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Kelly Slater misses Tokyo Olympics; John John Florence qualifies

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Kelly Slater failed to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, eliminated from contention at the last qualifying contest, the season-ending Pipe Masters on the North Shore of Oahu on Thursday.

Slater, a 47-year-old, 11-time world champion, lost in the semifinals at Pipe Masters, matching his best result on tour in three years. Two-time world champion John John Florence reached the quarterfinals, which meant Slater needed to win the contest to make the Olympic team.

Florence, in his first contest in five months since tearing an ACL for the second time in 13 months, had a lead on Slater in Olympic qualifying standings going into Pipe Masters. He rushed the comeback from surgery, unable to stand on his surfboard as recently as a month ago.

“Just coming back from it, getting back in training and setting this challenge for myself to do as many heats as I can in this event and just make it as hard as I could for Kelly, it’s been an awesome challenge,” Florence told Hawaii News Now.

Florence joins the previously qualified Kolohe Andino, Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks on the first U.S. Olympic surfing team. A nation can qualify no more than two surfers per gender for Tokyo. Slater is the highest-ranking U.S. man not to qualify.

Slater had a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence went down with the ACL tear. But Slater put up his worst string of Championship Tour results in nearly two decades. Working through a back injury, he failed to make the quarterfinals of the seven contests going into Pipe Masters.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater made a surprise announcement on July 2, 2018, that his plan was to return from a broken foot, compete the entire 2019 season and retire. It called into question if he had a desire to be an Olympian. Slater has since walked back the comments.

“Might have to do one more lap [in 2020], we’ll see,” he said Thursday.

He made good on part of last year’s proclamation — entering every contest, a first since 2015.

“I’ve gone a little bit cold on that, not that I won’t [retire], but not that I will,” he said in an HBO documentary that aired before Pipe Masters. “People say I want to go out on top, that kind of thing. Of course we all want to go out on top. I want to go out when the battery is just done.”

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, was trying to become 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.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement