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Flora Duffy gives clearest intent of Olympic title defence in Paris

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Golden moment: Olympic champion Flora Duffy, who took time to reflect on her special homecoming and intent on defending her crown in Paris in 2024 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
All smiles: Olympic champion Flora Duffy, who took time to reflect on her special homecoming and future plans in the sport (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Flora Duffy has signalled her intent of defending her Olympic crown in Paris in three years' time as she aims to add yet another momentous chapter to an illustrious career.

Amid the memorable homecoming celebrations, having returned to the island for the first time since storming to gold in the women's triathlon in Tokyo, rewriting history to become Bermuda's first Olympic champion, the 34-year-old reflected on what her continued sporting future may hold at the elite level, in an exclusive interview with The Royal Gazette.

While her immediate focus remains on the upcoming start to her next season in the World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi race next month, the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris are still very much at the forefront of her thoughts, 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.

“Going into Tokyo, I would have said I was definitely not going to do another Olympic build-up, but that has all changed after winning gold,” said Duffy, who also confirmed she is exploring all options within the sport, including further Xterra Series title success, as well as Ironman 70.3 and future opportunities in the Super League Triathlon Series, having won on her debut in Miami last month. “I need to let this year wrap up and see where I want to go next, but at this moment in time it’s looking positive for the build-up to Paris.

“Next year is the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, so that will be a focus of mine and then looking towards Paris.

“I’d also love to race some more Ironman 70.3 events. I was obviously supposed to race in the World Championships earlier this year, but it didn’t work out.

“For me it is the possibility of exploring different disciplines in Triathlon, like some more of the Super League for example; we’ll see. Now I’ve achieved everything I wanted to in terms of winning Olympic gold, whatever comes in the future is a great additional bonus.”

Although it remains to be seen if Duffy will have the same determination and hunger to successfully defend her Olympic title, having already achieved her lifelong aspiration, one thing she is certain of is that the personal pressure would pale in comparison to the build-up to Tokyo.

“It might be a little too early to say if having achieved my dream of being Olympic champion has or will change my mentality going into the next Olympics,” she added. “I’m hoping it will make it a little bit less pressured and allow me to enjoy the whole moment a bit more.

“The build-up to Tokyo was pretty crazy. I don’t think there were many days that went by that I didn’t get told or asked about being the favourite heading into the Olympics in one aspect or another.

“It just felt like it was constantly there, a subtle reminder here and there of what I was carrying on my shoulders, and that was definitely a lot to have to deal with.

“I also don’t think anyone could have really prepared you for having to navigate the pandemic, the Olympics being delayed a year, not being able to race much and slight injury, eight weeks before the Games which were not ideal and stressful, but I just had to roll with the punches.

“Thankfully I’ve always had a great group of people around me that helped shoulder a lot of that burden, blocked out that noise and allowed me to just train and focus on executing a race win.

“Going into Paris I’d be the defending Olympic champion and that brings its own pressure, but at the same time I’ve done it already. It was a never a goal to win the Olympics twice, but I’m hoping that will give me a new outlook on racing in the future and we’ll just have to see how it all unfolds.”

While Duffy has relished every moment of her homecoming celebrations, she conceded her disappointment at being denied the opportunity race in Bermuda as Olympic champion after the cancellation of the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships — a moment she remains determined to enjoy in the future.

“It was a huge disappointment when we learnt that the race was cancelled, said Duffy, who was due to race alongside compatriots Tyler Smith, Tyler Butterfield and Erica Hawley. ”Today [yesterday] should have been the first round of qualifiers that I would have done for the final on Saturday and then on Sunday we would the mixed team relay, which would have been so cool for all of us.

“It would have been a special moment to race at home as the Olympic champion so soon after winning gold in Tokyo, and to experience what it means to Bermuda. It’s definitely hugely disappointing, but hopefully there will be another opportunity next year.”

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Published October 18, 2021 at 5:45 pm (Updated October 18, 2021 at 5:57 pm)

Flora Duffy gives clearest intent of Olympic title defence in Paris

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