July 27, 2021 at 17:10 JST
Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi reacts after losing in the gold medal heat during the men’s surfing competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics on July 27 at Tsurigasaki beach in Ichinomiya. (AP Photo)
ICHINOMIYA--Brazil’s Italo Ferreira overcame challenging conditions in brilliant fashion to win an historic first Olympic surfing gold medal at the Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on Tuesday, beating Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi in the gold medal heat.
Showing the same aggression that has been his trademark throughout the competition, Ferreira laid down a marker on his very first wave of the final, busting his board and having to quickly grab a replacement before entering the fray again.
Stringing together combinations of strong turns in the powerful, overhead waves, the Brazilian built a lead Igarashi never looked like threatening.
Australia’s Owen Wright took the men’s bronze after a tight, tense 35-minute battle with world no.1 Gabriel Medina, edging out the Brazilian by two-tenths of a point, while Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki beat 19-year-old American Caroline Marks to take the bronze in the women’s competition.
American Carissa Moore takes on outsider Bianca Buitendag in the women’s gold medal heat later on Tuesday, in what the 27-year-old South African revealed would be the final event of her career.
The final day of competition started with big, clean waves that delighted the competitors, but as the day wore on the strong onshore breeze made the surf choppier and more inconsistent, and good waves were harder to come by.
It made no difference to Ferreira as he attacked with abandon in pursuit of Olympic gold.
Having learned to surf on the lid of his father’s fishing bin while growing up in Brazil, the 27-year-old popped up on any wave that looked promising, notching scores of 7.0 and 7.77 to open an early lead.
Surfing on the beach where his father fell in love with the sport, the 23-year-old Igarashi struggled to find waves that would break in his favor, often abandoning them quickly to notch up disappointingly low scores that left him way off the pace.
Knowing he had done enough to win, Ferreira began surfing his way in to the shore with a minute to go, greeting the final horn with his arms stretched to the heavens before being carried shoulder-high from the water by his team mates.
From the knee-high ripples of Sunday’s opening rounds to Tuesday’s roiling seas, it was a fitting way to crown surfing’s Olympic debut, its most dynamic competitor rewarded for his daring with a place in the history books.
Other sports at the Games are fearing disruption from stormy conditions in Tokyo, but the surfers did their best to embrace the wild and windy weather, with the organizers moving the medal heats forward by a day to Tuesday to make the most of the bigger waves.
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