Flora Duffy aiming to start off title defence in style in Abu Dhabi
Flora Duffy will be keen to pick up where she left off when she returns to competitive action at the World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates today.
The 34-year-old captured glory on her debut at the Super League Triathlon championship series finale on the back of another dominant display in her previous outing in Malibu in September.
That capped a memorable and historic summer in which Duffy clinched Bermuda’s first Olympic gold medal and the World Triathlon Championship Series title for a record-equalling third time.
The Bermudian is among the favourites but is facing a daunting task in pursuit of a maiden title in Abu Dhabi competing among a stunning line-up of the world’s best triathletes who also have their sights on glory.
Duffy will also have to contend with the hot and humid conditions competing on the iconic green asphalt of the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit she has yet to conquer.
“I have raced in Abu Dhabi a couple of times but since they have moved into a new location, which they did in 2018, we race on an F1 track and I’ve never completed the race on that course,” Duffy told The Royal Gazette. “So I suppose going to Abu Dhabi will be nice to have a good race there and to finish, to not crash.”
A new champion will be crowned as Katie Zaferes is not back to defend her title.
Others expected to be in the hunt for Zaferes’s vacant crown include Britain’s Lucy Charles Barclay, the 70.3 world champion, along with compatriots Georgia Taylor-Brown, Jessica Learmonth and Vicky Holland.
Taylor Knibb, Summer Rappaport and Taylor Spivey, of the United States, could also mount a strong challenge as well as Germany’s Laura Lindemann.
Lindemann will don the golden No 1 in Abu Dhabi having claimed her first Championship Series win in Hamburg a few weeks ago.
The men’s event will be without Kristian Blummenfelt, the Olympic and World Champion, who has opted not to defend his title.In his absence, Germany’s Tim Hellwig will wear the No 1.Others expected to be in contention for men’s honours include Hellwig’s compatriots Lasse Nygaard-Priester and Johannes Vogel and France’s Vincent Luis and Leo Bergere.
Points earned at the final World Triathlon Championship Series event of the year will count towards the 2022 season.
Duffy returns to competition after last month’s memorable homecoming celebrations in honour of becoming Bermuda's first Olympic champion in Tokyo last summer.
Today’s event will kick off another busy period for Duffy who is exploring other options to compensate for the cancellation of last month’s 2021 World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championship in Bermuda that was cancelled amid the spike in Covid-19 cases on island.
Among the options she is exploring is potentially competing in a half-Ironman event by the end of the year.
“It would be half-Ironman, a 70.3, and the reason I would do that is to solidify my qualification for the Half-Ironman World Championships next year,” Duffy added.
“It’s just easy to come and get it done so it’s out of the way because what I’ve learnt is that races chop and change and before you know it you’re in a time crunch trying to fit everything in. So that would be the reasoning for doing a 70.3 at the end of the year.”
The 2022 Half-Ironman World Championships will be held in St George, Utah next May.
Duffy is also considering competing in the Xterra World Championship in Kapalua, Maui, on December 5. She is no stranger to the off-road series with five Xterra world titles already under her belt.