Kelly Slater, an 11-time world champion surfer, plans to retire from the sport’s top-level series next year, but he could still qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut in 2020.
“My basic plan is to get myself really healthy, again, get ready for April next year, and next year be my last year on [the World Surf League] tour and just be done with it,” Slater said in a video posted Monday.
The top two Americans per gender from the 2019 World Surf League standings qualify for the Olympics. So Slater could retire from the WSL after next season but still have a spot in Tokyo if he wants it.
In April, the 46-year-old Slater said he was “50-50” on whether he planned to make a 2020 Olympic run. “If I make the team, I’ll compete,” he said then.
A representative for Slater has not responded to a request for clarification on Slater’s Olympic stance.
Slater dropped to the third-ranked American in 2016 and missed four of 11 events last season after breaking his foot. His best finish in the other seven events was a fifth. He competed this week for the first time since December.
The U.S. boasts the two-time reigning world champion — 25-year-old John John Florence of Hawaii — but no other men from last season’s top six or this season’s top 11.
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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.
Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.
“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”
Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.
Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.
Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.