As It Happens·Q&A

When Flora Duffy won Bermuda's 1st-ever Olympic gold, her brother 'exploded' with joy

When Flora Duffy won the first Olympic gold medal in Bermuda's history on Tuesday, her friends and family were proudly watching the historic moment at a pub in her hometown.

‘It's just crazy to think that my sister's done all that,’ Joel Duffy says of his champion triathlete sibling

On the left, Bermuda triathlete Flora Duffy holds up her Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. On the right, her brother Joel Duffy and mother Maria Duffy, celebrate the news at a pub in Warwick, Bermuda. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images, Submitted by Joel Duffy )

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When Flora Duffy won the first Olympic gold medal in Bermuda's history on Tuesday, her friends and family were proudly watching the historic moment at a pub in her hometown.

Duffy, 33, finished the triathlon at the Tokyo Games in 55.36 minutes, beating out silver medallist Georgia Taylor-Brown of Great Britain, and bronze medallist Katie Zaferes of the United States.

Her family couldn't be in the stands cheering her on because of pandemic restrictions. So, instead, they watched the event with other supporters at a pub in Warwick, Bermuda.

The Olympian's brother, Joel Duffy, was there. Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens guest host Ginella Massa. 

What was it like to watch that moment your sister made history?

It was amazing for everyone in Bermuda. I know how much pressure Flora has on her shoulders from having the island on her back, but also her own type of pressure she puts on herself.

I don't think she would have been satisfied with anything but winning. But, yeah, it was just crazy to see it happen. It was amazing.

Was there a moment where you're like, she's got it?

Typically the way Flora races is if she has a very good swim, she gets out of the water … in the top six … so as she got out of the water in that top group, then I really started to believe it was very possible she was going to win.

That swim was crucial, for sure.

Duffy, right, leads the pack during the cycling segment of the Women's Individual Triathlon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

And what was the energy in the pub where you were watching with your parents and with the rest of the local crowd?

It was buzzing. So the place where I watched it, they opened up the back room, and the Bermuda Triathlon Association had rented that out. So basically all the triathletes in Bermuda were kind of there. And then a lot of my friends were there, and just people supporting Flora were there. 

It was electric in there. It was amazing.

And your parents? Were there tears?

Yeah, my mom cried a bit. My dad didn't, but I think it was … relief more than anything for him. He stayed at home for the swim. I think he was very nervous, right? He knew how important that swim was, so he came in after the swim.

You talk about your dad's relief. This was a big achievement not just for Bermuda, but for your sister personally. This was her last Olympics, her fourth time at the Games. She almost quit in 2008 when she didn't finish in Beijing. She had a crash in 2012, but still finished eighth. So just personally as a family, having watched her go through what she went through to get here, can you just talk a little bit about what it meant for your family for her to be able to to achieve this in her last Olympics?

She's had an amazing career, right? So she's been a multiple-time ITU [World Triathlon Series] world champion. She's been an XTERRA world champion like five … times, which is like a kind of off-roading version of triathlon.

So really, her winning the Olympics, this was her kind of dream, so she kind of fulfilled that. But, I mean, also in terms of legacy, when you talk about the greatest ever female triathlete, it's hard not to include Flora at least in that conversation. I mean, no one's done what she's done.

And to be from such a small place, to win a gold medal, first-ever for the country, I mean, it's a real storybook kind of ending. And it's just crazy to think that my sister's done all that. I mean, this is incredible.

Duffy collapses to the ground and covers her face in her hands after winning the Olympic triathlon. (Olaf Kraak/ANP Sport/Getty Images)

Was she feeling the pressure going into these Games?

With the Olympics also being delayed a year … the pressure just builds up. So I know it's a huge relief for her personally, and Dan for sure, her husband. I mean, they're an amazing team, those two are. Dan's an ex-professional triathlete himself, so he really brings a lot to the table for Flora.

So, yeah, huge relief. Couldn't be happier.

Joel, I gotta ask, because it does sound like you're a little hoarse this afternoon. Did you celebrate last night? Did the island just explode?

I know I exploded, that's for sure. I was shouting at the TV. 

I don't feel too bad. I drank a lot last night, I'll be honest. But yeah, my voice is definitely a bit worse for wear, that's for sure.

A well-deserved celebration. And obviously the family wasn't able to be in Tokyo because of a pandemic. So do you have celebrations planned for when she returns? I mean, is there going to be a parade in her honour at this point?

When she won the Commonwealth Games, there was a kind of a motorcade, you know, when you drive through the town in a car or open convertible or whatever. I imagine there'll be one of those. There will definitely be some type of celebration for sure. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Sarah Jackson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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