Surf ready to impress in Olympic debut

STRONG POINTS OF RIO: Nothing. The Olympic beginnings of surfing lasted a century. It was the fervent wish of Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic swimmer who won five medals at the turn of the 20th century and the 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 United States appears to be the woman to beat, along with Australia’s Stephanie Gilmore, whose record of seven world titles makes her the most decorated surfer in the competition today. The Brazilians are expected to dominate the men’s team, with Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira known as the masters of aerial maneuvers.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Kanoa Igarashi, a Californian with dual Japanese nationality who represents Japan, has the local advantage of having grown up surfing the Olympic site at Tsurigasaki Beach. Johanne Defay of France may surprise as a dark horse in the women’s game, having recently surprised Moore in the high intensity Surf Ranch competition. Trusted Australian Sally Fitzgibbons and young American star Caroline Marks also have something to prove.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENT (S): Scheduled for July 28 or following the last day of competition, depending on wave conditions. The events are scheduled to take place over four days between July 25 and August 1.

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