By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) - Flora Duffy achieved instant national hero status when she won Bermuda’s first Olympic gold medal on Tuesday after delivering a dominant run leg for an emphatic victory in the women's triathlon on a stormy Tokyo course.
Duffy, 33, was part of a group of seven who broke clear at the start of the 40km bike but then stamped her authority on the race with a fantastic performance over the 10km run to finish in one hour, 55.36 minutes.
Georgia Taylor-Brown overcame a flat tyre near the end of the bike leg to chase back strongly and finish second, 74 seconds behind, bagging another silver for Britain after Alex Yee's in the men's race on Monday.
Katie Zaferes, world champion in 2019, won bronze for the United States to fully justify her discretionary selection after struggling for form.
The victory, in her fourth Olympics, caps a wonderful career for Duffy, as she becomes her country's second Olympic medallist after Clarence Hill took a heavyweight boxing bronze in 1976.
Duffy hailed it as "an incredible moment" and as Bermuda became the least populous nation to win a Summer Olympics gold its Premier David Burt sent his congratulations over Twitter, saying: "You've worked so hard and you've made an entire island proud!"
After a storm-delayed start Duffy was part of a group who exited the 1,500 metres swim closely together and got a jump on the main field.
That group slimmed to five, and built the gap to a commanding 80 seconds at the end of the bike, though the unfortunate Taylor-Brown lost 22 seconds on the final lap as a flat tyre meant she had to negotiate every slippery turn almost at a standstill.
By halfway on the run Duffy had forged 50m clear and a fired-up Taylor-Brown overhauled Zaferes at the end of the third lap.
"The first lap of the run was panic mode," said the Briton. "I think I definitely paid for it in the latter part of the run but it paid off."
She was never going to catch Duffy, however, and the Bermudan enjoyed every moment of her triumphant charge down the finishing blue carpet, clenching her fists in joy and celebration.
"I was very overwhelmed," Duffy said. "I didn’t know what to do, or what to think. It was a really, really special moment.
"Maybe I replayed a little bit of all that it took to get here. It's great to achieve a personal thing but it's bigger than me and will inspire the youth of Bermuda and show that competing on the world stage from a small island is really possible."
Looking almost as happy was 39-year-old mother-of-three Nicola Spirig, the 2012 champion and 2016 runner up, who ran superbly to take sixth place in her fifth Olympics.
The final triathlon event is the inaugural mixed relay on Saturday.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Stephen Coates/Peter Rutherford)