just how big the response would be," said Duffy, who was given a taste of the emotional magnitude of her victory by fellow Bermudian triathlete Tyler Butterfield in Boulder this week. "Because it was Bermuda’s first gold medal, I think that’s why it has just taken off and I wasn’t fully prepared for that.

"I saw Tyler Butterfield on Monday and that was one of the first moments that it started to sink in for me. Just to see his emotion and how proud he was of me. He got emotional and so did I, and I was nearly crying my eyes out. It was a really special moment and so I can't imagine what it will be like in Bermuda. I'll have to prepare myself for that.

"This has been my dream since I was a young girl and even though I have won this medal, so many people in Bermuda have played a part in my journey, helped lay the foundations and had the belief in me to pursue this crazy dream.

"To fulfil that dream and then be able to share that emotional moment with so many people will be just so special.“

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Published August 04, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated August 05, 2021 at 8:02 am)

Flora Duffy: ‛I could be talked into another Olympics’

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