John John Florence, the world’s top-ranked surfer, is set to miss his sport’s Olympic debut after tearing an ACL for the second time in 13 months.
Florence, a two-time world champion from Oahu’s North Shore, will undergo likely season-ending surgery after suffering the knee injury recently in Brazil, according to his social media.
“I’m excited for this new adventure and everything I will learn along the way,” was posted on his Instagram.
Florence, 26, came back from a high-grade partial ACL tear in June 2018 to win two of the first four events of this World Surf League season. He is the only U.S. man to win a world title since Kelly Slater won the last of his 11 in 2011.
With Florence out, the 47-year-old Slater’s chances of making the Olympic team went from unlikely to very possible. He would be in the Tokyo 2020 field if the World Surf League season ended today as the second of two U.S. qualifiers behind Kolohe Andino (excluding Florence of course).
Andino is ranked second in the world, with Slater at No. 7 and the next American, Conner Coffin, at 11th with six contests left in the 11-event season that runs into December. The top 10 in the 2019 World Surf League standings (limit two per country) qualify for Tokyo.
Slater, at 48 next year, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.
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This has been a really fun year in competition and outside of the jersey. Unfortunately, in Brazil I ruptured my ACL. I'll be pulling out of J-Bay and likely the rest of the CT season. I'm opting for surgery so I can be 100% next year. I'm excited for this new adventure and everything I will learn along the way. Thanks for all of the support!