Carissa Moore

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Carissa Moore wins fourth surfing world title ahead of Olympic debut

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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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Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks qualify for U.S. Olympic surfing team

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Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks, the world’s top two female surfers, will make up the first U.S. Olympic women’s surfing team. Lakey Peterson, who entered this week’s season finale ranked No. 2, will not be competing in Tokyo.

Moore and Marks prevailed in one of the most competitive Olympic qualifying races across all sports and all nations. The U.S. has the top three female surfers in the World Surf League rankings, but a maximum of two surfers per gender per nation can compete at the Tokyo Games.

Peterson was eliminated from Olympic contention after she lost in the round of 16 — and Marks advanced to the quarterfinals — at the Championship Tour finale in Maui on Sunday.

“That was a rough blow, for sure, but that’s the way it goes,” Peterson said. “Great job to Carissa and Caroline. They’ve had incredible years.”

Moore, Marks and Peterson each won two of the first nine events this season to take up the top three spots going into Maui. Moore and Marks are vying for the world title at the contest, which continues Monday.

Moore, a three-time world champion, and Marks, a 17-year-old in her second full season on the Championship Tour, are gold-medal contenders for surfing’s Olympic debut next year.

Moore, a Hawaiian, was ticketed for stardom as a preteen. In 2011 at 18, she became the youngest world champion in history. Two years ago, the Floridian Marks became the youngest surfer ever to qualify for the Championship Tour.

Peterson, whose mom is a former Guinness World Record holder and grandfather the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin creator, finished last season ranked No. 2 in the world.

But, crucially, she was beaten by two-time world champion Tyler Wright of Australia in the round of 16 on Sunday. Wright is competing for the first time since a 17-month contest break due to illness.

“I pretty much wanted to cry,” Wright said of crushing Peterson’s world title and Olympic qualification hopes. “I’m so sorry. I was banking on that she would catch another wave and convert.”

There is one more men’s spot available on the U.S. Olympic surfing team. It will likely be filled by either 11-time world champion Kelly Slater or 2016 and 2017 World champion John John Florence, decided at the Billabong Pipe Masters later this month.

Kolohe Andino was the first U.S. surfer to qualify for Tokyo.

MORE: Athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

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Surfing legend Kelly Slater named to World Surfing Games team

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Kelly Slater‘s push to compete in the first Olympic surfing competition at age 48 took a step forward Monday when he was named to the U.S. team for the World Surfing Games, which will take place Sept. 7-15 in Miyazaki, Japan.

Surfers hoping to compete in the 2020 Olympics must first compete in the WSG either this year or next year unless they’re injured or ill.

The U.S. team also includes the top-ranked man and woman in the World Surf League: Kolohe Andino and Carissa Moore.

JEFFREYS BAY, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 19: Three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore of Hawaii wins the 2019 Corona Open J-Bay after winning the final at Supertubes on July 19, 2019 in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. (Photo by Pierre Tostee/WSL via Getty Images)

Moore also has an impressive resume, winning the WSL title as a teenager in 2011 and doing it again in 2013 and 2015.

The three-man team also includes Conner Coffin. Two-time WSL champion John John Florence is out with an ACL injury.

Courtney Conlogue and 17-year-old Caroline Marks join Moore on the women’s team. Conlogue was second in the tour standings behind Moore in 2015 and was runner-up again the next year.

Olympic qualification is based mostly on WSL rankings, with the top 10 eligible men and top eight eligible women (maximum two per country) automatically qualifying. But competing in the World Surfing Games is mandatory, per the International Surfing Association’s criteria:

“The Surfer must make him or herself available for their respective national team for participation in the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games; and (t)he Surfer must accept the nomination of his or her NF to take part, and must actually take part, in any or all of the above ISA World Surfing Games.”

Qualifying from the United States, one of the sport’s major powers, will be difficult because of the two-surfer maximum. Barring a catastrophic run of results, the U.S. qualifiers will come from the WSL rankings at the end of the year.

In the current men’s rankings, Andino is first, Florence is third despite his injury, Slater is eighth, and Coffin is tied for 12th. Seth Moniz is 14th. Moore leads the women’s rankings, with Lakey Peterson fourth, Marks fifth and Conlogue sixth. Malia Manuel is seventh.

Qualification for the WSG was based on WSL rankings through June 9 (four events) this year, which is why Peterson was not named to the team. But qualification for next year’s WSG will be based on the year-end standings this year, so whoever finishes first or second among U.S. surfers this year will make the Olympic team as long as he or she accepts the invitation to the WSG.

WSG results do not count toward WSL standings.

For countries that don’t hit the maximum number of Olympic berths through the WSL standings, the WSG this year and next will be two of the alternate pathways to the Games.

Though Miyazaki is hosting the WSG, it will not be the venue for the 2020 Games. Surfing’s Olympic debut will take place at Shidashita Beach, a 750-mile drive from Miyazaki.

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