And the curtain has now closed on surfing’s grand Olympic debut. Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore beaming from the top of the podium, Kanoa Igarashi beating Kolohe Andino for the wild battle of personal brands, Gabriel Medina glowering in the shadows and Angelo Bonomelli stewing livid on his couch.
The Italian surfer was first alternate and a spot magically opened up when Portugal’s Frederico Morais, currently the most handsome man on tour, tested positive for the dreaded Covid-19 except that result was kept hidden for much time not allowing for Bonomelli to less than 24 hours make it to Japan.
Italy knew the time was too short and didn’t make an attempt to send him. Second alternate Carlos Munoz of Costa Rica gave it a shot but was too late and that heat was run a man down.
“I just think (it’s) not fair for me to blow a lifetime opportunity. There is some negligence,” the 30-year-old told the Associated Press, adding “It’s mind-blowing how unfair it is,” for good measure.
Morias, for his part, did not give a darn, saying, “I worked two years to earn my spot. On my side the transparency was total, I was trying everything to the last minute, I was running against the time and once I understood there was no more chance for me to go I pulled out. More than transparency, it was my dream that got ruined because I did earn my spot fair and square.”
The International Surfing Association, which maybe should have seen this hooha coming and could have also delayed the start of the event by a day, also did not give a darn saying, “It is truly unfortunate Carlos was unable to arrive in Tokyo in time for his first heats, but his NOC took the decision to accept the reallocated slot and send him to Tokyo fully aware of the risk to the participation their athlete.”
A real lack of darns marring surfing’s grand debut, all things considered.
Surfing goes to the Olympics, finals day analysis: “Played as straight-up elite sport surfing came out smelling like roses, thanks to the superstar power of Italo, Moore, Medina!”
The no-names added a frisson of David v Goliath excitement, largely illusory, but that could mean more at Teahupoo in three years time.
Did ya dig?
Bona fide Olympic Sport?
Whatever that means.
I think, with caveats, yes.
Played as straight-up elite sport it came out smelling like roses, thanks to the superstar power of Italo, Moore, Medina, primarily. As a sideshow to the sideshow of WSL Pro surfing it works. The no-names added a frisson of David v Goliath excitement, largely illusory, but that could mean more at Teahupoo in three years time.
Absorbing Final Day with Carrisa and Italo dominating one-sided finals to no one’s surprise and the only serious rival to Italo, Gabe Medina, self-combusting in a Bronze Medal match against Owen Wright after losing a razor-thin semi to Kanoa.
Julian Wilson complained bitterly about being low-balled for a clutch air against Medina in his round three loss and it seemed judges laid down some retributive justice: high-balling Owen and low-balling Gabe for what seemed a clear, heat-winning wave.
Medina spent the play-off launching and falling huge airs – all of which would have won the heat – counting an 8.5 total after seven attempts and a third of the heat done.
Owen’s high score of a 6.4 for two lateral turns and a bog standard close-out reo seemed a massive score, compared to what had gone before and what was scoring. Judges had made a point of penalising safety surfing which made that confluence of scores baffling after three days of incredibly fine judging which sent a super defined message to competitors and the public about what was Olympic-level surfing.
No matter, O-dawg looked great on the podium in green, gold and bronze. Classic scenes, Fernando in tears handing out medals, Owen towering over Italo. Carissa looking sensational in a white USA track suit with a stars and stripes face mask.
They got the right guy and the right gal for Gold, as they usually do in the end. Italo dropped bangers all day. Big, lofted rotations into the flats, huge closeout hits, he went to turns in the Final against Kanoa when the implications of Medina’s failed air strategy became clear to him.
That was a brilliant display of composure, especially after knee buckling closeouts hit left his magic Timmy Patterson in two pieces on the first wave of the Final.
An absorbing Finals Day probably peaked around the Medina/Bourez and Italo/Ohhara Quarters.
There was some debate over an under-scored tube-ride from Bourez but Medina had gone huge and there was just no answering back. Except from Italo in the next heat, who went huger. The two Brazilian boys were cock a hoop, as relaxed as lovesick teenagers in a sunlit field of daisies.
