The Guardian: LONDON, England, By Sean Ingle – The most glorious of rainbows formed over Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo early on Tuesday morning as the world’s greatest triathletes swam, pedalled and puffed their way around the Odaiba Marine Park. At the end of it, Bermuda discovered its first pot of Olympic gold.
It came in the form of the 33-year-old Flora Duffy, whose stunning victory meant the island in the Atlantic – with its population of about 62,000 – became the smallest country to win gold at a summer Olympic Games.
“I think the whole (of) Bermuda is going crazy, that’s what makes it so special,” said Duffy, who powered impressively clear on the 10km run to win in 1hr 55min 36sec – 74sec clear of Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown, who recovered from a puncture on the 40km bike section to take silver.
“Yes, this was my dream, but I also knew it was bigger than me.”
Duffy had spent five years carrying the burden of being Olympic favourite as well as having her country’s sole hopes on her shoulders. No wonder she repeatedly uppercut the air in celebration as she crossed the line.
“It’s been a heck of a lot of pressure,” she said. “I would never recommend being an Olympic favourite for five years. But it is all worth it now.”
Her path to glory had been made more treacherous by the tropical storm Nepartak, which ripped through Tokyo overnight. The high winds and heavy rain delayed the start by 15 minutes and led to multiple bike crashes. Duffy, though, looked serene – and supreme – throughout.
After God Save the Queen, the official national anthem of Bermuda, had been played, Duffy said she had never been tempted when Team GB had tried to recruit her as a teenager because of her dual nationality, even though more resources and money would have been thrown at her.
“My mum grew up in Burnley and my dad is from Barrow-in-Furness, but I’m born and raised in Bermuda, that’s where my heart is,” she said. “I have family in England and that’s special, but for me it was always Bermuda that felt the most special. But it is nice that when God Save the Queen is played, it honours my British and Bermudian side.”
Taylor-Brown sustained a stress response in her femur in May, which meant she was unable to run for six weeks, and she was celebrating having accomplished the mother of all retrieval missions. A puncture to her rear tyre with about 2km to go meant she started the run in fifth place, 22sec back.
“I panicked – I didn’t know what to do so I just rode on the flat,” she said. “I lost maybe 15 seconds on the group.
“The first lap of the run I was in panic mode. I think I definitely paid for it on the latter part of the run but it paid off.”
Taylor-Brown, the best of the British triathletes ahead of Jessica Learmonth in ninth and Vicky Holland in 13th, said she had spent two weeks on crutches and been forced to take a fitness test before flying to Tokyo because of her injury.
“I kept it all a bit private, what was going on,” she said. “I got a stress response in my femur 12 weeks ago so that was a bit of a shock. My training had gone so well before then, though, so I knew I had all that in the bag. You don’t want to show your competitors your weaknesses and so I did just say I was ill.
“A week before we flew out I also had prove that I was fit to compete, which was probably more stressful because it could have all been taken away from me. I had to do a 30-minute bike on my own at 260 watts and then I had to do a 2.5km run at 3:10 pace, which is all race pace really.
“There were six weeks in total with no running. Then I managed to build it back up with the standard one minute on, one minute off alter‑G running.
“We’ve got a great swim coach that we’ve just taken on at British triathlon and he got me in the front pack. I owe a lot to him because that made the race for me.”
The gold medal may not be the only honour coming Duffy’s way. A couple of years ago she was awarded an OBE after twice being crowned world champion and winning the 2018 Commonwealth Games. When it was put to her that an upgrade to Dame Duffy would have a pleasant ring, she smiled.
“Yeah, that’s nice,” she said. “I like Olympic champion the best, though.”