The first gold medalist was crowned yesterday at the ISA World Surfing Games presented by Vans – and with the women's event wrapped, four continents have provisionally confirmed their spot in the Olympics at Tokyo, 2020.
In an historic day of competition Peru's Sofia Mulanovich won the women's event, defeating Brazil's Silvana Lima, Bianca Buitendag from South Africa and the US' Carissa Moore, who was hotly tipped to take out the comp.
Speaking after her gold medal win, Sofia said: “I feel like I am in a dream. It’s so amazing to be here and win a Gold Medal against the best surfers in the world.
“I won the 2004 ISA World Surfing Games, so coming back in 2019 and winning again is crazy. It’s been so long and it’s a magical moment.
“This Gold Medal means the world for surfers in Peru. Two Peruvians just won Golds at the Pan Am Games in Lima and winning here just adds to that. Surfing is growing so much in Latin America and Peru is here to stay.”
And how does this impact Olympic qualification? Well, South Africa, Japan, Israel and New Zealand have each provisionally secured a woman’s spot in Tokyo 2020 after the final wrapped.
As the last remaining surfer from Africa, Bianca Buitendag has claimed a Tokyo 2020 qualification slot for her nation of South Africa.
Japan’s Shino Matsuda fell in Repechage Round 7 on Monday, however, as the highest finishing surfer from Asia, Matsuda earned a continental qualification slot for Japan.
New Zealand’s Ella Williams also bowed out of the event in the Repechage Rounds, but as the highest finishing surfer from Oceania, she secured a spot for her nation for Tokyo 2020.
After Spain and Netherlands lost their last remaining surfers in Repechage Round 7, Israel’s Anat Lelior became the last European in the event (Israel is considered part of Europe, according to International Olympic Committee protocol), assuring her nation representation at Tokyo 2020.
Given that the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games (WSG) take priority over the 2019 edition in the Olympic Qualification hierarchy, each continental spot will not be confirmed until the qualification process wraps up at the end of May 2020.
With the limit of two athletes per nation at Tokyo 2020, the only scenario in which Buitendag, Matsuda, Williams, and Lelior would not qualify is if two compatriots of the same gender qualify ahead of them at the 2020 World Surfing Games.
ISA President Fernando Aguerre said: “This final was a validation of the truly universal competitive landscape of our sport.
“Sofia has had a long career as a professional surfer and coming back after her Gold Medal 15 years ago against this group of stars is incredible for her.
“This gives Sofia a great position to head into the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games to seek out one of the Tokyo 2020 qualification slots for the women. I am sure she is going to go to bed tonight thinking about her chances for 2020.”
And it sure has been an interesting event so far over on the shores of Miyazaki in Japan. Yesterday, Italo Ferreira rocked up late to his heat, (had Visa issues after getting robbed!) borrowed a board, we think from slinkier, Brazilian team mate Filipe Toldeo, and with 8 minutes remaining, soared into the sky; classic full Italo-style, and nailed an 8.33 to take the V. Now that's the kind of spice we like.
Meanwhile, Kelly Slater edged a win over Ireland's Gearoid McDaid on the weekend. Beat him by less than a point. Less. Than. A. Point. We all know how Slater likes to lock in results early, so we're sure his brain was going into competition over drive, trying to figure out how to tip the scales.
Gman was all over the GOAT until the final few minutes. However, both advanced to the next round after placing first and second in that heat. (And oh, just in! Rumour has it Slates was late to his next round and may have been penalised? More on that soon) After their heat, Kelly said: “I haven’t competed for Team USA since the 1990 edition of the World Surfing Games also in Japan. It’s nice to be here because it brings back great memories.
“It’s great to see that there are some really good surfers from other countries, some known and some unknown. Indonesia has a surfer that is amazing and Morocco looked the best out of anyone today. It would be interesting if a surfer from one of those nations won.”
And remember our underdog story featuring American Samoa's Liam Wilson? (See here) He's just blitzed through his heat too. If you want to talk about heart, this is where it's at. American Samoa are a team of Liam and his father, aka, the coach, who has been delivering support from the shores with the kind of face only afforded to the proudest of fathers. A wonderful sight.
Wrapping up yesterday, the Men’s competition got their chance to take to the water and begin their quests towards the Gold Medal and Olympic qualification. The top performances came from Portugal’s Vasco Ribeiro with the highest heat total (15.27) and Philippines’ Edito Alcala with the highest single wave score (9.17).
The Men’s competition took an interesting turn from the start, as the defending Men’s Gold Medalist, Argentina’s Santiago Muñiz, fell to Brazil’s Filipe Toledo and Mexico’s Alan Cleland.
Muñiz and Cleland finished tied in second position with the same score, 11.94, but Cleland’s higher single wave score of 7.27 was higher than Muñiz’s 7.17, giving him the nod in the tie breaker.
Keep up to date with all the drama, HERE. The ISA World Surfing Games, presented by Vans, will run until September 15.