Nothing earthly could seem to stop them.
Medina took the same scorched earth form into the semi with Kanoa. Bam, bam, there were two big scores on the board in the first three minutes, the first before Kanoa had even paddled out the back. He was smiling, laughing, goofing off in his claims.
A human being in love with the moment, to quote his Insta.
Coach King was on the beach laughing, whooping it up.
Six minutes to go, Medina in full control. Absolute full control, hands Kanoa a shitty little wave under priority. You could smell that old Medina arrogance, that I love and others love to hate, from an ocean away. Kanoa zig-zags against the grain and a ramp presents itself.
Launches a full rotation, so slick and perfect.
Judges had to pay the high eight score needed with a nine. Gabe on track for Gold and now so rattled he could not regain composure for the Bronze medal matchup. I think a preview for Trestles if someone can take a heat off him in the Finals.
In the second semi, Italo tried to blow Owen out of the water, knowing Wright would safety surf and refrain from the air. Huge attempts in brown water explosions followed, one after the other. By my calculations, Italo missed three or four ten-point rides by a beesdick.
Staggeringly, Owen did not respond in kind. His strategy was to rely on Italo not making any of them, which incredibly, almost worked. It was only a bit of sharp face work that gave a Italo a very narrow winning margin.
Question for Australia’s surfing brains in the High Performance Center, who accompanied the team to Tokyo.
How could you not have a surfer prepared to go to the air in closeout beachbreak with an air wind against the best aerialists in the world? It was almost a miracle they snuck a Bronze medal through with that commitment to mediocrity.
With the surf a turgid morass of rippy river-like waves in the final, Italo did not make the same mistake of burning too many opportunities with non-makes. On a day when everyone went right, he found a series of lefts with a coping to grind off and put on a skate-style surf clinic, then punched hard vertical holes in righthand closeouts like a brownwater Bells shorey to put the result out of reach of Kanoa.
Moore was equally dominant against Bianca Buitendag. Which was probably for the greater good of the Sport.
A Gold for Buitendag would mean a non-Tour surfer is better than the current world number one. No awkward questions though in a sport that almost fell over itself in a frenzy of self-congratulating after the Olympic cherry was finally popped.
Caz Marks got completely lost in her semi with Bianca then more lost in her Bronze medal match with Amuro Tsuzuki, which put Japan on the Podium for Guys and Gals.
No doubt many happy moments in Tokyo bars tonight.
Despite years of taxpayer funded focus on the Olympics, Australia could not get a woman on the podium. Our Sal, as Aussies know and love Sally Fitzgibbon could not get the job done, after Gilmore flubbed her heat.
We finish with a single Bronze.
Wright, at thirty-one an outside chance to qualify for Teahupoo.
Gilmore and Fitzgibbon almost certainly not likely to make the next Olympics.
Kanoa, twenty-three and surfing for Japan is almost certain to be an enduring Olympian, at least for Tahiti and Los Angeles.
That is all ahead of us in surfing’s new glittering path to the future.
For now, Italo is our first Olympic Gold Medallist.
Can we live with that?
I think yes. Very much so.
Did you bet the house on it, as advised?
Julian Wilson’s Olympic dream “crushed by judges, Brazilian bias!” fumes Australian Press after round three elimination by Gabriel Medina.
“This is it for me travelling outside of Australia."
Julian Wilson’s protest against Gabriel Medina after their round three heat yesterday was all a little behind-the-scenes, the machinations of the appeal opaque to all but journalists sequestered in Tokyo.
Live mics snatched mutterings of “faaarrrrrk…ripped off…faaarrrrrk” etc suggesting Wilson and the Australian camp’s displeasure at the result.
Australia’s beef was Medina caught a scoring wave outside of the contest area and therefore the hammer of righteousness should play on his skull.Wilson, also sad his buzzer-beat wasn’t, as it turned out, a buzzer beater.
Wilson confirmed the Aussie camp had launched a protest following his loss, adding the team had footage of one of Medina’s scoring waves being surfed outside of the competition bounds.
