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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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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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Tokyo Olympics to feature new sports, return of baseball, softball in 2020

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A look at new sports and new events with one year to the Tokyo Games, which will have the most sports (33) and events (339) in Olympic history …

New Sports
Baseball/Softball
Not entirely “new.” Baseball and softball were on the Olympic program in the 1990s and 2000s, but voted off following the 2008 Beijing Games. This could be the sports’ lone return to the Games. Baseball and softball were not proposed by Paris 2024 organizers, and it remains to be seen what will happen for Los Angeles 2028. It appears that MLB players will not take part (as it was in baseball’s previous Olympic appearances), but two U.S. Olympic softball stars of the past are hoping to get back to the Games — pitchers Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman.

Karate
Like baseball and softball, karate is not on the Olympic program beyond Tokyo. With modern origins in Japan in the early 1900s, the eight medal events should draw a crowd. There will be three weight classes per gender in the head-to-head fighting discipline of kumite, plus one men’s and one women’s division in kata, which is performed individually.

Skateboarding
The latest X Games sport to join the Olympic program. Skateboarding will feature two disciplines — street and park for men and women. Three-time Olympic snowboard halfpipe champion Shaun White showed interest in trying to qualify, but he has competed just once and that was last summer. Instead, teenagers and even preteens have taken up most of the early headlines, including Sky Brown, an 11-year-old, Japanese-born British athlete who would be the youngest Olympian since 1992.

Sport Climbing
This is not Alex Honnold free soloing El Capitan, but it already has Olympic roots from the Youth Summer Games. One set of medals will be awarded per gender, combining three disciplines: lead, speed, and bouldering. From Tokyo 2020: Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other, both climbing a fixed route on a 15-meter wall at a 95-degree angle. Winning times are generally between five and eight seconds. In bouldering, climbers scale a number of fixed routes on a four-meter wall in a specified time without safety ropes. In lead climbing, athletes attempt to climb as high as possible on a wall measuring over 15 meters in height within a fixed time with safety ropes.

Surfing
The U.S. has a chance to rack up medals here, given it currently boasts the world’s top-ranked man (Kolohe Andino) and woman (Carissa Moore). Icon Kelly Slater, the 47-year-old, 11-time world champion, is in position to qualify but is unsure if he wants to fulfill all the eligibility requirements. The “father of surfing” is actually an Olympian — five-time swimming medalist Duke Kahanamoku, who asked the IOC to consider adding surfing to the Games a century ago.

Notable New Events
Basketball: 3×3
The format: Games last 10 minutes, or until one team scores 21 points. Games are played on a half-court with a 12-second shot clock, and offense immediately turns to defense after a team scores. Former Purdue star Robbie Hummel just led the U.S. men to a world title and is favored to be part of the four-man Olympic team given it’s highly unlikely NBA players will take part.

Swimming/Track and Field: Mixed-Gender Relays
Mixed-gender events make Olympic debuts in two of the Games’ marquee sports. In swimming, a mixed 4x100m medley is on the program. Mixed relays debuted at the world championships in 2015, and this extra event could help American Caeleb Dressel approach Michael Phelps‘ record eight gold medals at a single Games. In track and field, a mixed 4x400m is slated for the first two days of the competition schedule, before the individual 400m.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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