Dame Flora Duffy rewrites history books with record fourth world title
Dame Flora Duffy rewrote the history books after clinching a record-breaking fourth women’s world title, successfully defending her World Triathlon Championship Series crown with a thrilling victory in the grand final in Abu Dhabi.
Much of the pre-race focus was on the highly anticipated showdown between the Olympic champion, second in the standings heading into the finale, and Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown, who held a 69-point advantage.
Fittingly the script played out with the race coming down to a straight shoot-out between the pair, with Duffy once again producing when it mattered most, making the decisive move at the start of the third lap of the 10-kilometre run, surging ahead of her rival to give herself a crucial lead.
With daylight between herself and the only person who could stop her date with destiny, Duffy was able to savour the momentous occasion, crossing the line in 1hr 53 min 24sec, just more than a minute ahead of the Brit, with Lena Meissner claiming a first podium finish.
Duffy’s latest triumph in a title-laden career, sees her move clear of Australian Emma Snowsill – who won three world crowns between 2003 and 2006, when the champion was decided in a single race – in the record books, cementing her status as the most successful short-course female triathlete in history.
“I’m really, really proud of this one,” said the 35-year-old who topped the final standings with 5106 points, just 25 ahead of Taylor-Brown. “It was a difficult start to the year for me coming out of the Olympics and Covid and everything and it took a lot of work to get my mind back into it so I’m thrilled.
“Of course it came down to the two of us. I smiled a few times when it was just me and Georgia, I feel like she brings me to another level.
“It was an absolute battle out there, we don’t really give each other an inch and I just wanted to stay safe because it was super hot out there.
When I got a little bit of a gap on the third lap of the run it was a little sooner than I anticipated but I thought; ‘well, gotta go now’ and just had to keep pushing.
“I'm very glad I changed my mind [About from retiring from short-course distance]. I'm still really enjoying it, and with the short three-year cycle to Paris [2024 Olympic Games], I thought, ‘Why not?’ Let's try and stick in there and celebrate a final Olympics with my friends and family there and enjoy that moment.
“I'm definitely getting up there [in age]. I think I'm pretty much consistently the oldest in these races, but I'm still enjoying it so I’ll keep going.”
Duffy and Taylor-Brown did not get the best of starts in the 1.5-kilometre swim but were soon digging in to hit the first buoy without any trouble with Taylor Knibb, of the United States, leading the way.
The American remained in front after the first lap, with Duffy close behind, followed by Beth Potter, Vittoria Lopes and Taylor-Brown out in fifth.
That was largely how it stayed for the second lap, with Summer Rappaport also working her way to the front as the six exited the water and raced toward the first transition.
German duo Laura Lindemann and Lisa Tertsch and Hollands’ Maya Kingma were right behind, but Duffy was slick through transition and away on the 40-kilometre bike course first, with Taylor-Brown and Potter in hot pursuit. Knibb meanwhile, lost some ground on the six chasing the Bermudian.
However, it did not take long for Knibb and Germany’s Lena Meissner to bridge the gap, forming a front nine, with Taylor Spivey and Kirsten Kasper already 23 seconds back on the leaders.
Further behind still, another 11 athletes, led by Cassandre Beaugrand, were given chase but found themselves 54 seconds off the pace after three laps of nine.
Up front, Duffy started to test those around her, with a break not sticking, as the leaders repeatedly continued to stretch out before coming back together.
Lindemann fell off the pace to join those behind, now including Tertsch, who had dropped back after five laps.
Duffy, Knibb and Taylor-Brown continued to share duties out front, as Potter suffered an issue on lap six, forcing her to fall off the leaders and riding alone 20 seconds off the pace.
More drama ensued at the end of lap seven as Knibb’s wheel slide out taking Kingma with her. Lopes and Meissner managed to avoid the crash and stay in touch with Duffy and Taylor-Brown.
Knibb wrestled with her chain for what felt like an eternity but still managed to ride back up to Kingma at the bell, but there was now just four contenders vying for the medal places.
Out of the final transition and on to the 10-kilometre run it was no surprise to see the two title rivals head out together.
Taylor-Brown looked to make an early break but it failed to stick as Duffy soon bridged the gap with the pair running shoulder to shoulder for the first two laps.
With the title decider and epic season seemingly coming down to a thrilling 5-kilometre foot race, Duffy seized her moment, accelerating away at the start of the penultimate lap.
It quickly became clear that Taylor-Brown had no answer, as Duffy managed to pull out her sight of her rival. As the blue carpet approached, the realisation of a record fourth title dawned on the Bermudian as she wrote yet more history.
Taylor-Brown was forced to settle for silver at the end of an exhausting campaign, Meissner with a gutsy first ever WTCS podium ahead of Knibb, whose fourth place finish was enough to claim third in the overall standings.
Leonie Periault ran her way into fifth, Lopes hung on for sixth ahead of Spivey, with Emma Lombardi, Miriam Casillas Garcia and Beaugrand rounding out the top ten.
“I gave absolute everything I had,” said Taylor-Brown. “It's just been a hard few months personally and I've just tried to put everything in a box and forget about it all and concentrate on the race.
“I'm really proud of myself for putting myself out there today and just emptying everything and doing what I could.
“We laughed at one point [her and Duffy] and I said ‘It's just me and you, kid’. We were just battling it out to the end and I wouldn't have it any other way and I don't think she would. It's fun racing with her and like I said, I gave it absolutely everything.
“There definitely is and I'm still learning every race that I do and I still want to take that world title one day.”
World Triathlon Championship Finals Abu Dhabi
1. Flora Duffy (BER) – 1:53:24
2. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) – 1:54:28
3. Lena Meißner (GER) – 1:55:59
4. Taylor Knibb (USA) – 1:56:40
5. Leonie Periault (FRA) – 1:56:51
6. Vittoria Lopes (BRA) – 1:56:59
7. Taylor Spivey (USA) – 1:57:44
8. Emma Lombardi (FRA) – 1:57:50
9. Miriam Casillas Garcia (ESP) – 1:57:56
10. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) – 1:58:13
Final Maurice Lacroix World Triathlon Championship Rankings Top-Ten
1. Flora Duffy (BER) – 5106
2. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) – 5081
3. Taylor Knibb (USA) – 4179
4. Taylor Spivey (USA) – 3889
5. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) – 3801
6. Sophie Coldwell (GBR) – 3494
7. Beth Potter (GBR) – 3480
8. Laura Lindemann (GER) – 3296
9. Maya Kingma (NED) – 3145
10. Miriam Casillas Garcia (ESP) – 3020