After a stunning 2016 that saw Flora Duffy notch-up three World Championship titles, Bermuda's superstar triathlete will start her 2017 season in Abu Dhabi on 3 and 4 March, in one of the most hotly anticipated triathlons of recent years.
Duffy will return to the UAE capital this year, joining two of the world's top five male triathletes, Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman, and compatriot, two-time Olympian Richard Murray, on the all-new course on Yas Island where close to 3,500 participants are expected to take to the start line.
“Once again the world's top triathletes are putting Abu Dhabi on their 'must-race' list," said Nouf Ali, Events Section Head of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, host of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi. "With reigning World Champion Flora Duffy on-board, the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi is shaping-up to bring a sensational race to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements!"
The 29-year-old, crowned ITU World Champion, XTERRA World Champion, and ITU Cross Triathlon World Champion in 2016, has been a consistent force on the women’s circuit since she started racing as a junior in 2005. Having won the ITU Series title for the first time last year, Duffy has put herself in pole position for the Abu Dhabi race this March: "The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi was my first ever World Triathlon Series podium position back in 2015, so the race holds a special place for me.”
“I just couldn’t miss the chance to race the new 2017 course on Yas Island – it’s so unique, and the bike course has so many corners - I really feel like it will play to my strengths. I never play it safe when I’m racing and with such a technical bike course, I’m ready to take it to the rest of the field in March! Of course, I’d love to kick off my 2017 season with a win!” added Duffy, who is famous for her skills on two wheels.
Duffy who spent the off-season in Boulder, Colorado, continuing her preparations for 2017, added, “I’ve spent my off-season training in the snow in Colorado – so it’ll be a nice change to spend some time in Abu Dhabi’s sunshine.”
Born and raised in Bermuda, Duffy was into running from a very young age, starting in primary school. "My brothers were in the swim club so I got chucked in there as well," said the ITU Champion, who competed in her first triathlon at the age of seven. "I said to myself I can ride a bike and I can definitely swim and run, so let's give it a try." She went on to experience her first triathlon – an Ironman in Bermuda for children - and she was "hooked".
"I immediately joined the local triathlon club and started doing races almost every week. I remember my parents would drive me to training and come down to every single race, which was amazing," said the Bermudian who comes from a sport-loving family. Her mother, with whom she works out, and father, who is a good runner, also started competing in triathlons when Duffy started-out in the sport. Furthermore, her brothers participate in sailing, running, swimming and soccer.
The Bermuda native first came to public attention with an eighth place finish at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia, and followed that up with a series of top 10 finishes on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit, helping her to qualify for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. Duffy went on to participate in the London 2012 Summer Olympics.
"At the start of 2016 my objective was to finish in the top 10 in Rio," said Duffy. "The course was incredible and it was a once in a lifetime experience to compete on Copacabana beach. I had a great race so I am happy with how it all turned out."
Duffy went on to beat Olympic gold medallist and defending World Champion, Gwen Jorgensen, into second place at the Series final in Mexico. "It was like I had the race I wanted to have in Rio, in Mexico. It was fabulous", said Duffy, who has made a name for herself as one of the strongest cyclists in the field, a discipline in which she excelled to earn the world title.
“Anything is possible. I hope this inspires people that no matter where you’re from, you can be up there with the best.”
This year the ITU World Triathlon Series Abu Dhabi will become a two-day event for the first time. 3,500 triathletes, including 120 of the world’s best elites, are expected to take to the streets, race track and waterways of the capital's iconic Yas Island on 3 and 4 March to swim, bike and run around the region's emerging world-class triathlon hub. The event also hosts an amateur race with a variety of course options to suit a range of abilities: Sprint (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run), Olympic (1500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) and Maxi (1500m swim, 80km cycle, 20km run). All options can also be completed as a team relay allowing each participant to complete the discipline they are most comfortable with.
The event also sees the return of the Junior Triathlon - a fun event aimed at encouraging youngsters to get active. There are four entry categories for the 2017 edition, open to children aged 5 to 15 years: ‘Mini 1km’ – a 1km run for 5 – 8 year olds; ‘Kids Duathlon’ – a 3km cycle and a 500m run for 7 – 9 year olds and 10 – 11 year olds; ‘Junior Duathlon’ – a 6km cycle and 1 km run for 12 – 13 year olds, and a 6km cycle and a 1.5 km run for 14 – 15 year olds; ‘Junior Triathlon Super Sprint’ which consists of a 400m swim, 10km cycle and a 2.5km run for 12 – 13 years and 14 – 15 years.
Online registrations for the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi are now open to the public via the race website, AbuDhabi.Triathlon.org. Starting from just AED 450 for adults and AED 60 for children, race spots are quickly filling-up and organisers are urging those interested to sign-up soon before it reaches capacity.