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Top U.S. hope for first Olympic surfing gold medal tears ACL

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John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World surfing champion and a U.S. gold-medal hope for the Tokyo Olympics, will be out of competition for months after suffering a high-grade partial ACL tear in early June, according to his social media.

“In terms of competing again I am not sure if it will be 60 days or 120 days, or less or more,” was posted on Florence’s Instagram. “When I return I want to know that I can go as fast and as big as I want to without any thought of my knee. That will be my test before I put a jersey back on.”

Florence, a 25-year-old from Oahu’s North Shore, is the only U.S. man to win a world title since Kelly Slater won the last of his 11 in 2011.

Florence had a slow start to the 2018 season with a best finish of ninth in the first five events before the injury. The American men have struggled overall, with none in the top nine of the current standings.

Qualifying for surfing’s Olympic debut begins next year. The top 10 in the 2019 World Surf League standings (limit two per country) qualify for Tokyo.

The 46-year-old Slater said earlier this month that he plans to retire from the sport’s top-level series next year but did not say whether he would compete in Tokyo if he qualifies via the World Surf League.

The U.S. is stronger in women’s surfing with three-time world champion Carissa Moore and Lakey Peterson, who ranks second this season.

MORE: 20 U.S. athletes to watch, 2 years out from Tokyo 2020

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I really wanted to thank everyone who has helped me with my injury or who has sent over positive messages the last few weeks. I’m feeling grateful to have so many good people in my life. I've been focused on recovering as quickly as possible and on exploring some new interests so I haven't had time to share too much. The diagnosis of my knee is a high grade partial tear to my right ACL. It's a bummer not to be able to surf but I'm excited for the opportunity to get into some new types of adventures with friends and family while I’m recovering. In terms of competing again I am not sure if it will be 60 days or 120 days, or less or more. When I return I want to know that I can go as fast and as big as I want to without any thought of my knee. That will be my test before I put a jersey back on.

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