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By D'Arcy Maine | Aug 14, 2019espnW.com
Mike Stocker for ESPN
Triathlete Flora Duffy is acquisitive to represent Bermuda at the Olympics for the fourth time abutting summer.
WEARING RAIN GEAR and a crumbling smile, Flora Duffy stood abreast the accomplishment band and animated as her accompany and rivals approached. The best acclaimed amateur on the island was about to accomplish her connected April day by catastrophe her administration as champion.
Duffy cautiously withdrew from the 2019 ITU Apple Triathlon Bermuda because of a bottom abrasion abiding a year ago. Although she was aghast to let bottomward her home country, she knew it was the appropriate accommodation to advice her accomplish her appetite of acceptable an Olympic badge abutting summer.
Instead of arresting her title, she alternate in an exhibition broadcast chase that morning. Thousands of Bermudians -- from "little, old grannies sitting in their Bermuda Day array chairs" to adolescent men smoker joints -- showed up ablaze and aboriginal to abutment the bounded hero who had alternate home for the event.
Two men continuing on the top of a acropolis fabricated abiding she knew they accepted her decision. "We still adulation you, Flora," they shouted, joints in hand, as she whizzed able on her bicycle.
It was a atom of the arena from a year ago, aback it seemed that about every one of the island's 65,000 association lined Advanced Street in Hamilton with their flags and "Go Flora Go!" signs. That day, as Duffy bankrupt in on the accomplishment line, she was so far advanced that she was able to flavor every footfall and booty in every accustomed face and abode in the island's capital, accepted artlessly as "town" by locals.
"People cool out," Duffy said. "There were all these bodies who I never would accept best out to watch a triathlon. It was so special."
But this year, afterwards American Katie Zaferes beyond the accomplishment band a minute and 41 abnormal advanced of the blow of the field, a woman approached Duffy.
"Wow, what an amazing finish," she said flippantly. "How abundant did you win by aftermost year? Beneath than that, right?"
Duffy angry to her bedmate and agilely asked for their auberge key. She pulled her baseball cap over her face, pushed her way through the admirers and absolved abroad as quickly, and discreetly, as possible.
Remember the accountability on LeBron James to accompany home the Larry O'Brien bays while he was in Cleveland? That's agnate to what Duffy is ambidextrous with -- except she gets one attempt every four years, and it's her accountability and chastening alone.
Duffy has been Bermuda's greatest achievement on the world's bigger able-bodied date aback she fabricated her Olympic admission in 2008. The 31-year-old has won assorted apple triathlon championships and is a above apple No. 1. Now the alarm is active adjoin what she says will be her final Olympics abutting summer in Tokyo. Bermuda's hopes that she can win its additional Olympic badge -- the champ of the aboriginal has alleged himself the island's "dirty little secret" -- assume to abound by the day, alike aback she's alone with injury.
Duffy affairs to accomplish her long-awaited acknowledgment to antagonism this anniversary at the Olympic analysis accident in Tokyo. The weight of Bermuda's hopes will follow. She doesn't charge anyone to admonish her of her goals -- or that time is active out.
"It would be huge to get a medal," she said. "Not aloof for me but for this island."
Mike Stocker for ESPN
A acrimonious bottom abrasion kept Duffy from arresting her Bermuda appellation in April, but she's appointed to acknowledgment this anniversary at the Tokyo analysis event.
FLORA DUFFY IS not how you anticipate one of the best athletes in the apple -- nor, for that matter, the face of Bermuda or a almsman of the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) from Queen Elizabeth herself. At 5-foot-5, Duffy is baby in stature, with an backward address and a tough-to-place emphasis that reflects all the places she has lived. She's austere and focused during contest but blessed to altercate abject absoluteness television anytime, including her new favorite, "Very Cavallari." She feels the aforementioned way you apparently do about Jay Cutler. "He's the absoluteness brilliant none of us knew we needed," she says with a big laugh.
Duffy didn't see herself as a approaching Olympian aback she active up for her aboriginal triathlon as a 7-year-old, but afresh again, she wasn't alike abiding what the action was.
"I was in a bathe club, and I ran in primary academy in the active club," she said over breakfast the day afterwards the 2019 Bermuda race. "I bethink thinking, 'Well, I apperceive how to ride a bike. How adamantine could this be?' And I can't bethink if it was me or my parents that begin the triathlon, but off I went, and I raced on my old abundance bike with this big cream helmet. I admired it instantly."
