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Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“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, noting a back injury. “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, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, 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.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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John John Florence likely to miss Olympics, opens door for Kelly Slater

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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.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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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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