As in so many Olympics, in Rio there were many stories of “what might have been”. Favorites who could not produce the performance on the day that mattered ; a Taekwondo athlete having gold taken from his grasp in the last second, a 4 x 100 team thinking they had won medals and then being disqualified, a 4th place finisher missing out on a medal by thousandths of a second.
But, for many of us, the lasting memory of these Olympics will be how gutted we were that Flora Duffy, despite her best efforts, just did not have the day that she needed on the day that mattered. Flora knew and we knew that Flora had it in her to contend for a medal but it just wasn’t there . Everyone was and is so proud of her but in equal measure we shared her disappointment of what “might have been”.
It all looked promising when the likes of Spirig and Norden, two excellent cyclists, emerged with the lead group of swimmers and a break seemed very possible. Even as Flora entered transition 2 her chances of medalling were still very much alive. In Stockholm just a few weeks earlier, Flora ran over 40 seconds faster than eventual bronze medal winner Vicky Holland and that despite having worked on the bike on her own for 40km before the run which would have taken alot out of her legs. But, when it isn’t in the legs there isn’t anything you can do about it other than to battle through and to her great credit that is exactly what Flora did. 2nd to 4th ran just under 35 minutes in Rio on a flat course, Flora after her astonishing effort on the bike and including slowing down to acknowledge the crowd at the finish, ran 34:28 in Stockholm. Had Flora run hard to the line her time would have been closer to 34:15. In Rio Flora ran 36:15 even though she was able to ride in the pack for large parts of the race. If she had been able to produce that run in Rio, or even a run within a minute of that run, then on the flat Rio course in reasonable temperatures, the silver medal would have been within her grasp.
I point out all of the above not to rub salt into the wounds but because there will no doubt be those who are unfamiliar with triathlon who may not appreciate just how good Flora is. Every race Flora enters she is a medal contender and that will not change in the next ITU World Series race in Edmonton or at the World Championships in Mexico.
There are also many athletes who can’t handle the pressure of the big occasion and can’t perform because of the pressure and expectations placed on them. Trust me, Flora is not one of them. From her first triathlon training session as a young junior Flora exhibited an amazing pain threshold and a determination to be first across the line that are two of the hallmarks of a true champion that you can try and promote in athletes but which in reality they either have or don’t have.
So what is the silver lining in all of this. Tokyo may be four years away but when Flora steps onto that starting line it will be in the knowledge that she can and I believe will be Bermuda’s next Olympic medalist.
So, book your seat now for Docksiders and put your “Go Flora Go ” TShirt safely in a drawer because you are going to need it.
Get training Flora !!