Olympic Hopefuls Make Historic Splash in Lima 2019
Punta Rocas, Lima, Peru, July 29, 2019- Surfing competition officially opened on Monday morning at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games as the men and women shortboard surfers began their quests towards qualification at Tokyo 2020.
The top finishing eligible man and woman of the shortboard discipline will earn a qualification slot in Surfing's Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, adding a layer of drama and excitement to the event.
Crowds funneled into Punta Rocas to see the competition - the first time that any surfing discipline has featured on the Sports Programme of the Pan Am Games. Shortboard, Longboard, SUP Racing and SUP Surfing are all making their debut in the Games during the week of competition.
Brazil's Robson Santos was the standout male performer in the shortboard division, marking the highest wave score (7.5) and heat total (14.5).
Peru's local Lucca Mesinas ignited cheers from the local crowd with the second highest heat total of 14.34.
Costa Rica's Noe Mar McGonagle and Argentina's Leandro Usuna, both past ISA World Surfing Games Champions, advanced into Round 2 of the Main Event.
"Stoked to make my heat," said McGonagle. "Little by little I'm trying to get the Gold Medal and make it to Tokyo 2020. There are still a lot of hard heats coming up, but it's great to get the first one out of the way."
Usuna added, "This is an amazing time in Surfing in the Olympic era. I can't believe I'm living it. I'm in the moment and enjoying it."
Ecuador's Dominic Barona and Argentina's Ornella Pellizzari shined in the women's shortboard competition, notching the highest heat totals of the round with 13.5 and 13.33, respectively.
Canada's Bethany Zelasko advanced onto the second round and expressed her eagerness to claim the woman's spot for Tokyo 2020.
"It's amazing to surf great waves in a competition," said Zelasko. "I really want a spot in Tokyo and I am looking to do it here in Peru."
The longboard discipline also debuted on Monday as the top athletes of the continent put the grace and style of the sport on display.
The top longboard scores were earned by Brazil's Chloe Calmon in the women's division and Argentina's Surfiel Gil in the men's division.
The surfing competition at the Pan Am Games uses a double elimination Repechage format. Surfers that lose in the Main Event get a second chance to advance in the Repechage Rounds, where heats are single elimination. The winner of the Repechage Rounds faces off against the winner of the Main Event to determine the Gold Medalist.
ISA President Fernando Aguerre said:
"It brings us great joy and emotion to see our dreams coming true today and watch surfing competition seamlessly integrate into the Pan Am Games.
"It's been 25 years since I first attended the Pan American Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina. I met with the late head of Panam Sports Mario Vazquez Raña during those Games and he told me to persevere and not give up in our pursuit of inclusion.
"I never thought about giving up, but it was a long paddle into today's opening heat at Punta Rocas.
"Now Surfing is officially a Pan American Games sport. I can hardly believe it. Living the dream with the millions of surfing fans around the Americas and the world."
The forecast is calling for large surf for Tuesday's competition, with sets reaching well overhead to double overhead. Shortboard will take to the water once again on Tuesday and SUP Surfing will kick off in the competition.
The Lima 2019 Pan Am Games will be broadcast live July 30 - August 4. To find out where and when you can watch, check the listing with the respective Lima 2019 broadcast rightsholder in your country.
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