When Flora met Clarence
Olympic champion Flora Duffy was treated to a hero’s welcome in what proved a monumental homecoming.
It is the first time the 34-year-old has returned to the island since storming to gold in the women's triathlon in Tokyo, rewriting history to become Bermuda's first Olympic champion.
Having been denied the opportunity to celebrate fulfilling her childhood dream with friends and family in Japan, because of Covid-19 restrictions, Duffy, and the island as whole, more than made up for lost time, as people lined the streets to welcome home their national hero.
“Wow, it is really, really great to be back,” said Duffy, who also clinched a record-equalling third women’s World Triathlon Championship Series title this summer. “When I was at the Olympics in Tokyo, there was very little in-person support. There was no one in the stands, no one in the streets, my family weren’t there. To arrive back in Bermuda and have the welcome that I have had, it feels really special.
“I’ve never had people screaming down the streets like that and so thank you to everyone that came out. It made me feel so proud and I’m just so honoured that I could represent Bermuda, win our first gold medal and be here to celebrate with everyone.
“I realise this is a challenging time with Covid, so thank you to everyone who put a lot of effort into making this possible. I’m just so proud and excited to be back here.
“I was told this was going to be just a small event, so thank you so much; this is a truly incredible day. I didn’t get the chance to celebrate in Tokyo because of Covid and so thank you to everyone, I’m just so extremely grateful that I get the chance to celebrate this gold medal with everyone here at home in Bermuda.”
Among the fanfare and overwhelming emotion, Duffy seized the opportunity to make a poignant and emotional tribute to Clarence Hill, having followed in the footsteps of the heavyweight boxer, who won bronze at the Montreal Games in 1976 — Bermuda’s first Olympic medal.
“One thing that is really important to acknowledge is that I am not the first person to do this, thank you to Clarence,” she added. “Thank you for being the first Bermudian to win a medal at the Olympic Games and showing us what is possible.
“Thank you for showing me that a Bermudian could win at the Olympics, on the world stage, even being from a small island.
“Thank you for everything. You paved the way and I am honoured that I could follow you and I hope there are many Bermudians watching on that are inspired to fulfil their goals.”
Hill, who took it upon himself to personally welcome the Olympic champion upon her arrival at the Cabinet Office, spoke of his pride and adulation of Duffy after taking his groundbreaking achievement to even greater heights.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for such a long time,” he said. “I knew somebody was going to do it and I’m just so proud of her.
“Like so many people, I watched the race and seeing her dominate the way she did was incredible. I couldn’t take my eyes off the television watching her race and I’m grateful that I now have this opportunity to meet her personally.
“I was the first Olympic medal-winner but she went on and won gold, and that is so special. There was always a small doubt that no one would follow me, but I’m so happy I could see someone do it.
“We are part of a very exclusive club and we share that special bond as Bermudian Olympic medal-winners. We are both trailblazers in our own right, but the key is that we are not the last.
“Seeing her win a gold medal was a huge moment for the island. Do you know realise how incredible it is for someone from Bermuda to manage win an Olympic medal?
“Every athlete in the world strives to win one, but there are only three on offer for all those athletes competing. She has done an amazing thing and it feels good to see how everyone has come out to celebrate.”