(ATR) International Surfing Association President Fernando Aguerre dreamed of having his sport in the Olympics. He has made that dream a reality, with surfing set to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo next summer.
Fernando Aguerre (ATR)
Ahead of its first Olympics, surfing made its Pan American Games debut in Lima. Around the Rings
met with Aguerre for an extensive interview on the final day of competition at the Punta Rocas venue.
“My first contact with the Pan Am Sports was in 1995. I was just elected president of the ISA and I met Mario Vazquez Raña, the Pan Am president, and I told him what I wanted to do. ‘I want to bring surf to the Olympics’ and he told me to never give up, so that's exactly what I did… and here we are.”
The surfing boss, attired in his trademark straw hat and flower necklace, praised the set up in Lima.
“The competition it’s been amazing. We had really good waves. Punta Rocas is the most consistent surf spot in Perú. Whenever we are here we are in good hands, although in surfing we don't build our field of play, here we have real good waves to compete,” described Aguerre to ATR.
Peru's Benoit Clemente won gold in the longboard (Lima 2019)
“Everybody is happy, it's the first Pan Am experience for surfing. Being part of the parade, share with the medal athletes, living at the Pan Am village, for all of us is our first experience. But this is our warm up for Tokyo, it's a practice, an exercise.”
Aguerre says he and the federation have learned much during Lima 2019.
“The most important part is that we are doing the things the way it should be, there haven't been any hiccups, just little things, like the integration of our live scoring to the competition and the way we run it with Atos. I don't think there is anything bad. It's just a learning experience, this really feels like our regular competitions, in fact this one was smaller. Here we had 86 athletes and at the regular ones we are used to 200-400, so this is nice. This is run by ISA, so everything here is supervised and it’s great.
“All of the athletes were feeling good and enjoyed being here. Connor Baxter, gold medalist at SUP, told me he was really enjoying it, he liked the waves, and that what mattered was that he was surfing, and that was the importance. So I think it's also important, shows the world that when it comes to SUP, the home for them it's always been the ISA.”
Connor Baxter won gold in men's SUP (Lima 2019)
SUP, stand up paddling, is claimed by both the ISA and the International Canoe Federation (ICF). After years of battling, the two federations agreed last year to have the Court of Arbitration for Sport settle the matter.
“The SUP issue is still in court at Switzerland. It's still not finished, we hope the final call is for the end of the year, but we don't know, we have to wait,” Aguerre says.
“We want to continue growing and developing SUP. It really shows how weak the ICF claim is for SUP, when in the last three months they had announced money, traveling incentive, cash prizes. No other World Champions from the ICF, none, have any cash. So why do you put money on this one, and not on the other disciplines? I'm not really happy about that. You are putting money on a sport, that you really do not own and you don't put it on the others you have owned for more than 10 years. But you know what they say ‘If you cannot get it through love you get it through money’.
Before Tokyo, surfing will be on the program for the ANOC World Beach Games this fall. But unlike the other sports involved in the inaugural event, surfing will not be making the trip to Qatar. Instead, the surfing competition for the Beach Games will be held in San Diego, which was stripped of the event due to a lack of financial guarantees.
As for next summer in Japan, Aguerre says “It's an opportunity to show the world what we do, and inject the Olympic Movement with our salt water and ethics and passion”.
“We ran our test event at the beach of the Games and it went fine, we are ready. The same company that organizes and runs the World Surfing Games is the sports manager for Tokyo so we are in good hands.”
Surfing is also on the program for the 2024 Olympics in Paris which is now deciding on a venue from four possible locations, including French Polynesia.
Written and reported by Olivia Diaz Ugalde and Gerard Farek in Lima.
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