Duffy determined to keep unexpected world-title ambitions alive
Dame Flora Duffy is determined to capitalise on an unexpected opportunity to keep her record fourth world title aspirations alive as she prepares to delight the home crowd in the World Triathlon Championship Series on Sunday.
Having fulfilled her childhood dream by clinching the island’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in Tokyo before landing a record-equalling third women’s world title last year, Duffy signalled her intent on focusing on longer-distance formats within the sport.
But with Bermuda the penultimate race before the final in Abu Dhabi, the 35-year-old finds herself still firmly in contention, sitting in second place on 3,482 points, just 443 adrift of leader Georgia Taylor-Brown, who has opted out this weekend.
With gold in the United Arab Emirates capital counting for an increased 1,250 points, the incentive for Duffy is clear with victory in the final two races guaranteeing her the crown regardless of where her British rival finishes in the showdown finale on November 25.
“Going into this year my focus wasn’t on the world series, it was all about trying out longer-distance races and having a slightly different focus, which was refreshing,” said Duffy.
“However, with two races left I find myself in second and close to Georgia at the top. If I was to win on Sunday that would really put me in contention to win a fourth world title and so it’s added a little more pressure than I anticipated, but it’s amazing to be in this position and I really want to race well.”
Despite the absence of her main title rival, the field remains full of competitors capable of stealing the spotlight and chief among them is American Taylor Knibb, fresh from being crowned the new Ironman 70.3 world champion after blitzing the field, including Duffy, to win by more than five minutes in St George, Utah, last week.
“It’s a really strong field, particularly with the likes of Taylor Knibb, who is in great form and was just incredible last weekend,” added Duffy, who is adamant she feels no adverse effects from the excursions of a spirited display to finish fifth on her Ironman 70.3 debut.
“She’ll be tough to beat for sure and I know she always brings a strong level of competition. There’s also the British girls like Beth Potter and Americans like Taylor Spivey. It’s going to be a tight battle for sure.
“Thankfully I’m actually feeling better than I thought. I’ll have had nine days to recover since the Ironman 70.3. I did some training today [Thursday] and responded well, so by race day things should all come together.
“It’s towards the end of the season and everyone is at very different levels of tiredness and this is a really tough course, so it will be an interesting race come Sunday. Hopefully a big crowd will be out to support and I’ll do my best to be at the top of the podium again.”
Duffy will be hoping for a repeat of the inaugural WTS Bermuda in 2018, when she swept down the blue carpet on the way to a dominant victory by more than two minutes.
“2018 was a crazy day and of course I would love to have a repeat of that and win again,” said Duffy, who was denied the chance to race on home soil a year later as a result of injury before the cancellations of the World Triathlon Bermuda in 2020 and the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I just think that was one of those fluke races where everything came together for me. I know expectations will be extra high on me racing at home again but it worked out really well for me last time, so fingers crossed it does again.”
While Duffy remains focused on victory, she is also aware of the significance of her homecoming and racing on island for the first time as Olympic champion, as well as the opportunity to compete alongside compatriots Erica Hawley and Tyler Smith.
“Whatever the outcome of the race, I want to appreciate the moment of racing here again, especially as Olympic champion, and take it all in; that’s really important and special to me,” she added.
“I’m just really excited to be back here racing after the last few years not happening because of the pandemic; it’s just great that it’s actually happening. It is incredible that there are three of us racing at this level from such a small island. We get to race in this massive event at home and I know they’re both looking forward to it.
“It’s a great opportunity for them both and for me it’s great as well because in 2018 I was on my own and now there are three of us racing. I hope that really helps inspire people in Bermuda who are watching to pursue not just triathlon but sport in general.”