In 2018 Flora Duffy became the first Bermudan to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. The country had only ever one other medal – a bronze – at the Olympics before today. How’s that for having a whole country behind you? When World Triathlon put on a series event in Bermuda, pretty much the entire country was on hand to watch Duffy take the debut event.
The last few years haven’t exactly been a smooth run up for Duffy, though, who dominated the WTS series in 2017 after winning the world title in 2016, as she struggled with injuries.
That struggle will no-doubt have made today’s race in Tokyo all the sweeter – Duffy was simply dominant in all three components of the race to take a huge win.
Lead pack forms in the water
The conditions for the race were, basically brutal, with the start being delayed by heavy rain. The rain would eventually stop, but early on things were definitely challenging for the athletes, especially on the bike.
Great Britain’s Jess Learmonth led the way out of the water, having set up a breakaway group through the first 950 m loop, and cementing the group’s lead by the end of the race. Behind Learmonth was Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes, American’s Katie Zaferes and Summer Rappaport, Great Britain’s Georgia Taylor Brown, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy and Germany’s Laura Lindemann. By the time they hit T1 they had 40 seconds on the next group, with the woman everyone was worried about in this race, Nicola Spirig 1:08 behind. Canada’s Joanna Brown had a great swim and was 48 seconds behind, but her countrywoman Amelie Kretz seemed a bit off her swim form today, hitting T1 1:12 behind.
Learmonth and Duffy really drove the pace through the first loop, but the group started to get organized and began to work well together to keep the pace going. Rappaport was struggling to stay with the group and would eventually be dropped, leaving the group to six. Lopes was the next to have issues staying with the group – as the rest took their turns on the front, she was typically at the back, and often a few metres behind and was finally dropped in the sixth lap of eight.
The chase group was, of course, driven by Spirig. For the first half of the ride every time the cameras focused on the group it was Spirig in front, pulling the group along. Occassional you would see her take a breather, but most of the time it was the Swiss gold (2012) and silver (2016) medalist who tried to keep the gap to as close to a minute as possible, but lap by lap the leaders gained a few seconds. One minute turned to 1:04 turned to 1:09 turned to 1:13 – by 25 km the gap was 1:15.
In the final lap of the race Taylor-Brown got dropped from the lead group after she got a flat. Zaferes led the way into T2 followed by Duffy, Learmonth and Lindemann. Taylor-Brown would end up into T2 22 seconds behind.
Spirig led the group into T2 and blasted out onto the run course 1:01 behind the leaders.
Duffy dominates the run
The word in triathlon circles had been that Duffy was in amazing run shape, and it didn’t take long for her to prove that as she blasted clear of the rest of the women on the run course. Zaferes tried to stay with her early on, but couldn’t maintain the tempo Duffy was setting. Taylor-Brown quickly moved her way past Learmonth and Lindemann, and put heself in a position to chase Zaferes.
There was no touching Duffy as she kept up the pressure and continued to pull clear of the rest of the women. Taylor-Brown bided her time, staying about five seconds behind Zaferes until the end of the third lap, at which point she made her move and pressed on into second. By that point Duffy was 1:07 ahead, and didn’t seem in any danger of losing that lead. Starting the bell lap France’s Leonie Periault and the Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer managed to get past Lindemann and started a 2.5 km footrace for fourth.
Duffy would run into the finish line well ahead, giving Bermuda it’s first ever gold medal (only the country’s second medal) in 1:55:36. Taylor-Brown would take the silver, 1:14 behind. Zaferes made the American selection committee look good with the bronze medal, 1:27 back. Klamer outsprinted Periault for fourth and fifth, with Spirig finishing her fifth Olympics in sixth.
Kretz would hang tough for a 15th-place finish, 4:57 behind Duffy, while Brown would eventually be lapped out of the race.
You can find results from the race here.