Duffy spent her Saturday mornings at Clearwater Beach, a above American aggressive base, training with Tri-Hedz, a anew formed triathlon club. It didn't booty connected for anybody complex to apprehend how able she was. There were several contest appointed throughout the summers, and Duffy about consistently won her age group. She fabricated accompany with the added kids in the accumulation and admired the intricacies of the sport, but mostly she had fun with it.
In fact, it was about an escape for her. As able-bodied as accommodating in clue at her school, she was a affiliate of the civic bathe team, article she said bedeviled her life. She catholic to the Caribbean on several occasions to attempt for the team.
"I bethink already aback Flora was apparently 14," said Steve Burgess, her aboriginal active coach. "It's cloudburst rain alfresco -- torrential. Rain that you would anticipate of in the Amazon jungle. I'm sitting in my office, and I see her run out of her mom's car, and she looks in the window. She yelled, 'He's in there. Training is on!' and her mom zooms off. I'm thinking, 'She absolutely wants to alternation in this?' Aback I able she was serious, I went out, and we had our accustomed training session, and she's accomplishing aggregate like it's not calamity all about us. I didn't apperceive absolutely area she was activity to go from that point in agreement of able-bodied success, but I knew she was article special."
Mike Stocker for ESPN
Duffy fell in adulation with triathlon in Bermuda, but these canicule she spends best of her time training in either Colorado or South Africa.
At 16, Duffy autonomous to go to boarding academy in England. She chose Mount Kelley, in the English countryside, for its able triathlon and bathe programs. She capital to see how she would analyze on a bigger stage.
"The barrio were article beeline out of Harry Potter," she said. "We had to abrasion a connected kilt to our ankles and blazers as uniforms and go to abbey every day. The island ability is so different. Alike the way I wore my beard fabricated me feel like I stood out. Now I'm able with actuality different, but aback you're that age, you aloof appetite to fit in and be normal."
Thanks to triathlon, Duffy didn't feel like an outcast for long. Aggressive in a country-wide alternation for juniors, she placed in the top three in her aboriginal several races. Her doubts about actuality acceptable alone by Bermuda standards were erased, and she knew she could attempt with the best in the world.
That aplomb was activated at the 2005 Junior Apple Championships, in which she able in 39th place. During her final year of boarding school, she began her training at 5:30 a.m. and had assorted workouts every day amid classes and studying. She went aback to the antagonism the abutting year and able second.
With British parents who authority citizenship, Duffy was offered the befalling to attempt for Abundant Britain and alternation with its alliance in world-class facilities. But she capital to attempt for the alone abode she advised home and the abode that developed her adulation for the sport. The banking abetment she accustomed from Bermuda at aboriginal was basal compared to what she would accept accustomed from Abundant Britain. Bermuda reimbursed her for biking and access fees for aloof six contest a year. She was advantageous that her parents could advanced the blow of the money.
Getting lapped at the Olympics is a appealing boxy thing, and it fabricated me catechism everything.
Bermudian admiral were borderline if a then-17-year-old Duffy would be able to authority her own at the 2006 Commonwealth Games because she had little acquaintance aggressive at the Olympic distance, which is a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run. So they fabricated her do a condoning chase during convenance with her drillmaster in England. She bare to complete the advance in 2 hours, 20 minutes. She did it in 2 hours, 12 minutes, and she was off to Melbourne, Australia, during her academy breach to attempt adjoin women she still describes as her idols.
It was her aboriginal chase adjoin aristocratic athletes, and she was the youngest in the field. She able in eighth place, in 2 hours, 35 seconds. She put the apple on notice.
"I was assured bodies to be like, 'Is this little Bermuda babe declared to be here?' But instead anybody was like, 'Who's this, and area did you appear from?'" Duffy said. "It was freaky. It went amazingly well. And afresh I went aback to England to accomplishment school."
After graduation, she competed consistently on the aristocratic arena about the apple and alveolate two top-10 finishes in Apple Cup events. She was alleged Bermuda's Adolescent Amateur of the Year in 2006, aloof months afterwards her 18th birthday.
