Kolohe Andino nearly hit the perfect wave in the grand final of the ISA World Surfing Games on Sunday in Miyazaki, Japan.
Andino, who is ranked third in the World Surf League and is leading the U.S. men’s charge toward the Olympic debut of surfing of 2020 in Tokyo, recorded a score of 9.43 just before time expired. The dramatic last trick bumped him past Brazil’s Gabriel Medina and into second place in the four-person final.
However, Italo Ferreira of Brazil did find the perfect wave. He combined a perfect 10 on seventh wave with a 7.77 a few minutes later to win the gold medal with 17.77 points. Andino was second with his best two scores combining for 17.06 points, followed by Medina with 14.53 and Japan’s Shun Murakami with 11.74.
Following the competition, the U.S. was awarded the team silver medal. Brazil took the gold medal and Japan was third.
Andino remains the leading American man in the race toward securing berths in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The top 10 men in this year’s World Surf League standings qualify for the Tokyo Games, though at a maximum of two per country. At No. 3, Andino is two spots ahead of John John Florence of Hawaii and six spots ahead of Seth Moniz of Hawaii, though Florence is expected to miss the rest of the season due to injury.
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Kelly Slater, an 11-time world champion and icon in the sport, just missed out on making the grand final, finishing third in the last repechage. However, at 10th in the World Surf League standings he is still in contention to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team.
Slater is so well known that he was given a specially carved chair by the Senegal delegation in Japan. Slater said he’ll keep it in his home forever.
“It was fun to have that camaraderie with everybody,” Slater said.
The big moment of the grand final came when Ferreira, who is ranked sixth in the world, scored a perfect 10 with about 11 minutes left. Until then, Andino held the lead with top scores of 6.17 and 6.00 on his first two waves. He later upped his score with a 7.63, and his final wave at 9.43 was the second highest of the grand final.
Carissa Moore of Hawaii, who is ranked first in the World Surf League’s women’s competition, had the highest finish among the American women. She finished fourth earlier this week.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.