The island was asked yesterday to turn out and create a fun-filled atmosphere at the MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda, even though Bermudian star Flora Duffy will not compete in the elite women’s race.
But fans will still get the chance to see Duffy perform in next week’s event when she takes part in the bike leg of the age-group relay, despite an injury that has ruled her out of competitive running. The Commonwealth and two-times former world champion has struggled with a tear in the tendon on the bridge of her left foot in recent times.
Duffy said: “I’m beyond disappointed to be missing out on WTS Bermuda, where my community have rallied around the event.”
The Bermuda organising committee added later that she planned to form a relay team to compete in the amateur age-group race, which will be held on April 27.
Steven Petty, the Bermuda Triathlon Association president, said that, without Duffy, the elite women’s event was “anyone’s race”.
He added: “We’re confident that Bermuda’s uplifting cheers will carry our visiting athletes to the podium, just as we did for Flora last year.”
Pat Phillip-Fairn, the World Triathlon Bermuda committee chairwoman, said: “Fans will still be able to cheer for Flora Duffy as she flies through the streets of Hamilton and up Corkscrew Hill on her new bike.
“It’s going to be a great show with an amazing atmosphere and we all love that feeling of the community once again coming together to do what we do best — that collective Bermudian spirit of celebration and support.”
She said Duffy would visit the Tri-Club Viewing Deck hospitality venue and be a guest commentator during the elite races.
Ms Phillip-Fairn added: “No one knows her competitors like Flora does and she’ll provide insights about their style and strengths.”
Kevin Dallas, the chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said the organisation was “thrilled” that fans could still watch Duffy in action.
He added: “This means we all get to express our love for Flora, like we’ve been waiting to do since last year’s dominant performance.
“I’m confident Bermuda will show up in large numbers, air horns ready.”
Mr Dallas added: “Last year visiting competitors in the age-group categories glowed, almost uniformly, about how inspired they were by the number of spectators lining the course to cheer.
“They told us it’s Bermuda’s fans who made the experience a memorable one for them because they don’t find the same level of support for amateurs when competing in other places.
“Our community is what makes Bermuda’s World Triathlon one of the best travel-for triathlons on the planet.”
Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, added: “Bermuda is still going to be able to see her out there and they’re seeing some of the world’s finest athletes performing in the streets of Hamilton — what better experience to have?
“You have three great sports to be able to watch, whether you’re interested in the swimming, the speed of the bikes or the running part, each has its own technique and its own fascination.
“The more people we can get out, there the greater it’s going to be and hopefully Bermudians as a whole will come on out.”
Mr Gosling added: “Bermudians are great at being audience participants and there’s always somebody with a great sense of humour making the odd comment.”
Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport, said Duffy’s decision to cycle in the relay event was “a demonstration of her true competitive spirit”.
She added: “I think, as a community, it’s important that we recognise the significance of the World Triathlon Bermuda.
“Despite its small size, Bermuda will be seen as a country that can host top-tier sporting events with confidence.
“This event will showcase the beauty and appeal of our island to thousands around the world, feature the hospitality of our people and highlight all that we have to offer as a premier leisure and business destination.
Ms Foggo said: “A significant amount of hard work and planning has gone into organising this event by some incredibly talented Bermudians and they deserve our support.
“This is an opportunity to not only cheer on the athletes, but it’s an opportunity for us to celebrate our island and the great things that can be accomplished when we work together to achieve success. “I will be in attendance at the World Triathlon Bermuda supporting the competitors and I look forward to seeing members of our community lining the race route showcasing their pride.”
The festival weekend will start on April 25 with a pasta party and Harbour Nights celebration.
A children’s duathlon will start at 6.30pm the next day before a full schedule of races on April 27.