She fabricated her Olympic admission in Beijing in 2008 as one of six athletes apery Bermuda. She acquainted run bottomward and fatigued entering the chase and was lapped during the bike. Duffy recorded a attenuate DNF (did not finish). She larboard China dejected, burst and uncertain.
"It was aloof a disaster," she said, the aching still credible in her voice. "I aloof acquainted like I'd hit rock-bottom. ... Amid that 18 and 20 age, your anatomy changes a lot, you go through a lot, and for me, I was in this spotlight and had to chase at this aerial level, and I aloof didn't apperceive how to accord with that.
"I was like, 'I can't do this anymore.' I didn't appetite to chase again. Accepting lapped at the Olympics is a appealing boxy thing, and it fabricated me catechism everything."
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Duffy fabricated her Olympic admission at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing but bootless to accomplishment the course.
ALONE IN A tiny touristy abundance in the basement of a Bermuda hotel, Flora Duffy sat at the banknote register. She was 21 and a has-been. She had no pressure, no austere training dieting -- and no window. The abiding aroma of cast in the architecture was added constant than customers.
She had abdicate triathlon and best up the "Twilight" series, forth with affairs the casual change T-shirt. For months, she read, and sat, and didn't anticipate abundant about what ability accept been. But afterwards Bella became a vampire and went off to alpha her abiding activity with Edward, Duffy able that she, too, was accessible for a new beginning.
In January 2009, she enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder, a academy she best because it had a triathlon affairs that she could accompany if she wanted. Instead, she abutting a abode and accepted activity as an bearding academy student. She lived in the dorms and went to Lake Havasu in Arizona on bounce break.
She abutting the cycling aggregation to break in appearance and accomplish friends. She took the competitions seriously, but she begin the atmosphere added airy than what she was acclimated to. For the aboriginal time in a connected time, she was happy. But she begin herself cautiously missing triathlon.
After her aboriginal semester, Duffy backward in Boulder for the summer. She started pond afresh and cycling with a accumulation every week, and afresh she started alive with a coach.
"It happened organically," she said. "Classes were over, so I had added time. I admired actuality aback in a training routine, but it wasn't at the amount of my amusing life. It wasn't me activity to bed at 9 p.m. and accepting my 10 hours of beddy-bye and blah, blah, blah. I still had this added activity area I afraid out with my accompany and went to parties and austere the candles at both ends. I didn't absolutely affliction too abundant if I had bad workout. It was aloof a abundant balance."
But it wasn't for her. Not for long.
By 2010, she had larboard the abode and abutting Colorado's triathlon team. That June, afterwards two years away, she entered a Apple Cup chase in Des Moines, Iowa, and able 20th adjoin the best in the world. She was back.
Mike Stocker for ESPN
Duffy catches a ride bottomward Bermuda's attenuated streets in a Twizy. Her husband, Dan Hugo, takes the wheel.
It was during that 2010 summer training in Boulder that Duffy met her husband, Dan Hugo. The South African triathlete was aggressive on the XTERRA bout and knew appropriate abroad who Duffy was and what she had accomplished. He was impressed, if not hardly intimidated, and the two were affable for several years afore they started dating.
Hugo watched in awe as Duffy alveolate several top-10 finishes and claimed her aboriginal achievement in 2011 at the Mazatlan ITU Pan American Cup.
"It was bright appropriate abroad that she was able with this absurd agent and has an amazing assignment ethic, but what absolutely stood out was how she was able to acknowledge and acknowledge in arduous situations," he said. "She aloof is able to acceleration in those moments and break calm and focused and assassinate what she needs to do."
Hugo's words didn't arena accurate in London, area Duffy alternate for the 2012 Games. As allotment of Bermuda's eight-athlete accidental and amid the triathletes to watch, Duffy able in 45th place. She was aural arresting ambit afterwards a apathetic swim, but she comatose at the alpha of the bike leg. Her highlight? Carrying Bermuda's banderole at the closing ceremonies.
Unlike afterwards Beijing, this time Duffy was angled to improve. Aural a few years, she was advised amid the world's best. Hugo retired from antagonism in 2015 and about became operational administrator for Aggregation Flora, accomplishing aggregate abaft the scenes to ensure that Duffy could focus on training and competition. The affiliation has worked. Duffy was the 2016 and 2017 ITU Apple Triathlon Alternation champion, the 2015 and 2016 ITU Cross Triathlon Apple Best and the best of four beeline (2014-2017) XTERRA apple championships.
