Hawaiian Carissa Moore clinched her fourth surfing world title, one day after qualifying for the sport’s Olympic debut.
Moore, 27, was crowned at the season-ending Maui Pro after her closest pursuer, fellow U.S. Olympic qualifier Caroline Marks, was eliminated in the quarterfinals on Monday.
Only Kelly Slater has won more world titles than Moore among American men or women (11).
Moore, Marks and another American, Lakey Peterson, came to Maui with chances for the world title. Moore led the standings going into the event by finishing first, second or third in the previous six contests, and therefore controlled her own destiny.
Peterson’s bids for a world title and the Olympics ended when she was eliminated in the round of 16 on Sunday. Two surfers per gender per nation can qualify for Tokyo.
Moore, who started surfing at age 5 off the beaches of Waikiki, has been a force for nearly a decade. In 2011, she became the youngest male or female world champion at 18. She won again in 2013 and 2015, but was supplanted by Australians Tyler Wright and Stephanie Gilmore the last three years.
“This has not only been three years of work, but three years of learning and growing,” Moore said. “It’s been a journey.”
Marks, a 17-year-old from Florida, has been a revelation in this Olympic cycle. In 2017, she became the youngest surfer to qualify for the Championship Tour. She finished 2018 ranked No. 7 in the world. Then she won the 2019 season opener, plus the penultimate contest, and made the Olympic team over Peterson, last season’s world No. 2.
Moore and Marks head into the Olympic year as medal favorites. Their closest competition comes from Australia: seven-time world champion Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons.
The U.S. men are comparative underdogs to Brazil, which boasts three of the world’s top four. The men’s world champion will be decided later this month at the Billabong Pipe Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.
Pipe Masters will also decide the second American to join Kolohe Andino on the Olympic team — either Slater, two-time world champion John John Florence (returning from an ACL tear) or Seth Moniz.
NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.
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