Flora Duffy claimed a first ever Olympic Games gold medal for Bermuda with a brilliant display to win the women’s triathlon at Tokyo 2020.
The 33-year-old, world champion 2016 and 2017, was virtually faultless as she negotiated treacherous conditions in the swim and on the bike before making a decisive move to clinch victory on the run.
Great Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown saw her hopes of gold ruined by a flat rear tyre late in the bike leg, but fought back brilliantly to pip American Katie Zaferes to silver. The American claimed the bronze.
Swim – Learmonth on fire
The conditions in Tokyo were vastly different from Monday’s men’s race – then it was brutal heat and humidity, now it was torrential rain which caused a 15-minute delay to the scheduled start.
Britain’s Jess Learmonth went out hard on the swim and led the field out of the water at the end of the first lap, just ahead of Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes. Americans Zaferes and Summer Rappaport were also in close attendance with Duffy and Learmonth’s Britain team-mate Taylor-Brown.
A lead group of seven exited for T1 with Learmonth (18:24) still in front and Zaferes, Rappaport, Duffy and Taylor-Brown all in very close attendance. The third British athlete Vicky Holland meanwhile was in the second group, just under 50 seconds off the pace.
The field was already well strung out as they headed for their bikes, such was the pace that Learmonth had injected.
Bike – small but select
Learmonth led that select lead pack through the early stages of the bike leg, but by the end of the first lap she’d been joined at the front by Taylor-Brown and Duffy. Rappaport meanwhile was clinging desperately onto the back of the group. The chasing pack were more than a minute off the pace, with 2012 Olympic champion Nicola Spirig leading them in typical style.
The second lap saw the status quo maintained, with Duffy leading the lead group through along with Zaferes, Taylor-Brown and Learmonth. Rappaport was still struggling to maintain her position at the back of that group. The gap to the chasing pack led by Spirig was still more than a minute.
Seven became six in the lead group by the end of Lap 3 as Rappaport fell away to cross the line 37 seconds off the pace. Up front it was still the big guns Taylor-Brown, Learmonth, Duffy and Zaferes leading the way. They were in company with Germany’s Laura Lindemann and the Brazilian Lopes.
The group lead by Spirig was not cutting into that huge gap at all – if anything it was growing slightly lap by lap. Britain’s Holland meanwhile was struggling and almost two minutes off the lead, revealing post-race that a bike crash saw her fall back down a pack.
At half distance on the bike that lead group of six was still very much intact and apparently set to fight it out even at this early stage for the medals. The chasing pack – still with Spirig at the head of it – was 69 seconds adrift.
Lap 5 saw very little change, with the lead group of six going through 75 seconds clear of Spirig and the rest. Lopes was next to fall off the front pack on the next lap, leaving a group of five at the head of affairs.
There was agony deep into the last of the eight bike laps as Taylor-Brown suffered a flat rear tyre and fell away from the lead group. A devastating development which saw her 22 seconds off the pace heading into T2. Spirig and co. meanwhile were still just over a minute behind the lead.
Run – decisive from Duffy
Zaferes, Lindemann, Duffy and Learmonth set off on the 10k run knowing they were in prime position to fight it out for the medals, while Taylor-Brown tried desperately to get back on terms.
Duffy made the first decisive move on the opening lap of four on the run, surging clear of Zaferes. Taylor-Brown meanwhile was making progress as she picked off team-mate Learmonth and Lindemann to move back into a medal position. At the end of that first lap Flora was 17 seconds clear of Zaferes with Taylor-Brown a further nine seconds away.
Flora, looking imperious out in front, pulled further clear on the second lap and at halfway on the run her advantage was now 47 seconds over Zaferes. Taylor-Brown meanwhile was just five seconds down on the American in the battle for silver.
The dominant Duffy increased her lead to 67 seconds on the third of the four run laps, while Taylor-Brown passed Zaferes to move into second just as the pair reached the bell.
Flora was still full of running as she powered through the final lap to come home to a famous victory in a winning time of 1:55:36. She was 74 seconds clear of silver medallist Taylor-Brown, while Zaferes was a further 13 seconds away in the bronze medal position.
Women’s Olympic triathlon results
Tokyo – Tuesday July 27, 2021
- Flora Duffy (BER) – 1:55:36
- Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) – 1:56:50
- Katie Zaferes (USA) – 1:57:03
- Rachel Klamer (NED) – 1:57:48
- Leonie Periault (FRA) – 1:57:49
- Nicola Spirig (SUI) – 1:58:05
- Alice Betto (ITA) – 1:58:22
- Laura Lindemann (GER) – 1:58:24
- Jess Learmonth (GBR) – 1:58:28
- Valerie Barthelemy (BEL) – 1:58:49
13th Vicky Holland (GBR) – 2:00:10