If you take a quick look at the Olympic medal table, you’ll notice that the usual heavyweights are in charge: China, the United States, and Japan.
However, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, a small Atlantic island added its name to the list of medal winners, as Bermuda became the smallest country to win gold.
Flora Duffy of Bermuda won the triathlon convincingly, securing a historic gold for her country, which has a population of around 63,000 people compared to the United States’ 328 million.
As the enormity of her achievement dawned on her — Tokyo 2020 will be her fourth Olympics — she was overcome with emotion. Duffy collapsed to the ground, covering her face with her hands.
“I really just hope it inspires the youth of Bermuda that we’re from a small country — but that doesn’t mean we can’t do great things on the world stage,” Duffy told CNN’s Coy Wire.
Duffy had felt the hopes of her small nation resting on her shoulders, adding, “coming into Tokyo I definitely knew there was was a lot of expectation to win a medal. We don’t exactly have people going to every Olympics with medal chances.”
She didn’t disappoint, winning by more than a minute over Georgia Taylor-Brown of the United Kingdom and Katie Zaferes of the United States.
Both women are Duffy’s friends who “race together on the circuit all the time,” according to the 33-year-old Bermudian. Duffy described standing on the podium with her friends after her victory as “super special,” adding, “I kind of realized… that dreams do come true.”
After battling a near-career-ending injury, anemia, and depression, Duffy’s gold medal is the light at the end of the tunnel. Her Tokyo 2020 preparations were hampered by a foot injury that kept her out of competition for a year.
Duffy’s win was “the culmination of all the hard work that took to get to this point, all the hardship, all of the injuries. The postponement, the extra year … it all came together,” she said, referring to Tokyo 2020 being delayed by a year.
After crashing her bike during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Duffy did not finish her race and even left the sport for a short time. She went on to earn a sociology degree from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Duffy outperformed her rivals in Tokyo more than a decade later.
“With about 800 meters to go, it slowly started to sink in,” she said of her win. “I’ve looked at photos of me along the finishing chute and it was a crazy array of emotions. Definitely a lot of tears,” Duffy said.
Duffy has won gold for her country before, having also won at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast. Prince Charles bestowed the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) on her the same year.
Back in Bermuda, there will undoubtedly be festivities. After boxer Clarence Hill’s bronze medal in 1976, this is the country’s second Olympic medal.