CARISSA MOORE EARNS HISTORIC FIRST WOMEN'S OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL IN SURFING
by Steve Drumwright
Carissa Moore pulled out the killer instinct Tuesday and, because of that, can now call herself an Olympic gold medalist.
Make that, a historic Olympic gold medalist.
The 28-year-old Honolulu native earned the inaugural gold medal in Olympic women’s surfing when she beat South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag 14.93-8.46 in the gold-medal final at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Ichinomiya, Japan.
“It’s quite heavy,” she said, showing off her new medal. “I’m very proud and honored. It’s been a crazy couple of days, a little bit of a roller coaster of emotions just trying to figure out the break, find my rhythm, learning how to trust myself without my family here.
“I feel super blessed, super fortunate. It’s been an incredible experience.”
Moore, a four-time world champion who will be in a surf-off for a fifth in September, had a decent lead of 10.73-3.43 when she caught another good wave and posted a score of 7.60, leaving Buitendag in a deep hole with only 13 minutes left in the session.
Afterward, she thanked those who had supported her on this journey.
“I love you guys so much. I wish you guys were here,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m today without you guys. I can’t wait to come home and celebrate.”
With a typhoon approaching Japan, there was a push to complete the debut Olympic surfing competition as quickly as possible, with the entire competition being held over three days, Sunday through Tuesday. The conditions were less than ideal for other sports, but the midlevel typhoon — the Pacific Ocean version of a hurricane — helped create better waves for the surfers.
The U.S. nearly earned two medals in the women’s event, but Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki beat Caroline Marks 6.80-4.26 for the bronze medal. Marks, a 19-year-old from Melbourne Beach, Florida, who is ranked sixth in the world, had fallen to Buitendag 11.00-3.67 in the semifinals.
Neither of the American men, Kolohe Andino and John John Florence, made it past the quarterfinals.
The Olympic surfing competition began with seeding rounds, and then moved into a single-elimination bracket.
To reach the final, Moore won her first-round heat with a score of 11.74, earning a bye into the third round. There she eliminated Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich 10.34-9.90, before beating Brazil’s Silvana Lima 14.26-8.30 in the quarterfinals and Tsuzuki 8.33-7.43 in the semis.
“Both Amuro and I were struggling to really find rhythm out there and find good ones,” Moore said of her low-scoring battle with Tsuzuki. “I felt like I was just getting pounded most of the heat, trying to make my way back out.”
Marks dominated her first-round heat with a score of 13.40, then beat Japan’s Mahina Maeda 15.33-7.74 in the third round and Costa Rica’s Brisa Hennessy 12.50-6.83 in the quarterfinals. However, she seemed hesitant in her semifinal loss to Buitendag and was penalized for interference on a late wave.
“That was really tough, the waves are really hard,” Marks said after the semifinal loss. “But I’m stoked for Bianca to be in the final for sure.”
Andino, a San Clemente, California, native, was second in first-round heat with a score of 10.27, and was drawn into a third-round showdown with Florence, the Haleiwa, Hawaii, native who was third in his heat but then won his second-round group.
In the all-American battle, Andino proved victorious, 14.83-11.60. However, he fell to Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi 12.60-11.00 in the quarterfinals. Igarashi’s father grew up on Tsurigasaki Beach.
Brazil’s Italo Ferreira won the men’s gold medal, beating Igarashi 15.14-6.60. Owen Wright of Australia won the men’s bronze medal.