John Levison5 Apr 2018

Flawless Flora dominates for Commonwealth Games Gold

An stunning demonstration of all round triathlon power takes Flora Duffy to Commonwealth Games Gold. Silver for Jessica Learmonth...
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Duffy shows exactly why she was the pre-race favourite

Jess Learmonth swim-bikes her way to the Silver

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Simply unbeatable. That was reigning ITU World Champion, Flora Duffy, today as she won only the second Commonwealth Games Gold medal in the sporting history of her nation. No wonder that an athlete of her status in Bermuda has been a catalyst to bring a World Triathlon Series event to the island later this month. She will surely win that too, based on her current form and fitness. Add in home advantage and massive support too, she will be even harder to beat.

Like many times over the past two years, exactly how the race would go was no surprise – but once again, knowing someones tactics is only of use if you can do something about it. Flora Duffy and Jess Learmonth simply smashed their way to Gold and Silver and the rest of the field were powerless to do anything against their efforts.

While the Commonwealth Games has world-level quality at the top end, a smaller field of 24 athletes and less depth gives far more opportunity for any gaps formed to be more crucial. Everyone knew Jessica Learmonth was going to go full throttle from the first stroke, and she split the field apart very early at Southport Broadwater Parklands.

Learmonth returned to dry land first of course, Duffy was around three seconds back and Team England’s Sophie Coldwell was the only one that could stay with them in the water. Seconds matter however and just five seconds behind Duffy mounting her bike would be too much to close against the best cyclist in the sport. She would be on a one-way trip back to the chase group soon, who themselves had given up 40 seconds to the swimming machine that is Learmonth. An impressive swim too from Scotland’s Beth Potter, who came out of the swim alongside Non Stanford and Vicky Holland. That is a great sign for her future prospects.

Tem minutes into the race and it was looking like it could be game over. Every minute that passed, ‘could’ became ‘was’. Jess is the best swimmer in the sport, but Flora can stay with her in the water. That is pretty much the case in reverse on the bike – Learmonth is almost as good on two wheels as she is in he water. Combine that in a 2-up time-trial mode with the absolute best cyclist in women’s ITU racing and you have an alliance that works for both.

By the end of the bike, Duffy and Learmonth were almost 75 seconds clear. Jess was first out on to the run, but the inevitable happened soon after and World Champion Duffy moved past and was pulling away. The Gold medal was literally going up the road, but were their swim-bike efforts enough to have secured Silver for the Team England athlete?

Behind, the chasers quickly whittle down to four – Vicky Holland, Joanna Brown (CAN), Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) and Sophie Coldwell. Four became two – and surprisingly, it wasn’t Holland and Gentle, but Holland and Brown that would be battling for Bronze.

There was never any question of Duffy being run down (she had the third fastest run split, 16:56), but Holland and Brown were closing in on Learmonth as their own head-to-head battle kept their pace high. As Learmonth turned into the finish straight, she could see that race taking place barely ten seconds behind her, but she would be safe and take a well deserved Silver. Having won Bronze at Glasgow 2014 and Rio 2016, Holland was just pushed out of the medals this time as Joanna Brown (via a 16:31 run split), added a Canadian flag to the podium.

The day though belonged to Flora Duffy – a flawless masterclass in both triathlon execution and dealing with pre-race expectations. Even a huge, by Elite standards, winning margin of 43 seconds doesn’t reflect just how dominant and impressive she was. Chapeau.

Commonwealth Games Triathlon, Gold Coast, Australia – Thursday 5th April 2018
750m / 20km / 5km – ELITE WOMEN

1st – Flora Duffy (BER) – 56:50
2nd – Jessica Learmonth (ENG) – 57:33
3rd – Joanna Brown (CAN) – 57:38
4th – Vicky Holland (ENG) – 57:42
5th – Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) – 58:08
6th – Sophie Coldwell (ENG)- 58:19
7th – Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL) – 58:31
8th – Non Stanford (WAL) – 58:45
9th – Gillian Backhouse (AUS) – 58:54
10th – Rebecca Spence (NZL) – 59:12

12th – Beth Potter (SCO) – 59:50
19th – Jennifer Newbery (IOM) – 1:07:18