(ATR) Athletes from a record number of countries are in Miyazaki, Japan for the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games.
Argentina’s Santiago Muñiz, 2011 and 2018 WSG Men’s Gold Medalist, seeks a third title. (ISA/Ben Reed)
The 240 surfers from 55 nations will take part in the traditional Parade of Nations and Sands of the World ceremony to kick off the event on Saturday.
American Samoa, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Thailand will be making their debuts at the World Surfing Games. A record 103 women, or 43 percent of the competitors, will take part.
With the sport making its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, the competition for the first time will be directly qualifying surfers for next summer’s Games.
"24 years ago Olympic Surfing was a crazy dream. But everything starts with a crazy, impossible idea to make a dream become a reality. We've now brought surfing to the greatest sporting stage, the Olympic Games,” ISA President Fernando Aguerre said at a press conference ahead of the event.
"Surfing for a Gold Medal in the Olympics will be much bigger than anything that we currently have in the sport. There is a long road to Tokyo, but I hope to be there and win a Gold Medal for my country,” Filipe Toledo of Brazil said.
Qualification will be on a continental basis, with the top eligible man and woman from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Europe earning slots in the Olympic Games. The Americas’ slots were contested at the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games.
Tokyo 2020 qualification will be completed by the 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour and the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games.
Japan won the team title at WSG 2018. (ISA/Ben Reed)
Caroline Marks of the USA says she is excited to return to the team format of the World Surfing Games.
"Surfing is such an individual sport, so to compete as a team and feel all the support is incredible," said Marks. "I am looking forward to competing against so many people and countries that I don't usually surf against."
Japan is the defending champion, having won its first team title at the 2018 edition.
Both 2018 individual Gold Medalists, Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons and Argentina’s Santiago Muñiz, are back to defend their titles.
The World Surfing Games run through Sept. 15, when the men’s open finals and closing ceremony are scheduled. The women’s open finals are set for Sept. 11.
The 2019 ISA World Surfing Games presented by Vans will be broadcast on www.isasurf.org.
Within the country of Japan, the broadcast is exclusively available on Abema TV.
Written by Gerard Farek
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