Wild card Flora Duffy raring to make Super League Triathlon debut
Flora Duffy is relishing a return to competitive action ahead of her Super League Triathlon debut in the championship series finale in Malibu tomorrow.
After a short break away from competing following a momentous period of clinching gold medal glory at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and a record-equalling third women’s World Triathlon Championship Series title, the 33-year-old is returning to the start line after accepting a wild-card entry for the event.
Having seen injury curtail her last scheduled appearance in the event in Jersey back in 2018, Duffy is excited to finally make her long-awaited debut in the series which pits five franchises of the best triathletes against one another in different race formats across the world.
“I’m really looking forward to my first Super League Triathlon event,” said Duffy, who will be part of the Cheetahs franchise in Malibu. “I’ve had a nice break from racing and been able to process everything.
“I’m feeling refreshed and excited to get back to racing now. I’m not entirely sure where my fitness levels are at because I’ve been busy with various different commitments over the last few weeks so training has chopped and changed a little bit.
“Nevertheless it will great to get there again and race. It will also be great to see everyone again and catch up and do some racing.”
In an intriguing twist to this season’s previous rounds in Munich, London and Jersey, tomorrow’s race will be run under an “Eliminator” format, consisting of three rounds of 300-metre swim, 1.2-kilometre bike and 800-metre run with a two-minute break in between.
Athletes will be eliminated in each leg of the race, making positioning critical. The last athlete after the bike and after each of the two laps of the run in each of the three races are out. To add further excitement, there will also be short cuts to be won – one for the fastest swimmer and transition in the first leg and the second for the first to finish the opening bike leg and transition.
While there may be uncertainty over Duffy’s current fitness and performance levels, she can take confidence from her storming victory in a similar format at the World Triathlon Championship Series Montreal in August.
“The event itself is a very interesting format in that it’s very similar to that in Montreal in terms of being three rounds of a slightly shorter super sprint distance course,” she added. “There is also a very short rest time in between each round and like in Montreal people get eliminated so that will be interesting again.
“My first goal is to make it through to that final round and then after that is to have a good race and hopefully do well overall. It should be fun no matter what. This style of racing is different and so I’m curious to see what it’s all about a bit more.”
As well an opportunity to return to competitive action, the race also serves a welcome distraction for Duffy after the cancellation of the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championship, which were due to be held in Bermuda from October 15 to 17 as a prelude to the “Flora Duffy Day” national holiday celebrations, a day after the championships.
“I’m just really looking forward to the whole weekend in Malibu,” Duffy said. I’ve been pretty upset since that announcement and it was really devastating and heartbreaking to see that event cancelled.
“I’ve had a few days to process that and so heading into a race this weekend is a nice distraction for me after the cancellation in Bermuda, at least mentally.”
Duffy is not the only athlete to be handed a wild card for this weekend, with fellow Olympic and World Triathlon Championship Series champion Kristian Blummenfelt, as well as newly crowned Ironman 70.3 World champions Gustav Iden and Lucy Charles-Barclay, joining her for what promises to be a spectacular finale.
The additions of Duffy and Blummenfelt also mean that all six medal winners from the individual events in the Tokyo Olympics will be racing from the shores of Zuma Beach.
Five men are in the hunt for the overall title, while Jessica Learmonth, despite winning the first three legs of the series, could still find herself pipped for the overall win.
She leads the standings with 45 points ahead of British compatriot Georgia Taylor-Brown, who sits just three points adrift after finishing second in all three previous stages. To overhaul the leader, Taylor-Brown needs to beat Learmonth by two places. The final spot on the podium will be decided between fellow Brits Vicky Holland and Beth Potter, along with American Katie Zaferes – all of whom have 33 points.
In the men’s overall standings, Jonathan Brownlee leads with 41 points, one ahead of New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde and two up on Alex Yee. France’s Vincent Luis sits in fourth with 37 points. Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca still holds a chance of winning the overall title, but he would have to win the race and Brownlee and Wilde finish no higher than fifth.