Surfing ready to impress at Olympic debut

HIGLIGHTS FROM RIO: None. Surfing’s Olympic debut has been a century in the making. It was the fervent wish of Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic swimmer who medaled five times in the early 20th century and Hawaiian icon revered as the godfather of modern surfing. The International Surfing Association has been lobbying the International Olympic Committee for inclusion since 1995.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: Reigning world champion Carissa Moore of the U.S. looks to be the woman to beat, as well as the Australian Stephanie Gilmore, whose record-tying seven world titles makes her the most decorated female surfer in competition today. The Brazilians are expected to dominate the men’s side, with Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira known as the masters of aerial maneuvers.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Kanoa Igarashi, a Californian with dual Japanese citizenship who is representing Japan, has the local advantage of growing up surfing at Olympic site Tsurigasaki Beach. Johanne Defay of France may surprise as a dark horse in the women’s game, having recently pulled off an upset against Moore at the high-intensity Surf Ranch competition. Dependable Australian Sally Fitzgibbons and the young American hotshot Caroline Marks also have something to prove.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENT(S): Scheduled for July 28 or following the last day of competition, which depends on wave conditions. The events are expected to run over four days between July 25 to August 1.

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