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Sport 2021: Flora Duffy’s historic gold medal eclipses Covid-19 disruptions

Gold medal winner Flora Duffy of Bermuda, center, reacts with silver medalist Georgia Taylor-Brown of Great Britain. left, during a medal ceremony for the women's individual triathlon competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

It was a memorable year for sports, even if some major events did not go ahead because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new year was still two months away when the decision was made in October 2020 to cancel January's popular Royal Gazette Bermuda Triangle Challenge for the first time. The Triangle Challenge is a three-day weekend of road running events starting with the Front Street Miles on the Friday night and finishing with a half and full marathon on the Sunday.

Other events also fell victim to the pandemic, including the Carifta Games on home soil which was called off for a second straight year in April. The football season never reached the second half of its campaign after the decision was made in December to end the 2020-2021 season.

The gloom was finally lifted in the summer with cricket making a delayed start in late June, just a month before Cup Match, summer's major sporting event. Even that event looked doubtful with Somerset initially expressing concerns about playing because of the pandemic

But Cup Match, even with Somerset's ten-wicket victory and Malachi Jones becoming only the ninth bowler to take 50 wickets in the Classic after his match figures of six for 61, had to take a back seat to what happened four days earlier on July 26.

That was the day Bermuda achieved history on the international sporting stage as thousands of residents watched on TV as triathlete Flora Duffy won the country's first gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

With only two athletes representing Bermuda at the Tokyo Olympics ‒ rower Dara Alizadeh being the other team member ‒ Bermuda enjoyed a 50 per cent success rate thanks to Duffy's medal!

After her victory, the red carpet was laid out for Duffy with a motorcade as she returned home to hero's welcome, with Corkscrew Hill and the National Sports Centre renamed in her honour. Winning the gold was certainly the biggest achievement by a Bermudian sportsperson in 2021, if not ever, and it got the coverage it deserved.

Duffy followed up that Olympic gold with three more victories in the September, November and Decenber, first winning on her Super League Triathlon debut in the Malibu series finale.

In November, Duffy was winning again, this time in the first race of her World Triathlon Championship Series title defence in Abu Dhabi. In December, Duffy claimed a sixth Xterra World Championship title in Maui.

Another international medal for Bermuda followed in December when cyclist Kaden Hopkins picked up a silver medal in the 26k time trial at the inaugural Junior Pan Am Games in Cali, Colombia.

Veteran triathlete, Tyler Butterfield, 38, finished a creditable fifth in the Challenge Cancun 113-kilometre event in Mexico in May. Another triathlete, Tyler Smith, had a top ten finish at the Europe Triathlon Cup Olsztyn in Poland in May.

LeiLanni Nesbeth and her Florida State University team were crowned NCAA national champions in December after beating Brigham Young University 4-3 on penalty kicks to claim a third women’s soccer title in ten years.

The Bermuda Sail Grand Prix went ahead in April despite six Covid-19 deaths being recorded in the space of a week. The international event in the Great Sound faced the threat of being cancelled but went ahead without spectators. Sir Ben Ainsley's Great Britain team won with a stunning victory over Australia and France.

Bermuda Day events like the half-marathon and Sinclair Packwood Memorial Cycle Race went ahead in May with Chris Estwanik claiming a seventh half-marathon title when he clocked a winning time of 1:10:28 from St George's to Bernard Park.

Lamont Marshall finished second and Sammy Degraff third for the second straight year in what would be his swansong before relocating to Tennessee later in the year. Kavin Smith, a nine-time champion, made a return to the race after a ten year absence and finished fifteenth.

In the women's race Rose-Anna Hoey retained her title with her third victory in the prestigious race, while Dominique Mayho and Nicole Mitchell won the men's and women's winners in the Sinclair Packwood Memorial Cycle Race.

The shortened cricket season, which started in June, saw St George's crowned champions of the T20 Premier Division league, the only format played in the league for the second straight year.

Bermuda internationals Kamau Leverock and Delray Rawlins, playing in the US Open Cricket T20 Tournament for Florida Scorpions, reached the semi-finals of the tournament where the Scorpions went down by eight wickets to US All-Stars in Florida in December.

Two major administrative changes were made in athletics in the last few months, with Donna Raynor stepping down as president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association in late September after 12 years at the helm. She was replaced by Freddie Evans who ran unopposed.

Judy Simons did likewise as president of the Bermuda Olympic Association at their AGM on December 9, stepping down after serving the BOA for 25 years, the last 13 as president. Peter Dunne, the second vice-president, beat Brenda Dale, the first vice-president, to become the new president.

The year had a sad start with the news that Anthony "Porky" Manders, an outstanding cricketer and footballer who represented his country in both sports and played for Somerset in Cup Match, had passed away in early January at the age of 59.

Junius Durrant, another former Somerset Cup Match player, died in February just days before his 87th birthday.

In fact the year will be remembered for many deaths of sportsmen, some long retired like former Cup Match players Campbell Simons of Somerset and Fred "Dickty" Trott of St George's who died a month apart in September and October.

Fifty years ago in 1971, Simons was the first wicket to fall when Cup Match was played on turf wicket for the first time. Ironically, it was Trott who dismissed him.

Trott was also an outstanding footballer for Wellington Rovers, playing in their 1957-58 team that won the FA Cup with a 4-2 victory over BAA.

Another former FA Cup winner died in May, Leroy “Lofty” Burns who was a part of PHC’s 1960 cup-winning team.

Two others, footballers Jahtino Richardson-Martin and Osagi Bascome of Dandy Town and St George's Colts, died in their 20s, still in the prime of their careers. Their untimely deaths just recently tore at the hearts of many in the community.

Mike Sharpe, a former Olympic sprinter and well-respected former sports broadcaster, also passed away in early December at the age of 65.

The road running fraternity also mourned the loss of two veteran distance runners, Mike Whalley in February at the age of 74 and Midge Oliver, a retired nurse who passed away in September at the age of 71. Both hailed from Scotland and made Bermuda their home for almost 50 years.

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Published December 31, 2021 at 7:45 am (Updated December 31, 2021 at 1:27 pm)

Sport 2021: Flora Duffy’s historic gold medal eclipses Covid-19 disruptions

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