Gold stars receive heroes’ welcome

  • Rapturous reception: Flora Duffy parades through Hamilton. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Sporting great: Clarance “Nicky” Saunders was greeted by huge crowds. (Photographs by Akil Simmons)

Flora Duffy and Clarance “Nicky” Saunders got a heroes’ welcome from thousands of supporters yesterday.

Crowds came out in force for a motorcade through Hamilton to mark their gold medals at the Commonwealth Games — 28 years apart.

Duffy, who won gold on the Gold Coast in Australia last month, was joined in the procession by high jumper Saunders, who at the 1990 games in Auckland became Bermuda’s first Commonwealth champion.

Cheers, car horns and Bermuda flags made for a celebratory mood as the motorcade set off from the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club to the grounds of the Cabinet Office yesterday morning.

Workers came out of their offices to cheer the pair as the procession went past.

David Burt, the Premier, presented Duffy and Saunders with certificates of achievement for their successes.

Both athletes were also presented with $10,000 incentive awards to mark their victories.

Duffy, still basking in the glory of her sensational win on Saturday in the World Triathlon Series, said she was amazed by the outpouring of affection.

She said: “I never thought I would be driving around town in a fancy car with people cheering at me and wanting to wave at me.

“It’s a very special moment, and I’m happy to be able to share it with Nicky.

“He set the tone. He won the medal 28 years ago.

“Seeing all the children out there, how inspired they seemed watching the race yesterday, I’m hoping it gives them the platform to follow their dreams.” Saunders said it was a great occasion, not only for himself, but for all of Bermuda.

He said: “I always think that this record is not just mine. It belongs to all of us.”

Louise Shue wanted to come out in support of Duffy after she swept the board in Saturday’s race.

She said: “There’s been this energy around. It’s not often that someone is able to come from a small island like Bermuda and make a name for themselves on the world stage.

“For her to then come home and put on the performance that she did, it’s impressive.”

Mr Burt told Duffy: “You made us so proud and there are so many people who were just so happy on Saturday and will continue to follow your exploits.

“Your work is not yet done. You have much more to do. Your career is still going and we look forward to hopefully having you repeat as ITU champion this year.

“You are a champion in all of our eyes, the young and the old.”

Mr Burt added that Saunders had never been honoured with an official reception at the Cabinet Office in the wake of his gold medal win.

He said: “So 28 years later we are going to correct that historic wrong and recognise Bermuda’s first Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Clarance ‘Nicky’ Saunders, whose record still stands.”

The motorcade began at the Hamilton Princess, travelled along Pitts Bay Road, up Queen Street, along Church Street and turned right at Court Street to finish at the Cabinet Office.

The two athletes went on to Warwick Academy, where both were educated.

Pupils and staff lined the streets outside the school to greet Duffy and Saunders and waved pink “We are with Flora” flags.

Nila Samuels, a primary pupil, said: “She shows us that we need to put in the hard work.

“If I could say anything to her it would be she has done a good job and I would give her a lot of money.”