USLRA: You’ve won five World Championships and have rolled for a long time. Take us back and talk about when you got started.
Duffy: I started when I was five years old, so I’ve been rolling for 41 years. I had older siblings that were involved. My brother Tim, my brother Tom, my sisters, Colleen, Shannon, Bridgett. We had a place on Grindstone Lake when I was a kid. And I remember actually the first time I got on the log and we had to go from the dock to the log. We kind of jumped from the dock to the log, and I was scared. My sister Shannon spent the time and worked with me. We had a three log and she worked with me throughout the summer and taught me how to logroll.
USLRA: And it sounds like you were hooked at that point?
Duffy: It takes a certain person to like it and keep going. Even in high school I played hockey but I liked log rolling a lot more. I still have some of those trophies from back then. They used to have junior boys and senior boys and I think I got a third place in junior boys in ’78. I got a trophy from that (tournament) and I still have it.
USLRA: When did you realize you could roll as a pro and eventually a top level pro?
Duffy: I remember when I first started to roll as a pro, having a match and my legs would be tired, I’d be losing the final fall because my legs were tired. They’d feel like rubber. And at that point I was committed to never losing a match because I was out of shape. So I started to really work at it. That involved running hill sprints until I’d dry heave to get in the best possible condition.
USLRA: Over a stretch of about 10 years in the 1990’s, you won five world titles and also had several runner-up finishes. What got you over the hump from being a good roller to being one of the very best for about a decade?
Duffy: When I look back at that time there were not a lot of guys to train with, and I used to train with Denise Marquardt, and that helped, I think. We’d train on the four log, and the same thing with Bonnie Pendleton - we’d roll twice a day. It really helped my footwork. We’d roll in the morning before work and then at five at night, plus running. It was about putting the time in to make that transition to get better.
USLRA: You got a chance to compete against many greats in the sport, J.R Salzman, Dan McDonough, and even nine time World Champ Phil Scott, who you got to roll at the tail end of his career. What was that like?
Duffy: Phil was so good. He was a small guy, maybe 5’7”, 5’8”, 145 pounds or so. But he could switch shoulders, he could roll both shoulders equally as well. When he’d roll someone like Dan McDonough, he wouldn’t be able to do much bucking him. So he just turned around and ran with everyone. He’d go at it with his back step, quickly turn and then run the guy in.
USLRA: It’s been about 15 years since you’ve won a world title, but you’ve been competitive into your mid 40’s, including a runner-up at last year’s World Championships. How different is it to compete at 46 than it was to roll when you were younger?
Duffy: Recovery time is different. I still run to the hill, and run hill sprints up it but now it takes longer to recover. So now I try to be more mentally prepared and use some of my knowledge. For example, I know someone who is going to splash. If it’s a show roller they’re going to splash. I know that’s not my style. So I need to hug the center line, cut off the angle. J.R. and I were talking about that. If you cut that angle off, you’re not going to get hit in the face. Also, you don’t want to waste your energy on the bigger logs if you know you’re going to a smaller log. Those are some things I think about now.
USLRA: What about next year, will you roll again?
Duffy: I will. I can’t stop. My daughter (Women’s pro Claudia Duffy) won’t let me. On Monday night I’m tired and she says we’ve got to run. My thing is as long as I can do it, why the heck not.