Flora Duffy, a professional triathlete who represents Bermuda, has had a rollercoaster few years culminating in 2016 being her best yet.
From achieving her first ITU podium in Abu Dhabi in 2015, she has gone on to be crowned ITU World Champion in Cozumel in September last year, as well as the Xterra World Champion in October. However, the 29-year-old, who is known for her powerful cycling style, has never quite achieved her full potential in Olympic appearances. As she returns to Abu Dhabi for the ITU season opener on 3rd and 4th March, the world champ talks to Abu Dhabi World about those highs and lows.
It is very hard to make a living as a professional triathlete. Did you ever question your choice?
Yeah, when I was 20 years old and I went to the Beijing Olympic Games. I had a terrible race, and it all went wrong, and I was struggling with health issues. I actually took two years away from the sport and then went to university and only in 2010, I think, did I do my first triathlon. Ever since 2010 I haven’t really questioned the choice of getting into triathlon. I had my wobbly moment at a pretty young age.
Onto Rio…When you are up against the likes of Gwen Jorgensen, a major rival, how much of your coaching is focused on your competitors and taking advantage of their weaknesses?
That was the other side of it but [I would look at] using my strengths in the race and trying to figure out how to get the race to play to my strengths, which for me is the swim-bike. Then, I needed to learn to run well off of a hard bike. I didn’t need to be the best runner in the group, but you needed to run at a certain level and you could hold off pretty much all of the field if you had this gap off of the bike. Then I think it’s about being aggressive and not really caring what anyone else is doing, just racing my plan.
What did you take away from your performance in Rio where you placed eighth? Did it serve as motivation to end the year on such a high?
In a way I guess it did motivate me for Cozumel because I was still like, ‘Wow, well, I actually have the opportunity to win three world titles here’, if you count Xterra World and ITU Cross. The Grand Final was a month after Rio so there really wasn’t that much time to dwell on it. This was okay, I can keep my head down for one more month and try and do this. In a way it was nice because once [Rio was over] it felt like a layer of pressure was completely removed.
So You must have to work hard on your mental game as well?
That’s actually one thing I don’t focus on too much, like [employing] a sports psychologist or anyone like that. Perhaps I could have used one going into Rio just because there’s so much other outside noise; it’s not like a regular race. But for me what helps is visualising how you want the race to go. Ultimately you just have to think back to the weeks, months and years of consistent training that you’ve done to know that you are prepared, to give you confidence.