Back home, Flora Duffy will be remembered for generations. The Bermudan triathlete is the sporting hero of her nation, a woman with more world titles that she can fit on her shelf – and with the prospect of more to come.
Duffy’s crowning achievement, though, is arguably the Olympic gold she won in 2021 in Tokyo where, battling extreme weather conditions, she showed the rest of the field a clean pair of heels as she coasting to victory at the fourth time of asking.
Who is Flora Duffy?
Born in Bermuda to British parents, Flora Duffy hasn’t taken the shortest, easiest or most well-trodden path to triathlon immortality.
Having attended Kelly College in Devon where her sporting ability was sharpened, her early promise as a junior went largely unfulfilled, especially after a disastrous Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Games where she crashed out on the bike.
An eating disorder and time spent studying at the University of Colorado in Boulder meant a lengthy spell away from the sport, but on her return, Duffy began to charge through the rankings, albeit not without the occasional setback (see here, for example, another bike crash at London 2012).
At first, her most notable achievements came off the tarmac; Duffy won the first of six Xterra world titles in 2014, and, the following year, took her maiden victory at the ITU Cross world championships.
By 2016, Duffy had converted these achievements onto the smooth stuff, adding the WTS title to her CV – and, in the process, making her the first triathlete to win three world titles in the same calendar year.
The only blip on a phenomenal season was a mildly disappointing eighth place at the Rio Olympics.
But, once fit again and with Covid restrictions loosening, Duffy returned with a vengeance in 2021, securing not only her third WTS crown and a record-breaking sixth Xterra title, but also – at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games – finally making it count at an Olympics.
Her gold medal was Bermuda’s first ever in any event.
A bumpy start to 2022 – two bouts of covid and a lost bike – didn’t hold her back for long, climbing several WTCS podiums and becoming the first triathlete ever to win back-to-back Commonwealth titles in July and the first female triathlete to win four World Triathlon titles.
How old is Flora Duffy?
Flora Duffy was born on 30 September 1987, making her 35 years old.
Flora Duffy’s career highlights
March 2006: Makes her major championship debut as an elite
Despite still being a junior, Flora represents Bermuda at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, finishing an extremely promising eighth.
August 2008: A premature end for an Olympic debut
At the Beijing Games, Duffy competes in her first Olympics, but she crashes out on the bike leg, arguably her strongest discipline. Still only 20, she then takes nearly two years away from the sport while she studies for a sociology degree at college in Boulder, Colorado.
August 2012: A different kind of Olympic disappointment
Having returned to triathlon with a good showing at the 2012 Olympics as her goal, Duffy does make the finish line in London, although comes home in a rather anonymous 45th position after a heavy bike crash in the rain.
October 2014: The first of many Xterra triumphs
Despite a nasty crash on the bike when she ended up in the undergrowth after hitting a tree root, Duffy recovers to claim a famous victory, the first of six Xterra world titles.
September 2015: Another race, another world crown
Alongside her growing domination at Xterra, Duffy proves she’s the queen of off-road triathlon when, in Sardinia, she registers her first ITU Cross World Championship triumph.
July 2016: Registers her first ITU WTS victory
In what will be an extraordinary break-out season on the tarmac, Duffy chalks up her maiden ITU WTS victory when – after a second, a third and two fourths in the races thus far this year – she breaks the tape first in Stockholm after a dominant solo bike leg established an unimpeachable lead.
August 2016: Podium hopes at the Olympics
A third stab at making an impression on Olympic history is Duffy’s best finish yet, but her 8th place in Rio is possibly a disappointment bearing in mind the fine form she’s been in all season.
September 2016: Scoops the first of three WTS crowns
A dominant bike leg at the Grand Final in Cozumel ensures there’s too great a margin for even [the then reigning Olympic champ] Gwen Jorgensen, Duffy’s main rival for the overall title, to overcome on the run. Bermuda has its first WTS world champ.
November 2016: On top of the world with an unprecedented hat-trick
Victory at the ITU Cross World Championships in Australia’s Snowy Mountains makes Duffy the first triathlete to win three world titles in the same season, adding it to the ITU WTS crown and her third successive Xterra triumph in October.
