Carissa Moore Wins Olympic Surfing Gold for the United States; Igarashi wins silver medal – Daily News
By SALLY HO
ICHINOMIYA, Japan – After a string of underdogs stole the show at the start of surfing’s historic Olympic debut, two of the sport’s most seasoned superstars took home gold medals.
Carissa Moore of the United States and Italo Ferreira of Brazil became the first Olympic surfing champions on Tuesday, more than a century after the sport first attempted to be on the program.
Moore, 28, the darling child prodigy who was able to beat the boys and grew up to be the youngest surfing world champion, preserved after struggling in the first few heats.
“It’s been a crazy couple of days,” Moore said. “A bit of an emotional roller coaster just to try to figure out the breakup, find my rhythm, learn to trust myself without my family here.”
The relatively modest beach break conditions were so different from the world-class waves she was used to as a professional touring veteran and at home in Hawaii. In the end, the methodical and beloved surfer finally got to the beat of the ocean in time to deliver the kind of outstanding performance that has defined her career.
The perfect ending even included a rainbow looming across the sky as Moore, who is Hawaii’s only native surfer at the Games, shredded the waves in the final against her South African rival Bianca Buitendag.
Calling it ‘divine intervention’, the 17th Buitendag took home silver after winning upheaval after upheaval during the three-day competition, showcasing some of the competition’s greatest moments on its way to the Olympic podium. .
She then said she was retiring from the sport.
“I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to wrap up,” said Buitendag, 27. “I’m ready for the next season of my life.
When time passed in the men’s final, Ferreira turned to the ocean, collapsed his hands together in a prayer and cried, almost knocked down by the waves crashing onto the shore as he thanked God for his dominant performance throughout the inaugural competition.
He won his final handily against Kanoa Igarashi of Huntington Beach, competing for Japan, despite falling through the air to land on a broken board. The incident required a quick board change on the shore towards the onset of the heat, which didn’t seem to shake the man who had grown so little he first learned to surf on a cooler.
“I broke my good board on my first wave. This board gives me good speed, the other is slower, ”said Ferreira, 27. “It’s super tough there, but I knew there were a lot of opportunities around.”
Moore and Ferreira will be back on the World Surfing League tour next month, with stops in Oaxaca, Mexico, and Teahupo’o, Tahiti. French Polynesia’s famous reef break also happens to be the site of the 2024 Olympic surfing competition.
Igarashi, the career-best surfing silver medalist who hovered him over the water for seven seconds in a previous round, couldn’t hide his disappointment at not being came out on top in the last moments of his Olympic career.
“It’s a special time for our sport but I have mixed feelings,” said Igarashi, who grew up surfing on Tsurigasaki Beach, the Olympic site about 100 kilometers east of Tokyo. “It’s so hard to put that into words. I’m proud of myself, and I was proud of myself before this event, but it’s been such a roller coaster for the past four years on the road to the Olympics.
This on-court advantage also came in handy in the women’s event, as Amuro Tsuzuki of Japan, 20, also won bronze after winning her race against Caroline Marks of the United States.
Australian Owen Wright also won bronze, concluding an extraordinary comeback by beating top surfer Gabriel Medina.
In 2015, Wright suffered a head injury after being struck by a wave in Hawaii. The accident left him fighting for his life, but he returned to surfing after learning to walk and talk again.
“I’ve been through bloody battles,” Wright said, “and all of my close friends and family stood by my side and from that point on I had this goal of staying here with a medal around my neck.”