Rough waves for Tofino surfers at Olympic qualifier

Tofino, both the spiritual and logistical home of Canadian surfing, will not be represented in the Tokyo Olympics this summer after Canada failed to qualify any surfers to the Games.

It comes as a disappointment for a Canadian team that had realistic hopes for representation in Tokyo, where the sport will make its Olympic debut. The final opportunity was at the last-chance qualifier in Surf City, El Salvador, where the final seven of 20 women’s berths and final five of 20 men’s spots for Tokyo were decided over the weekend.

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The qualifier began on an ominous note for Canada – with nine-time national champion and big men’s hope Pete Devries of Tofino unable to compete due to injury – and it didn’t get any better. Surf Canada president and high-performance director Dom Dominic of Victoria labelled the loss of Canadian team captain Devries as “a massive blow to our Olympic program.” Devries waited a lifetime to see his sport in the Olympics but at 38, this was probably the Islander’s only chance. In Devries’ absence, Shane Campbell was top male Canadian at 37th with Cody Young 46th and Kalum Temple of Tofino 73rd.

Bethany Zelasko of Huntington Beach, California, born to a Canadian mother, was top female for Canada at 13th with Victoria-born-and raised Paige Alms, a veteran 32-year-old big-wave surfer based in Maui, placing 29th. The biggest setback for Canada was Mathea Olin of Tofino at 49th. She won Canada’s first-ever international gold medal in longboard at the 2017 Pan American championships. Olin returned to Peru two years later to win the bronze medal in women’s longboard at the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games to claim Canada’s first medal in surfing in a multi-sport Games. The Islander is only 18 and has Paris 2024 at Tahiti and Los Angeles 2028 ahead of her – where she could be joined by rising younger sister Sanoa Olin of Tofino — but Mathea Olin seemed on a trajectory to begin her Olympic journey in Tokyo.

Canada placed 13th in team points, another sharp disappointment as it went in ranked in the world top-10.

A field of 256 surfers from 52 nations gathered in El Salvador looking to claim the final berths into the Tokyo Olympics. They went to Teresa Bonvalot and Yolanda Sequeira of Portugal, Pauline Ado of France, Leilani McGonagle of Costa Rica, Daniella Rosas of Peru and Mahina Maeda and Amuro Tsuzuki of Japan on the women’s side; and Lucca Mesinas and Miguel Tudela of Peru, Manuel Selman of Chile, Leon Glatzer of Germany and Hiroto Ohhara of Japan on the men’s.

Fifteen of the 20 men’s Olympic slots and 13 of the 20 women’s spots had earlier been filled based on results in the 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour and the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games.

ROAD TO TOKYO: More than 75 Island or Island-based athletes across several sports will compete in the Tokyo Olympics from July 23 to Aug. 8 and Tokyo Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 … Not among them will be Jesse Hodges of Victoria. The dream died for the former Chicago Cubs infield prospect as Canada was eliminated from the Americas regional Olympic baseball qualifying tournament over the weekend following a wrenching 6-5 playoff-round loss to the Dominican Republic after leading 3-0 after the first inning and 5-4 in the top of the eighth. The first-place U.S. advanced to Tokyo while the second- and third-place Dominican Republic and Venezuela head to a last-chance Olympic qualifier. Canada placed fourth and out of chances until Los Angeles 2028 (baseball is not included for Paris 2024).

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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