If there was some debate as to who we should name the top woman international triathlete of 2021 (you can hear my attempt at a debate, anyway, with Phil Wrochna in our last podcast of 2021), it got more than settled on New Year’s Eve, when Bermuda’s Flora Duffy was made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire.
“Flora Duffy is recognised for her exceptional contribution to sport in Bermuda over many years and for her outstanding achievements in triathlon, which include becoming the first and only person to ever win an Olympic gold medal for a British Overseas Territory,” Bermuda’s Royal Gazette reported. “Her achievements also made Bermuda the smallest country, in terms of population, to win a gold medal at a Summer Olympics. In addition to her Olympics win this year, Ms Duffy also won the 2021 Xterra World Championship, the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi and the Groupe Copley 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Montreal.”
It truly has been a magical year for Duffy, who claimed Olympic gold in Tokyo in her fourth Olympic performance, then followed that up a few weeks later with the win in Montreal. While she would finish third at the World Triathlon Championship Final in Edmonton, the result was enough to net her a third world title. At the end of September she used her wildcard entry at the final Super League Event in Malibu to good stead, taking the win that day, too. Her impressive racing continued with a win at WTCS Abu Dhabi in November, followed by a sixth-straight Xterra world title.
Duffy’s gold medal in Tokyo was the first for Bermuda – the tiny island nation was so thrilled with her performance that a national holiday was named for her in October.
Duffy’s incredible results overshadowed what would have been a “triathlete of the year” performance for Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay, who claimed her first world title at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship this year. Charles-Barclay’s year was certainly an impressive one, with runner-up finishes at the British Swimming Trials and the Super League Arena Games London, then a fifth-place finish at her draft-legal triathlon debut at WTCS Leeds. She would round out her season with a 12th-place finish at WTCS Abu Dhabi.
We’re not sure if we’ll have to call her “Dame Flora Duffy” from here on in, but we are happy to name her one of our Triathletes of the Year for 2021.