Colorado-based Australian triathlete Sophie Linn will always remember a special embrace after she ran herself to near collapse at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
There waiting for her was women’s triathlon champion, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, the world and Olympic champion who had just thrilled the Sutton Park crowd with her successful Games defense.
Linn, the 27-year-old pocket dynamo who moved to the US from South Australia had produced the race of her life to cross the line in fifth place in a spirited and eye-catching Games debut – the best of the three Australians.
Duffy and Linn had trained together in and around Boulder – a multi-sports mecca for US and international athletes alike.
Linn, who had barnstormed her way onto the Games team with a stunning automatic qualifier on the Gold Coast, had struck up a professional friendship with Duffy as they prepared for Birmingham.
She spoke of how Duffy had been an inspiration for her and how thankful she had been for the opportunities she’d been given.
“To have Flora there at the finish after I crossed the line was a special moment for me – something I’ll always remember,” said Linn, who had raced her way into the hearts of the Australians who witnessed her performance on day one of the Games.
It had been a whirlwind journey building to that moment for Linn, the former long-distance track and cross-country runner – who went to college in the US on a running Scholarship and was also a nationally-ranked junior swimmer – had made the transition to triathlon in 2018 around the time of the Gold Coast Games.
“I’m absolutely stoked, honestly, I was just even happy to be in Birmingham to start with and to be able to execute on the day and be a part of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham was just everything I could have asked for,” said Linn.
And this Sunday in Bermuda, Linn and her fellow Australians Emma Jackson, Natalie Van Coevorden and sisters Jaz and Kira Hedgeland will again line up against Duffy when the world’s best triathletes gather in Duffy’s homeland for the second last round of the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS).
“It is my first time to Bermuda, and consequently first time racing there and I think it will be a very unique and exciting race given that Flora is returning to race for the first time since becoming Olympic champion.” Linn told Triathlon Australia.
“It almost feels like a sacred place to race triathlon given the significance of her win!
“Since Birmingham, I have still had the privilege of training with Flora for some sessions, and as always is inspiring and a reminder of how sport can touch people’s lives.
“My preparation for the final two races of the year (Bermuda and the Abu Dhabi Grand Final) has been going really well.
“I’m staying healthy and happy and that has been in the forefront and that’s what we’ll achieve this year!
“We have a fantastic small group in Boulder who are on the same schedule, and able to motivate one another during such a long season and a heat prep (for Abu Dhabi) together.
“Luckily Boulder has not been too cold though which makes things much easier.”
Duffy, the island’s greatest sporting legend will be looking to use Sunday’s race to take another step towards a record fourth world title. Currently trailing only GB’s Georgia-Taylor Brown in the Maurice Lacroix Rankings, victory would put Duffy onto three golds and a bronze this season, just behind the Brit’s three golds and a silver in what has been an incredible duel over the past 12 months and leaving the Grand Final in Abu Dhabi a straight shoot-out for the title.
This will be only the third edition of Series action for Bermuda, the first since 2019 and the first time that the Bermudians will get to see their one and only Olympic Champion in action since her incredible Tokyo 2020 title-winning performance. The locals are ready to bring the carnival to WTCS once more, lining every possible stretch of this tough Olympic-distance course.
Van Coevorden, who has been the most consistent of the Aussie women throughout the WTCS, sitting in 23rd overall will come to Bermuda after contesting last week’s Super League Final in Saudi Arabia.
While in the men’s race, Australia will field two athletes with Jake Birtwhistle and Brandon Copeland on the start line. Australia’s highest placed competitor on the WTCS Rankings, Matt Hauser (10th) sitting this round out as he sets himself for the final round in Abu Dhabi.
Copeland (33rd) and Birtwhistle (43rd) are the next best placed Australians – Birtwhistle buoyed by a recent home-stay in Tasmania and his second-placed finish in last week’s Noosa Triathlon behind Charlie Quin.
After three excellent golds from his three Series finishes so far this season, British Commonwealth Games champion Alex Yee’s mission for the race is crystal clear: finish on the podium, and overall champion will already be his, before this year’s men’s World Champion is ultimately decided at the Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi.
With current leader and recently crowned Super League champion, Hayden Wilde, like Hauser not on the Bermuda start line, instead preferring to fix his attentions on the big finale in the UAE capital on 26 November, Yee will know that opportunity knocks this weekend in a race that also sees the return of Norway’s Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt.
All the action can be watched live on TriathlonLIVE.tv >>
Homepage Image Credit: Dean Lewins