"I aloof kept thinking, 'Me? I'm accomplishing this?'" she said. "I had such a blithe attitude about it. I was so aflame to be antagonism like that. I had never been a admired before, and it acquainted like I was accidentally in that position, which was nice and beneath accountability than if I had consistently been in that spot."
She knew she was advised a adversary for an Olympic badge in Rio in 2016 but says she didn't anticipate too abundant about it. What she didn't apperceive until afterwards was how abounding Bermudians were watching her from home and auspicious her on. There was a examination affair at Docksiders, a accepted bar in Hamilton, and hundreds came out to watch her attempt on the baby screen.
But a badge eluded her again. She was amid the leaders during the bathe and the bike, but she fell abaft during the run. She able in eighth place, 2 minutes, 9 abnormal abaft gold advocate Gwen Jorgensen and 1 minute, 25 abnormal out of badge contention. Bermuda's 40-year Olympic aridity continued.
"I came aback afterwards the Rio Olympics, and so abounding bodies told me, they were like, 'Flora, there wasn't a car on the alley aback you raced. Anybody was sitting in advanced of their TVs watching you.'"
CLARENCE HILL WAS 25 years old aback he won a brownish badge for Bermuda in boxing's ample analysis at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
In the Olympics in which Sugar Ray Leonard addled gold for the United States and in the year aback "Rocky" disqualified the box office, Acropolis became the aboriginal amateur apery Bermuda to win a medal.
Hill, who is black, alternate to an island in the bosom of ancestral affray that had been centuries in the making.
"I acquainted on top of the world," Acropolis told the Royal Gazette, the island's alone circadian newspaper, in 2016. "But afresh I came home, and the advertising and the aerial alone because I wasn't represented in my own country. To this day, I don't feel represented in my own country, and I still don't get the acclaim I deserve."
Bermuda is a baby abode with big ambition. Its accustomed adorableness and banking abundance sometimes affectation the anamorphosis of ancestral astriction and inequality. Sitting 22 afar connected and about a mile beyond in the average of the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda is afterpiece to Arctic Carolina than the islands of the Caribbean. It is 665 afar from the next-closest allotment of land.
Spanish charlatan Juan de Bermudez apparent the island in 1505 on his way aback from Hispaniola, and it was acclimated by sailors as a endlessly point during their campaign to the new world. In 1609, a British baiter alleged the Sea Venture, destined for Jamestown, Virginia, ashore abreast the island, and the aboriginal adjustment was formed. The British claimed the island as their own, and it has remained allotment of the British Empire since, admitting casual talks of independence.
Much like in Virginia, disciplinarian from Africa helped advance the new territory. The United Kingdom abolished bullwork in 1833; Bermuda freed its disciplinarian in 1834, but analytical asperity persisted. Bermuda was desegregated in 1959, but ancestral affray remained. In 1973, the (white) governor, Sir Richard Sharples, appointed to represent the British absolution on the island, was assassinated by a man who was a affiliate of a abolitionist atramentous ability group. That man was bedevilled to afterlife in April 1976, months afore Hill's celebration in Montreal.
The governor's assailant, forth with addition atramentous man begin accusable of added killings, was afraid in 1977 in the aftermost beheading in any British territory. It resulted in agitated protests and boundless unrest. Although chase relations accept bigger in the four decades since, the island (in which 54% of the citizenry articular as atramentous and 31% as white in the 2010 census) still has problems.
Blaire Simmons/The Royal Gazette
Bermuda has beatific athletes to every Olympics aback 1936, but alone Clarence Acropolis has won a medal.
It was a ambiguous abode for Acropolis to acknowledgment to, although he has about absolved the role of chase in attention to his reception. He has struggled with a biologic addiction and homelessness over the years and spent time in bastille for robbery. There accept been conversations by those in the association about anniversary him in a academic way, but annihilation has appear to fruition.
"Bermuda has ashore me in a bend and put a absolute over me," Acropolis said recently. "They don't appetite bodies to see who's there. I should be shining. Afterwards all, I did article appropriate for my country."
Plans were apparent in 2017 to name a battle gym in Hill's honor, but it has yet to open.
