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Flora Duffy to decline Ironman World Championship invitation

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Opting out: Flora Duffy is set to decline the invitation to compete in the Supersapiens Ironman World Championship she received for winning the women's triathlon at the Olympic Games (Photograph by David Goldman/AP)
Past success: Flora Duffy, after winning the Ironman 70.3 event in Buffalo City, South Africa, last year

Flora Duffy has indicated that she intends to decline the invitation to compete in the Supersapiens Ironman World Championship this year.

Having fulfilled her lifelong aspiration of winning Olympic gold after storming to victoryin the women's triathlon in Tokyo, Duffy, along with men’s gold medal-winner Kristian Blummenfelt, were extended a special invitation to compete in the event at the sport’s spiritual home in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on October 9, as a professional triathlete qualifying exemption.

While Duffy has excelled over Olympic and sprint triathlon distances to become the dominant force among the female field in recent years, questions remain how the 33-year-old would transition over to the full Ironman distance and one of the toughest races in the world, with athletes embarking on a 3.86-kilometre swim, before a 180.2km bike leg and a 42.2km run. In contrast, the Olympic distance is 1.5km swim, 43km bike and 10km run.

However, it appears that the wait to witness that spectacle will go on a little longer with Duffy — speaking on The Greg Bennett Show podcast — all but confirming she will not be taking up the invitation.

“I have been invited [Ironman World Championships] but I am going to decline that invite, though,” said Duffy, who followed up her Olympic glory with another gold medal in the World Triathlon Championship Series Montreal on Saturday.

“That to me, the Olympics, felt like the greatest achievement I can possibly do in my career. I know a lot of people are crazy about Kona, but that’s not my thing.

“If I go to Kona [Ironman World Championships] sometime in the future and do well, that’s cool, but it will never mean as much to me as an Olympic gold medal.”

Another component of Duffy’s decision could be the timing of the event, with her already committed to compete in the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships — scheduled in Bermuda just six days after Ironman — which promises to be a special homecoming for the Olympic champion.

In what will be her first appearance on island since winning Olympic gold, Duffy is set to compete alongside compatriots Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley, in Elite Mixed Relay team at the championships.

Despite seemingly opting to decline the offer of competing in Kona, Duffy could yet challenge for an Ironman title, having already qualified for the 70.3 World Championships, taking place in St George, Utah, on September 17.

While questions may remain over her title credentials over the full Ironman distance, Duffy demonstrated her prowess over the shorter distance — a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run — by claiming victory in Buffalo City, South Africa, last year and thus qualifying for the 70.3 World Championships.

Duffy alluded to competing in Utah during her interview with Bennett, when she also reflected on the relief of finally fulfilling her lifelong dream and the freedom from pressure going into future competitions.

“I’m down to race in the 70.3 World Championships,” Duffy said, reflecting on her upcoming schedule. “It’s kind of freeing that I can now go to these major races and just not feel that immense pressure and expectation because for me, it’s like I get to race from a different part of myself now.

“That’s quite freeing and liberating. It doesn’t mean I’m going to race with any less intensity or aggression, but it just means that it’s [further success] like the icing on the cake.”

Before any preparations begin ahead of taking to the start lines in Utah and Bermuda, Duffy has the small matter of vying for a record-equalling third women’s global title in the World Triathlon Championship Series Grand Final in Edmonton on Friday.

Having won in Montreal and claimed the 1,000 points on offer, she moved back to the top of the standings above Dutchwoman Maya Kingma — who was not competing — and in pole position to clinch the title.

Going into the final race of the series, Duffy finds herself on 2,791 points in the overall standings, a 467-point advantage over American Taylor Spivey, on 2,324 points, with Kingma now in third, on 2,315.

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Published August 18, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated August 18, 2021 at 8:37 am)

Flora Duffy to decline Ironman World Championship invitation

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