Superfan Ricky Spence builds shrine to Flora Duffy
Ricky Spence is still so excited about Flora Duffy’s gold-medal performance at the Olympics three months ago … he has even dedicated a wall at his barbershop to her photographs.
The pair formed a friendship three years ago when he honoured her and Clarance “Nicky” Saunders, Bermuda’s other Commonwealth Games gold medal-winner, at his annual Health Day in 2018.
Duffy was abroad at the time so her father, Charlie, showed up at the shop on Angle Street to receive the award on her behalf. But when she returned to Bermuda three months later, she went by to see him and thank him for honouring her.
“Her husband [Dan Hugo] and father came with her,” Spence said at the time, showing his appreciation by giving Flora and Dan complimentary haircuts.
Spence got another surprise yesterday when Charlie Duffy went around to the barbershop and dropped off a note from Flora who left earlier to return to Colorado.
“My wife and I saw Flora and Dan off at one o’clock from the Hamilton Princess and then I went straight round to Ricky’s with a signed note from Flora promising that the next time she is here that she would take her gold medal with her to see him,” Duffy said.
“He seemed to be pretty thrilled to see me, but I think was more thrilled to see the note from Flora. And I got a free haircut!”
Spence, like so many other Bermudians, was glued to his television that July day when Flora beat the rest of the triathlon field to win the gold in Tokyo. He is one of her biggest fans.
“All Bermudians are thrilled, but it didn’t come as that much of a surprise after the turnout of her race here in 2018,” said Charlie Duffy. “It really brought it home to us and to Flora; everybody loves her.
“She was very touched, but she had a ridiculous schedule. She was very gracious when she had to go to appointments, but they had to turn down a lot because it was physically impossible to do them all.”
Maria Duffy admits it was quite touching to witness all the support shown for her daughter. “It can get very emotional,” she said. “Seeing the people’s reaction was very, very touching.
“Just the amount of letters that came out of the box at the Hamilton Princess was phenomenal.”
Schoolchildren dropped off hundreds of notes to Flora at the hotel where she and Dan stayed during their visit. A suite on the fifth floor has been named after her.
Spence was at East Broadway to watch the motorcade when Duffy arrived home on October 11 to a huge reception as crowds lined the streets. Luckily, it was on a Monday when his barbershop is closed.
“I was really proud to see the support and love, and she is so humble,” he said. “I can say she’s humble because I have met her.
“She is a good example for any young person who wants to go abroad and make a difference in sport — that it is important to be humble. I think now we understand the effort that she had to put in over the years to win a gold medal.
“The support she had from her family, mother and father and sponsors has enabled her to get where she is.
“This will be her wall. I’ll just take out clippings of Bermudians as they do good for us and put them on the wall to show them off and to be proud of our people.”
Spence also has pictures of other outstanding Bermuda athletes adoring the walls of his shop on Angle Street. “It’s time for us to recognise that we need to be proud of the athletes who have made a difference in Bermuda,” he said.
“I’m very proud of the unity and support that we saw when Bermudians came out to support her; I thought it was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes to see that, as small a country as we are, we got a gold medal.
“I give Clarence Hill much respect, too. He started it off and now we have a gold. When you are talking about just 60,000 people in Bermuda, the talent over the years has been amazing for this little island.”
Hill’s boxing bronze at the 1976 Olympics was followed three years later by Gina Swainson winning Miss World.
“I just hope in the future when we see young people coming up and they have that special talent that they will be able to get the support to allow us to maybe get another gold,” Spence said.
Duffy has won a record eight Female Athlete of the Year awards presented by the Bermuda Government while another triathlete, Tyler Butterfield, has eight Male Athlete of the Year awards. Duffy had won the award five consecutive years until last year when Jessica Lewis scooped the honours. Butterfield has won the award the past seven years.