In contrast, pictures of Duffy, a white Bermudian built-in to British parents who participates in a action that is overwhelmingly white, band the walls of storefronts, the abandon of barrio and alike the desks at community in the island's airport. Aback Duffy is aback home, Bermudians of all demographics access her with accessible arms. She seems to transcend all boundaries. Duffy has never met Hill; she had never alike heard of him aback she was a kid.
"It seems like because a few of his activity choices, he never got the acceptance and being he should have," she said. "There are no statues of him or annihilation like that anywhere, and it's never been, 'Whoa, there's our one Olympic medalist!' Especially aback you see how anybody is with me now, it's aloof aberrant and actual different."
When asked if Hill's cachet adds accountability to her adventure to win an Olympic medal, Duffy didn't hesitate.
"Yes. It feels like anybody wants to accept addition we're absolutely appreciative of."
IT WAS THE day afterwards the race, the chase she couldn't attempt in, and Duffy capital to appearance her bedmate Admiralty House, a baby esplanade on the island's arctic bank with amazing azure water, a baby basin bank adequate from waves, underground tunnels, limestone cliffs -- absolute for jumping -- and a cavern with the best Instagram-worthy view.
Hugo and Duffy accept been calm for six years and affiliated aback 2017, but Hugo estimates that he has spent beneath than 30 nights on the island. Duffy can't alternation actuality because it lacks aristocratic facilities, so they breach their time amid Boulder and his hometown of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
"I was built-in in South Africa during ageism and saw it end as a child," Hugo said. "As a result, I will never not see color. It is the ambiance in which I was raised. I apperceive Bermuda has had its issues with this as well, so it's amazing to see Flora be a being that unites everyone."
A adolescent atramentous babe rushed out of the baptize and up the dock, action architecture with every step. She capital to booty a photo with Duffy. Abutting came a white brace from California whose son had afresh confused to the island. He had told them all about Bermuda's acclaimed Olympian. (Now, they didn't apperceive what action she competes in, but they accustomed the name). A boat, complete with a acknowledgment abounding with rosé and rum, pulled up with a affable family. It angry out Duffy knows the captain's son.
Many celebrities accept that affection that makes admirers feel as if they apperceive them, but with Duffy in Bermuda, they usually accept some connection. And if Duffy doesn't absolutely bethink active cross-country with someone's granddaughter in 1999 or activity to primary academy with someone's brother, she hides it well. She handles every appointment like she's seeing an old acquaintance ("I aloof say, 'Oh, of course!' aback they say who they are."). Sometimes aback she notices addition staring at her, she preempts any averseness they ability accept with a greeting and a smile.
After Duffy won the Bermuda chase in 2018, airport officials, fearing she would account a stir, hid her in a allowance aloof for baronial political abstracts while she waited for her flight to Colorado. It was a abatement for her to acreage for her affiliation in Philadelphia and alloy in as she fabricated her way through the terminal.
As Duffy and Hugo headed over to jump off the cliffs, the ancestors on the baiter offered to booty a columnist out on the baptize for a bigger appearance for pictures. "Anything for Flora," they insisted afore advertisement all of her accomplishments and alms candy and beverages.
On top of the cliff, Duffy stood on the bend and looked down. She angled her knees as if to jump, but it was about like she bare to argue herself first. It was an accessible sign, one of the boaters acicular out, that she doesn't absorb as abundant time on the island as she already did. Afterwards a few moments, she took the 30-some-foot attempt into the water. A few added triathletes, who additionally happened to be at the park, watched as she jumped. They all followed.
Mike Stocker for ESPN
Duffy drew a army of admirers as she jumped off the bluff at Admiralty House.
Duffy climbed up the rocks and jumped again. They all did. Anybody abroad watched in awe. "That's Flora," addition adolescent babe said breathlessly.
It's these interactions and these moments that admonish Duffy of aloof how abundant she agency to the island and how abundant it agency to her. While her own ambitions are abundant to ammunition her to Tokyo, she knows it's about added than herself aback she competes with "BER" beyond her chest. A badge would accomplish every sacrifice, every absent anniversary and ancestors wedding, worthwhile.
"It's affectionate of awe-inspiring aback you get to a akin area it's absolutely possible," Duffy said. "I don't apperceive what it would be like if I absolutely won one. Anybody seems to feel like they accept a affiliation to me and helped aftermath this. And it's accurate in a way -- they have."