Surfing is set to make its Olympics debut at Tokyo 2020, with two events taking place at Shidashita Beach in Chiba from July 26 to 29. How will the surfing events work at Tokyo 2020 and who is favoured to win medals in them? Read on for our Tokyo 2020 surfing preview.
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Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Surfing schedule
All dates listed as according to Japan Standard Time (UTC+9).
Monday, July 26 – Tuesday, July 27: Heats rounds
Wednesday, July 28: Quarter-finals and semi-finals
Thursday, July 29: Finals
How will the surfing events work at Tokyo 2020?
There will be one surfing event each for men and women at Tokyo 2020, in which a total of 40 athletes will compete at Shidashita Beach in Chiba. The surfers will be using the shortboard, which is approximately 1.8 metres in length and features a pointed tip designed to aid turning and quicken manoeuvres.
Both events will have a format in which an initial heats round is used to establish eight quarter-finalists, who will then compete in head-to-head contests for the remainder of the tournament. Each heat will last for 20 to 25 minutes and allows a surfer to ride a maximum of 25 waves during it.
Surfers are rated by a panel of five judges, who score their performance on each wave from one to 10 with two decimal points. Scores are awarded according to a combination of the speed, power, and difficulty of the wave, and the innovation, complexity, and variety of the manoeuvres exhibited by the surfer as they ride it. The surfers’ final scores for each heat are determined by combining their two highest individual wave scores.
Tokyo 2020: Men’s surfing event favourites
Brazil will be firmly hoping to earn medals in the men's surfing event, with Gabriel Medina (2.490*) and Italo Ferreira (3.100*) currently leading the betting market to win gold. The pair made up the top two in the 2019 World Surf League (WSL), winning five of its 11 major events between them, and also presently occupy the top two spots for the 2021 season.
Brazil and the US are among the countries tipped to win gold in the surfing events.
The odds suggest that the biggest threat to a Brazilian gold is the US’ John John Florence (5.300*). Florence finished seventh on the 2019 WSL tour despite missing five events with injury, and won two and placed in the top five at all but one of the six events he did compete in.
Japan's primary medal hope is Kanoa Igarashi (5.620*). Igarashi currently sits in sixth on the 2021 WSL tour and trained extensively at Shidashita Beach earlier in his career, meaning he could reap the benefits of home advantage and should require less time to become accustomed to the conditions than his competitors.
Other potential medal prospects for the Men’s surfing event include South Africa’s Jordy Smith (12.340*), who is set to be among the more experienced surfers expected to compete, and Australia’s Owen Wright (12.340*), who was the first-ever surfer to post two perfect scores in a single event when he did so at the 2015 Fiji Pro.
Tokyo 2020: Women’s surfing event favourites
Meanwhile, the United States possess reasons to feel confident about collecting medals in the Women’s event. The outright market is led by four-time World Tour Champion Carissa Moore (2.520*), who also topped the 2019 WSL tour and enters Tokyo 2020 presently leading the 2021 tour having finished in the top three at each of the six major events thus far.
She is trailed in the odds by fellow American Caroline Marks (4.030*). Aged just 19, she is the youngest surfer set to compete at Tokyo 2020, but she has already highlighted her ability by narrowly finishing in second on the 2019 WSL tour and currently resides in sixth on the 2021 tour.
The odds suggest that Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons (4.030*) is best-placed to deny a gold for the US. She came fifth on the 2019 WSL tour, but also placed in the top five for nine of its 10 major events and has followed this by repeating the feat at five of the six events on the 2021 tour.
France's Johanne Defay (9.760*) is currently second on the 2021 tour and edged Moore to win its most recent event, the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro. While she never has finished higher than fifth on a WSL tour, she appears to be hitting top form at the right time for Tokyo 2020 and thus could be a value bet to top the podium.
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