Carissa Moore the latest Olympian to receive Sullivan Award

Carissa Moore
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Carissa Moore, who won surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, joined a long list of gold medalists to receive the Sullivan Award, which has honored an outstanding U.S. athlete outside of major professional sports (usually NCAA or an Olympian) since 1930.

The other finalists were Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young, NCAA Softball Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo and NCAA Baseball Player of the Year Ivan Melendez.

Moore followed her Olympic title in 2021 by finishing second in the season-long World Surf League, upset by Australian Stephanie Gilmore in the finals in September. Most of the 2024 Olympic spots will be determined by next season’s World Surf League standings.

She is the first surfer and first Hawaiian to win the Sullivan Award.

Past honorees include Michael PhelpsCarl Lewis and Eric Heiden.

The Sullivan Award “recognizes the outstanding athlete whose athletic accomplishments are complemented by qualities of leadership, character and sportsmanship.”

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Olympians/Paralympians to win Sullivan Award since 2000
2022: Carissa Moore (Surfing)
2021: Simone Biles (Gymnastics) and Caeleb Dressel (Swimming)
2018: Kyle Snyder (Wrestling)
2016: Breanna Stewart (Basketball, shared award)
2013: Missy Franklin (Swimming)
2011: Evan Lysacek (Figure Skating)
2009: Shawn Johnson (Gymnastics)
2007: Jessica Long (Swimming, Paralympics)
2005: Paul Hamm (Gymnastics)
2004: Michael Phelps (Swimming)
2003: Sarah Hughes (Figure Skating)
2002: Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating)
2001: Rulon Gardner (Wrestling)

Stephanie Gilmore outduels Carissa Moore for record world surfing title

Stephanie Gilmore
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Australian Stephanie Gilmore beat Olympic gold medalist Carissa Moore of Hawaii to win a record-breaking eighth world surfing title at the World Surf League Finals in San Clemente, California.

Gilmore, a 34-year-old who was stunned in the quarterfinals of surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, rebounded to break her tie with retired countrywoman Layne Beachley for the most women’s world titles. Only American Kelly Slater, with 11, has more among men and women.

While Moore had a bye into the title match as the top-ranked surfer this season, the fifth-seeded Gilmore had to defeat the second-through-fourth seeds on Thursday just to get to Moore: Brisa Hennessy of Costa Rica, Tatiana Weston-Webb of Brazil and Johanne Defay of France.

Gilmore then swept the five-time world champ Moore in the best-of-three title series.

“Come from the bottom, come from fifth and win a world title, that’s freakin’ cool,” Gilmore said in an interview while still in the water. “But Carissa is the world champ to me this year. She had the best season ever.

“[Moore] really is the greatest of all time in my opinion.

“I’ve won a lot of titles in different ways, and this, to be honest, was the best win I’ve had. To come all the way from fifth and just grind it out all the way to the final.”

Brazilian Filipe Toledo won the men’s title over countryman and Olympic champion Italo Ferreira. Toledo is the third different Brazilian man to win the world title in the last three seasons.

Most of the 2024 Olympic spots will be determined by next season’s World Surf League standings. A primary storyline will be if the 50-year-old Slater competes over the full season and puts himself in position to earn one of up to three U.S. men’s Olympic spots. Slater was third in U.S. Olympic qualifying for Tokyo, where a maximum of two surfers per gender per nation qualified.

He won the season-opening Pipe Masters in February and finished the season fifth among Americans in the standings.

ON HER TURF: Gilmore reflects on world title, looks ahead to Olympics

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Gabriel Medina, surfing world champion, sets return from mental break

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Brazilian Gabriel Medina, a three-time and reigning world surfing champion, will reportedly return from a mental health break for the second half of the World Surf League season next month.

“Last year, there were heats where I was crying going to the water,” Medina said in a video interview with Brazil’s Globo, according to an Olympics.com translation. “This time [away] was good for me. It’s not a secret. It’s even interesting to talk about mental health. I had depression. I started treating myself with a psychologist. I never imagined being in this situation. It’s scary. Things stop making sense for you.”

Medina, 28, announced in January that he withdrew from the start of the WSL season indefinitely, saying he was “not in a place where I believe I can perform against the world’s best” with a need to focus on his well-being.

Days after Medina’s announcement, Brazilian media reported that he and his wife ended their marriage.

“I’m better, happy to be finding myself again,” Medina told Globo in the recent interview, according to the Olympics.com translation. “I learned a lot during this time.”

Medina, who has 10 million Instagram followers and was the first surfer to land a back flip in a contest, entered the Tokyo Games ranked No. 1 in the world and finished fourth.

He dropped his semifinal to Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi by .24 of a point and the bronze-medal heat to Australian Owen Wright by two tenths of a point. They were the two closest heats of any men’s or women’s elimination round matchup at surfing’s Olympic debut.

Fellow Brazilian Italo Ferreira took gold.

Medina’s first event of this season is expected to be in Indonesia in five weeks.

Surfing remains on the Olympic program for the 2024 Paris Games, with competition set to be in Tahiti. Qualifying procedures have not been published yet. For the Tokyo Games, the majority of surfers qualified via WSL season standings the year before the Olympics.

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