September 2017: A second WTS title ends the most consistent of seasons
Duffy wins the Grand Final in Rotterdam, making it an extraordinary six wins and one second place in this year’s series. She’s now the undisputed world number one.
April 2018: Duffy takes Commonwealth gold back to Bermuda
After a second WTS title in 2017, Duffy shows she can also come up with the goods in single-race competition when she tops the podium at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
April 2018: The homecoming queen puts in unparalleled performance
At the World Series race on her home turf of Bermuda, Duffy achieves something no other triathlete has accomplished in WTS history: posting the fastest time in all three disciplines.
June 2018: By royal appointment
Two months after helping to bring the sport to her home island, Duffy is awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to Bermudan sport.
July 2021: The Olympic podium finally has a place for Duffy
After long-term injury and the pandemic created a stuttering couple of years, Duffy puts in an imperious run in weather-lashed Tokyo to win her country’s first Olympic gold. Back home, the famous Corkscrew Hill is soon renamed Flora Duffy Hill.
August 2021: Another record tumbles at the ITU Grand Final
Despite only finishing third in Edmonton, Duffy has done enough to secure a third ITU world title, equalling the record of Australia’s Emma Snowsill. Duffy becomes the first triathlete in history to win both Olympic gold and the world championships in the same year.
December 2021: Official queen of the short-course
Caps off an incredible year with her sixth Xterra world title, to make her the reigning Commonwealth, World Triathlon, Olympic and Xterra world champion heading into 2022.
January 2022: Another day, another gong
In the New Year Honours list, Duffy is handed an upgrade to her OBE. She is made a Dame.
July 2022: A slow build-up to immortality
Covid sets her back twice at the start of 2022, then in June her bike fails to show up in Canada, where she was hoping to qualify for the 70.3 Worlds.
Things are faring slightly better on the short-course circuit, with a 3rd (Yokohama), 7th (Leeds) and a 1st (Hamburg) by mid-July.
By the end of July she makes history to become the only triathlete to win consecutive Commonwealth titles; her Birmingham performance proving script-perfect from start to finish.
October 2022: A fifth on her 70.3 Worlds’ debut
Race organisers take pity on her bike woes in Canada and offer her a wildcard place at the 70.3 Worlds in St George, Utah. A top-five finish, behind four of the best long- and middle-distance athletes in the world right now, is basically a win for Duffy.
November 2022: Delights the home crowd in Bermuda
Duffy puts on the perfect performance at her home race to take her second WTCS race win of the year.
November 2022: Becomes the first woman to win four World Triathlon titles
Duffy starts the Grand Final in Abu Dhabi just 96 points behind Georgia Taylor-Brown, the title going to whoever finishes ahead.
But as the Bermudan leads out of the swim, the final result is all but confirmed; she eventually crosses the line 1min ahead of Taylor-Brown.
History is made and Duffy officially becomes the greatest female ITU athlete of all time.
Flora Duffy quotes
On choosing to represent Bermuda rather than the country of her British parents: “I hold dual nationality, but I was born and raised in Bermuda. That’s where my heart is.”
On crashing at London 2012: “Having four years of preparation go down the drain in a split second is tough to deal with.”
On being the first triathlete ever to post all three fastest splits in a WTS race – and to do it on home soil: “This will probably be one of the highlights of my career … The streets were lined and it was just a phenomenal atmosphere. It was incredible.”
On winning Bermuda’s first-ever Olympic gold: “It feels like a massive relief. I think I feel relaxed for the first time in many years.”
On her last Commonwealth outing at the 2022 Games in Birmingham: “This is my fourth Commonwealth Games, and I have won twice so I think I can leave on a very happy note.”
On winning her fourth World Triathlon title: “What an epic race! One I will never forget. Georgia Taylor-Brown and I didn’t give each other an inch (of course) A great battle for the world title. Very proud to win 4 world titles.”
What’s next for Flora Duffy?
As she shared with 220, her goals in 2022 were to win another Commonwealth – tick! – and world title – tick!
Beyond that an Olympic-title defence and the world of 70.3 racing beckons.
Top image credit: Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images