Yesterday’s announcement of the male triathlete of the year implied there was really no argument when it came to picking the winner. For the women, though, it is a very different story. Make no mistake, Flora Duffy, our final pick and the winner for the second year in a row, is certainly a more than worthy champion. It’s just that there’s a strong argument that Ashleigh Gentle enjoyed a stellar year that made her worthy of our top pick, too. (If Taylor Knibb had not been injured for much of 2022, she might have been a contender, too – her win at the 70.3 worlds in St. George will certainly go down as one of the performances of the year!)
Queen of the PTO Tour
After two Olympic appearances representing Australia, Gentle set her sights on longer distance racing in 2022. The 31-year-old began the 2022 campaign with a dominant win at Clash Miami, then put together some seemingly less-inspired performances with a fourth at 70.3 Oceanside, a fifth at the Challenge Championship and a runner-up finish at Ironman 70.3 Elsinore.
From July onwards, though, Gentle really came into form. She won Ironman 70.3 Andorra, ran down Paula Findlay at the PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton, won her match and had the second-fastest time of the day at the Collins Cup, then had an incredible run to take the PTO US Open. While she certainly would have been one of the pre-race favourites to take the 70.3 worlds, she elected to head home to prepare for her wedding to fellow Aussie pro Josh Amberger, and rounded out the season with her ninth win at the prestigious Noosa triathlon.
Duffy dominates when it counts
While Gentle had an incredible 2022, Flora Duffy couldn’t buy a break for much of the year. Seemingly determined to test the long-distance waters herself, she set out to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at 70.3 Chattanooga, only to have to pull out of the race when she contracted COVID-19. She regrouped and set her sights on nailing the qualification at Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant, only to have Air Canada leave her bike at the Denver airport.
She managed to regroup on the draft-legal front, backing up a third from the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) Yokohama and a seventh at WTCS Leeds with a win at WTCS Hamburg. She defended her Commonwealth Games title in dominating style, beating her closest rival on the draft-legal scene, Georgia Taylor-Brown.
Her long-distance woes continued, though, with tough days at the Collins Cup and the PTO US Open, before she bounced back to her winning ways on the draft-legal front, thrilling her home country with a huge win at WTCS Bermuda.
All of which set up a final showdown for the world championship. To claim her fourth world title, Duffy had to win the Grand Final in Abu Dhabi. She did that in dramatic style, once again running away from Taylor-Brown to win the day and the world title.
It was that ability to seize the big days that tipped the scales in Duffy’s favour. In 2021, after taking the Olympic and world titles along with numerous WTCS titles, Duffy was even named Dame of the Order of the British Empire. While 2022 provided its challenges, in the end Flora Duffy proved once again she’s at the top of the triathlon world.