In a sport where transitions are everything, Flora Duffy is the best of the best.
Duffy, 33, one of two athletes representing Bermuda, took home gold in the women’s triathlon event, completing the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run in 1 hour 55 minutes 36 seconds. She crossed the finish line by herself, more than a minute before Georgia Taylor-Brown of Britain and Katie Zaferes of the United States finished, and greeted her competitors with open arms.
It was the first gold medal for Bermuda at the Olympic Games, and only the second medal in the country’s history. A bronze medal went to the boxer Clarence Hill at the 1976 Games in Montreal.
Taylor-Brown fell to fifth place after the bicycle portion because of a flat tire and lost about 15 seconds on the lead group. She told the BBC that “the first lap of the run was panic mode.”
Duffy was two seconds behind Zaferes coming out of the swim transition, and once off their bikes, Duffy and Zaferes were neck and neck. But it was Duffy’s fluidity through the run that saw her across the finish line first.
Duffy is the only person to win three triathlon world titles in the same year, capturing the World Triathlon championship race, the Xterra world championships and the ITU Cross world championships in 2016. She came in eighth place in the 2016 Olympic Games. In 2018 she collected the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.
In an interview earlier this year, Duffy said heat, humidity and water temperature would be the biggest variables. And her prediction proved correct, as athletes battled 80-degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity and wet conditions — the race was delayed by 15 minutes because of heavy rains.
Duffy, who lives and trains in Boulder, Colo., began competing in triathlon when she was 7. Her weekly training regimen includes six swims, six bike rides and four to six runs.
Congratulations came in from around the tiny island nation.
“You’ve worked so hard and you’ve made an entire island proud,” tweeted the premier of Bermuda, David Burt.
On Monday, Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway took home gold in the men’s triathlon. Blummenfelt, who was in fifth place after the swim and bicycle portions, finished in 1:45:04.