Flora Duffy became the only woman ever to win four World Triathlon titles on Friday afternoon in Abu Dhabi, with yet another display to utterly underline her position as the greatest woman that the sport has ever seen.
Bermuda’s Olympic hero was again able to produce the goods when it mattered most, navigating plenty of drama on the 40km bike and then easing away from the only woman who could stop her date with destiny, Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown. Gold secured Duffy the title, the race and Series silver went to Taylor-Brown, with an excellent first podium for Lena Meissner in third. The finals meant another eventful fourth place finish for Taylor Knibb after coming off on the bike secured her the Series bronze.
“I’m really, really proud of this one,” said a beaming Duffy afterwards. “It was a difficult start to the year for me coming out of the Olympics and Covid. It took a lot of work to get my mind back into it, so I’m thrilled. I smiled a few times when it was just me and Georgia… I feel like she brings me to another level. We don’t really give each other an inch and I just wanted to stay safe. When I got a little bit of a gap on the third lap of the run it was a little sooner than I anticipated but I thought; ‘well, gotta go now!’
KNIBB AND DUFFY SPEARHEAD SWIM
The yellow hats of the top-ranked athletes filed in and on to the right of the pontoon on the edge of stunning Yas Bay. Flora Duffy and Georgia Taylor-Brown didn’t get the best of starts in the water, but were soon digging in to hit the first buoy without any trouble with Taylor Knibb on the front.
It was the American out first at the turn with Duffy on her feet from Beth Potter, Vittoria Lopes and Taylor-Brown out in fifth, and that was largely how it stayed for the second 750m lap, with Summer Rappaport working her way to the front as the six came up and into transition.
German duo Laura Lindemann and Lisa Tertsch and Netherlands’ Maya Kingma were right there too, but Duffy was slick through transition and away on the 40km first, followed by Taylor-Brown and Potter in hot pursuit and Knibb losing some ground on the six chasing the Bermudian.
9-DEEP BIKE PACK LEADS
It wouldn’t take long for Knibb to catch on as well as Germany’s Lena Meissner. Behind the front nine; Taylor Spivey and Kirsten Kasper were riding together 23 seconds back, with Cassandre Beaugrand fronting another 11 athletes giving chase, but now 54 seconds off the leaders after three laps of nine.
Up front, Knibb was prodding and probing, looking to work an opening from wide positions so the Series leaders and championship chasers had to keep fully alert for any sign of an American charge as well as for the tight and technical corners.
Duffy then started to test those around her, and the leaders were stretching out and then coming together repeatedly, but Lindemann fell off the pace to join those behind, including Tertsch, after the German came off but 90 seconds back after five laps.
Duffy, Knibb and Taylor-Brown continued to share duties out front, but Potter had issues on lap six and was next to fall off the leaders and started to ride alone, 20 seconds back.
KNIBB FALL HALTS PROGRESS
More drama at the end of lap seven saw Knibb’s wheel slide out taking Kingma with her, but Lopes and Meissner were just able to avoid trouble and stayed with Duffy and Taylor-Brown up ahead. Knibb wrestled with her chain for what felt like an eternity but still managed to ride back up to Kingma at the bell, but there were now suddenly just four main contenders for the medals.
With the bikes racked, it was no surprise to see the two title-chasers heading out together once more and the best in the world ran together for two laps, the title and an epic season coming right down to a 5km foot race to the line.
DUFFY BOOKS DATE WITH TRIATHLON DESTINY
It was coming out onto lap three that Duffy asked the big question, and as she accelerated up the small hill and back out into the heart of the course, it quickly became clear that Taylor-Brown had no answer. Soon the Bermudian was out of sight, fully focused on the fourth title she slowly realised was hers.
Taylor-Brown finished with the silver at the end of an exhausting campaign, Meissner with a gutsy first ever WTCS podium ahead of Knibb. Leonie Periault (FRA) ran her way into fifth, Lopes hung on for an excellent sixth ahead of Spivey, Emma Lombardi (FRA), Miriam Casillas Garcia (ESP) and Cassandre Beaugrand rounding out the top 10.
“I gave it everything I had today,” said Georgia Taylor-Brown. “It’s been a hard few months but I’m really proud of myself out there today, giving it everything and doing all I could. We were battling it out to the end, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I don’t think she would. I’m still learning in every race, and I still want that world title one day.”
“I can’t believe it. I need a few days to let it sink in,” said a thrilled Meissner. “It was tough, but I got here 10 days ago and I had good heat prep and there was lots of water and ice out there. I just tried to stay calm and confident, and it just worked perfectly for me today.”
“I’m pretty shocked. There were a lot of ups and downs in the season and today,” said Knibb. “The corner was entirely my fault. I wasn’t fully processing things at that point, and it was a bit of user error and I’m sorry to Maya and Vittoria and Lena behind me for that. Hopefully I will be back here in March to go again.”
Organised by Abu Dhabi Sports Council and World Triathlon, the competition strengthens Abu Dhabi’s position as a global sporting destination. Located within 8 hours’ flying time for two-thirds of the world’s population, the emirate is perfectly situated to welcome athletes, media, federations, and spectators alike to the pinnacle of the sport.
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For more information please visit: abudhabi.triathlon.org.