Triathlete Flora Duffy fulfilled not just her own dream but that of a whole nation by winning Bermuda's first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo on Tuesday morning.
The 33-year-old produced a performance of a true champion at Odaiba Marine Park, dominating the 10 kilometres run and crossing the line more than a minute ahead of Britain's Georgia Taylor-Brown in second.
Bermuda was already the least populated country to win a summer Olympic medal thanks to a bronze for boxer Clarence Hill in 1976 but now the island territory has its first champion.
"It's been a heck of a lot of pressure for five years," said Duffy, who became Bermuda's first female Commonwealth Games champion in 2018.
"I would never recommend being an Olympic favourite for five years. Of course it's made it all worth it now.
"I think the whole of Bermuda is going crazy. That's what makes it so special to me is that, yes, this was my dream, but I also knew it was bigger than me. I'm just proud I could be Bermuda's first gold medallist, first female medallist, and hopefully inspire everyone back home that this is possible."
It was 6:45 on a miserable morning in Odaiba Bay when Duffy along with 53 women were set at the startline. The heavy rains from Tropical Storm Nepartak that lashed down in Tokyo in the hours leading up to the race, and which left a hanging drizzle did nothing to dampen the spirits, nor distract from what would be the biggest race of their lives.
As the race got underway in the water, Duffy stayed with the leading pack, trailing Britain’s Jessica Learmouth by 10 seconds after the first lap. The leading group broke away in the second lap, Duffy posting the fastest split in the last 550m.
On the bikes, the rain finally began to let up, and Duffy accelerated along with the leading group, with the belief that her moment was yet to come. She posted an incredible 1 hour, 2 minutes and 49 seconds for the 40k bike ride before transitioning into the run.
Once the bikes were racked, viewers witnessed nothing short of a masterclass from the Bermudan. She broke away from the pack, and carved out a lead within the first kilometer and never slowed, nor looked back. Halfway through the 10k Duffy was truly out of sight.
As Duffy pushed towards the finish, she showed her first signs of emotion, gripping her fists and pumping her arms over her head in the final 50m. As she crossed the finish line she clutched the finishing banner and raised it high, before collapsing to the floor with her hands covering her face.
“I tried to just keep my composure and not allow my mind to drift to the fact that this was really happening until about the last kilometer of the run,” Duffy said. “I saw my husband — he’s my coach — on the side of the road and just gave him a little smile. From there I just sort of allowed all the emotions to come.”
The Bermudan had made history. Until Tuesday, the Atlantic island’s (population of 65,000) highest honour at the games was a bronze medal in boxing won 45 years ago.
Flora Duffy changed that in just under two hours, swimming, cycling and running through the wind and rain around Tokyo Bay to win the Olympic women’s triathlon for Bermuda’s first gold medal.
“I think [the medal] is bigger than me. It’s going to inspire the youth of Bermuda and everyone back home that competing on the world stage from a small island is really possible,” said Duffy.