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Dame Flora Duffy opts out of WTCS season opener in Abu Dhabi

Notable omission: Dame Flora Duffy, who rewrote the history books with a record fourth world title in the final of the World Triathlon Series Championship in Abu Dhabi last season, has opted out of this season’s opening race at the same venue on Friday.

Defending champion Dame Flora Duffy has decided to delay the start of her campaign after opting out of the World Triathlon Series Championship opener in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

The series start at the same venue where Duffy rewrote the history books by beating her main rival, Britain’s George Taylor-Brown, to clinch a record-breaking fourth women’s world title and successfully defend her WTCS crown last November.

While excitement was building to see the rivalry resume, the 35-year-old Bermudian will not to be taking to the start line as she continues preparations at her base in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Despite Duffy’s notable absence, Bermuda will still be represented with Erica Hawley competing among the elite women’s field.

In an attempt to enhance her Olympic qualification prospects, the 24-year-old is determined to make a breakthrough at the top level with a consistent season.

“In 2023, my plan is to race almost all World Cup and WTCS events with a sole focus on gaining as many Olympic points as possible and getting my ranking higher,” Hawley told The Royal Gazette earlier this year. “I want to start the year off strong at this level and start again on my chase for Olympic points.”

In the absence of Duffy, Taylor-Brown will be aiming to put down an early marker after not finishing outside the top two of a race since 2019. The 28-year-old claimed three golds and three silvers last season as she was pipped to the title.

America Taylor Spivey, who will be wearing No. 2 is another determined to build on last season after agonisingly missing out on a place on the podium when fourth behind compatriot Taylor Knibb, who will also not be competing in Abu Dhabi. Despite her vast experience, Spivey is still seeking a maiden race win in the series.

Another contender in the opening race is France’s 25-year-old Cassandre Beaugrand, who already has three top-ten finishes in Abu Dhabi and clinched an impressive victory over the sprint distance in Leeds, England last year.

Her compatriots Leonie Periault and Emma Lombardi both have podium-finishes to their names and rounded out 2022 in excellent form, showing strength across all three disciplines.

British duo Sophie Coldwell and Beth Potter finished sixth and seventh overall last year, with the former finishing third on the Yas Marina circuit back in 2021.

Friday’s race will also feature the highly-anticipated return of former world champion Katie Zaferes, who will compete for the first time in the WTCS in 18 months after taking a break from the sport to have a child.

The double Olympic medal-winner will find herself in the unfamiliar position of being one of the last on to the pontoon as she looks to build her ranking and Olympic qualifying points.

Others who be eyeing a strong start to the new season include Lena Meissner, who is regularly among the top ten across the series, as well as Lisa Tertsch, Marlene Gomez-Goggel, Annabel Knoll and Nina Eim.

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Published March 02, 2023 at 2:53 pm (Updated March 02, 2023 at 4:06 pm)

Dame Flora Duffy opts out of WTCS season opener in Abu Dhabi

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