But the protest was quickly shot down by officials, who told the Aussie camp the interpretation of the ruling was simply that athletes risked not having their wave scored if they ventured beyond the competition bounds, if judges could not properly see it.
The ruling only added to Wilson’s frustration, who minutes earlier said he felt his last wave of the heat – an aerial with 30 seconds to go – was worth more than the 6.83 scored by the judges.
“It was a set wave, doubled up, a critical section – me watching (Medina) and Italo (Ferreira) getting massive scores for those all year, I thought it was significantly better than anything else I did, but it only turned out marginally (better) so I don’t know how that worked,” Wilson said.
Wilson thought he had it with the aerial at the end, fist pumping and clapping as he rode the white water back to the beach – only to be greeted with disappointment from the judges.
The 32-year-old, who prior to the Olympics confirmed he would take an indefinite break from the WSL tour to focus on family, said he wasn’t sure what was next for his surfing future.
“This is it for me travelling outside of Australia for a while. I need to prioritise myself and my family and just be there for my wife,” Wilson said.
Son of poor Brazilian fisherman Italo Ferreira wins historic first Olympic surfing gold medal in wild typhoon surf, “It was our moment of truth!”
Reigning world champ Italo Ferreira adds Olympic Gold to collection…
The Brazilian Italo Ferreira pushed hard against the expected narrative of a Japanese surfing gold medal with a triumphant and invulnerable campaign at Chiba’s Tsurigasaki Beach, forty miles east of Tokyo.
Against Japanese-born, American-raised Kanoa Igarashi, a twenty-three year old so flashy you could imagine him walking the streets with a tiger on a leash, the reigning world champion played an intelligent game to easily win gold, despite breaking his board on his first wave.
Of all the gold medal contenders, Italo, who is twenty-seven, was the only one that carries the perpetual ecstasy of the looter.
It’s an old and hackneyed story, but in Italo’s case it’s true: the key to the pro surfing kingdom wasn’t presented to him on an upholstered velvet cushion via a dad that surfed, a benevolent sponsor and a training program where men stand on the beach under an umbrella filming the children for later review of technique.
Italo grew up in a fishing town in north-east Brazil, population eight thousand, called Baia Formosa; a joint where the only paved roads are the ones that lead into the village.
Italo’s pops would wander the beach and buy the catch of local fisherman and make his profit, a slender one but enough to feed his family, selling fish to restaurants.
His skinny son wanted to surf so Pops gave him the foam lid from the box he kept his fish in.
Eight-year-old Italo was so small it just worked on Baia’s little righthander.
Then, and in short order, an older friend who saw the boy’s love of surfing gifted him a fibreglass surfboard, he won the first contest he entered, moved onto regional events and then national, trying to win “cars, motorbikes and tickets to fly overseas.”
The rest, the elevation to stardom, the world title, came quickly.
And, now, gold medallist. The first in history.
Finals day analysis following shortly.
Andino goes to throat before camera pulls away.
Kolohe Andino makes largely forbidden “throat slashing gesture” in victory over countryman John John Florence: “It was like cutting the snake off the head!”
I had a feeling about San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino coming into these Tokyo Olympics and surfing’s grand debut. Had a feeling that all those so many years of competition, all that American pride, was going to bake into a very-difficult-to-deny succotash and look where we are, look what we have.
Andino into the quarterfinals where he will be surfing against Kanoa Igarashi. The wild battle of personal brands becoming truly personal.
In order to reach the quarters, Andino had to undo countryman John John Florence. Longtom, recounting the thrilling exchange here, left out was that Andino made a largely forbidden “neck slash gesture” after stomping his first air. Running his hand along his throat as if to decapitate, spilling much blood, etc.
Performing the move garners a $25,000 penalty in the National Basketball Association, is banned by the National Football Association and not appreciated by Major League Baseball purists.
Andino, riding the moment, did not care for the puritanical though, and told USA Today, “It was like cutting the snake off the head in the first 10 seconds. I was just overwhelmed with emotions and that’s what I ended up doing.”
Countryman Florence did not see the throat slash nor did he take it to heart, telling the outlet, “I just heard the score and I was like, “Oh my gosh, what did he do?'”