Duffy, Schoeman win Commonwealth Games triathlons
GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Flora Duffy left no doubt about her status as a two-time world champion and the No. 1-ranked woman in triathlon.
Duffy, who started competing in triathlons when she was seven years old, won the sprint race Thursday by 43 seconds to take the first gold medal at the 21st Commonwealth Games.
In the final 20 or 30 meters, when her victory was guaranteed, Duffy grabbed a Bermuda flag from a spectator and draped it over her body as she crossed the finish line.
“I felt very good today, very consistent in every part of the race,” Duffy said. “And pretty cool that I won the first gold medal of these games.”
In the later men’s race, South Africa’s Henri Schoeman broke away early in the 5-kilometer run leg to finish in 52 minutes, 31 seconds to beat Jacob Birtwhistle of Australia by seven seconds. Marc Austin of Scotland took the bronze.
“My legs were exhausted at the start but I gave it a surge and kept up the momentum. I just had to stay cool and save energy,” Schoeman said. “I just kept thinking: ‘Don’t give up, anything can happen.’”
England’s Brownlee brothers finished off the pace, despite Alistair and Jonathan leading after the swim and cycle legs. Jonathan, who won silver in the Olympic-distance event at Glasgow in 2014, finished seventh while Alistair, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and defending champion, couldn’t keep pace after hip surgery last August and finished 10th.
“It was pretty terrible today,” Jonathan Brownlee said. “From start to finish I didn’t feel great.”
Over the last 100 meters of his race, Schoeman held up his index finger to signal No. 1, then high-fived a South Africa teammate who was straggling behind on the loop course.
The women got luckier with the weather — sunny skies and moderate temperatures. Heavy rain hit the men’s race just before it started, making the roads slick for the cycling and running legs.
Duffy, 30, came out the opening 750-meter swim leg just behind Jessica Learmonth, both around 9 minutes, 35 seconds. But Duffy quickly caught the English racer and the pair staged their own duel for much of the 20-kilometer bike leg — four laps around the Broadwater Parklands — trading places numerous times.
Cycling is Duffy’s strongest leg — so strong that she is entered in the mountain bike competition on April 12.
Duffy and Learmonth finished the cycle leg together in 39.23. Duffy took a five-second lead over Learmonth early in the 5-kilometer run and then powered away to lead by 18 seconds after the first lap.
Duffy finished the race in 56:50, with Learmonth well behind to take silver. Canadian Joanna Brown earned bronze, finishing five seconds behind Learmonth after a tight tussle over the closing meters with England’s Vicky Holland.
Brown fractured her shoulder at an ITU World Triathlon event in Abu Dhabi in March, so her bronze was a big surprise.
“There are no words to describe this feeling right now,” Brown said. “I have had the most incredible team of doctors and physiotherapists and coaches who have helped me a lot.”
“I haven’t done much road training so that also made me nervous. I have been doing a lot of running training so I knew that was going to be my strongest leg, so I just ramped it up there.”
Holland said she “lost” her legs at the end of the run leg and thought Brown “deserved the bronze.”
The sprint race replaced the Olympic distance that was held at previous Commonwealth Games, and is considered to be the future of the sport. It’s half of the distance of each of the Olympic disciplines.
But the shorter race doesn’t mean it’s an easier race — Duffy says its more taxing on all the athletes.
“It’s full on, pedal to the metal all the time,” she said.” It’s very tough.”
Equally as tough was coming to the Gold Coast with most expecting her to win.
“I came in the favorite, so that adds its own pressure,” Duffy said. “It is the space in which I am.”