TOKYO – Flora Duffy destroyed a world-class field to win an historic first Olympic gold medal for Bermuda in the women’s triathlon in Japan Tuesday (Monday night, Eastern Caribbean time), triggering ecstatic celebrations in the small island in the North Atlantic.
After high winds and rain delayed the start, the 33-year-old pre-race favourite, who has had to overcome a serious foot injury since finishing eighth at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, dominated the race almost immediately after finishing the 40-kilometre cycle within an ultimate lead group of four.
American Katie Zaferes was the first out onto the run course from the bike transition, but 33-year-old Duffy – the women’s world champion in 2016 and 2017 – passed her and then did it on her own, winning in one hour, 55:36 minutes in a stunning show of front-running.
The medal is only Bermuda’s second at an Olympiad, coming 45 years after heavyweight boxer Clarence Hill won bronze at the Montreal Games.
Georgia Taylor-Brown of Britain suffered a flat tyre on her rear wheel on the bike, but the 27-year-old from Manchester recovered to claim the silver.
After losing 22 seconds and dropping to fifth because of the puncture, she overtook three of her rivals to take a deserved second, with Zaferes claiming bronze.
Duffy, who turned down the chance to represent Britain as a teenager, finished one minute and 15 seconds ahead of Taylor-Brown.
After the race Duffy said: “I’ve had an extra year [after the Games were postponed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic] with this pressure on me.
“Although it was difficult to manage and navigate all that pressure, what a special moment to come down the finishing chute and just to enjoy it and have my moments. It’s incredible.
“It was worth it. There’s been many tears, many heartbreaks. many times I was like ‘am I ever going to be healthy again, can I ever race at the top’?
“I just kept believing and I have a really great support system around me.”
As she entered the home straight Duffy pumped her fists, waved at the crowd and then collapsed in joy over the line.
Three years ago Duffy won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
After Tuesday’s race, car drivers started tooting their horns in Bermuda’s capital Hamilton and Premier David Burt was among the first to congratulate Duffy, saying on his social media site: “You’ve worked so hard and you’ve made an entire island proud.”