Golden girl Flora Duffy relishing return to competitive action
Flora Duffy is relishing her first competitive outing as Olympic champion as she prepares to step into the relative unknown of the newly formatted World Triathlon Championship Series Montreal in Canada.
Just two weeks on from fulfilling her lifelong dream of winning Olympic gold in the women's triathlon in Tokyo, the 33-year-old will take to the start line again today with further title glory firmly in her sights.
Sitting second in the overall standings and with leader current Maya Kingma not competing in Montreal, Duffy has a golden opportunity to cut the deficit of 524 points to her main title rival, with 1,000 points on offer to the race winner.
“Obviously, this will be my first race as the Olympic champion and so that’s really cool,” Duffy, who is pursuing a record-equalling third women’s world title, told The Royal Gazette. “It feels like a very quick turnaround from racing in the Olympics and everything that went on from Tokyo to now.
“I still have a great shot at doing really well in the overall series standings and so that is my focus. Even if I don't win in Montreal, having a solid finish will keep me in with a shout of winning the series overall and so that’s the goal and objective ahead of the Grand Final in Edmonton next week.”
While Duffy will be among the pre-race favourites, she and the rest of the field face the uncertainty of tackling a very different type of challenge with a brand new format for World Triathlon on Montreal’s city-centre course.
On a scaled-back course consisting of a 300-metre swim, a three-lap 7.2-kilometre cycle and a two-lap 2km run, today will see two qualification races from which ten athletes will progress, along with a further ten from the subsequent repechage.
Those 30 will then start tomorrow’s final round, consisting of a total of three super-sprint races in which the slowest ten finishers will be cut after the first and second races, leaving ten triathletes to ultimately battle for gold.
“I have never raced this style of format in an official World Triathlon event, so it’s going to be something new and exciting for me to take on,” Duffy said.
“I don’t really know what to expect, so I’ll just have to take it as it comes in the heats on Friday and hopefully qualify inside that top ten to go through automatically.
“After that it will be a case of hopefully working my way through the rounds in the final. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot as I go thorough and see how my body copes as the days progress.
“It feels a lot different from a couple of weeks ago heading into the Olympics and it’s certainly going to be different, but, as I said, it’s really exciting.”
With the qualifier line-ups determined by alternating existing ranking position and series leader Kingma not racing, Duffy will lead the line in race one.
There she will be joined by Team USA’s Olympic silver medal-winners Katie Zaferes and Taylor Knibb, fresh from their relay success over a similar distance in Tokyo, as well as France’s Leonie Periault.
It could prove a hard-fought challenge for Bermuda’s first Olympic gold medal-winner, with Zaferes — who finished third behind Duffy in the women’s triathlon — delivering the fastest women’s leg in that mixed relay, while Knibb was fastest on the bike and Periault second only to team-mate Cassandre Beaugrand over the 2km run.
Others to look out for in race one include Non Stanford, of Britain, Verena Steinhauser and rising star Beatrice Mallozzi, of Italy, and Niina Kishimoto, who will want to make amends for a disappointing Olympic performance on home soil in Tokyo.
Sophie Coldwell, who is third in the standings, 258 points adrift of Duffy, is one of the standout names in the second qualifier, and will be well suited to the new format with her explosive power in the water and on the run.
Taylor Spivey, of the US, will be eager to build on solid results in Yokohama and Leeds, which have left her fourth in the standings, while Germany’s Laura Lindemann — second only to Zaferes in her Olympic super-sprint leg — is another athlete perfectly suited to the shortened-course format.
Others to watch out for are Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes, who is likely to be one of the fastest through the water, and Kirsten Kasper, of the US, whose run speed could be decisive as all of the 22 athletes in the second qualification race chase those first ten places across the line.
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