The New Zealand pair of Ella Williams (WGM) and Billy Stairmand (RAG) have finished their Tokyo 2020 Olympic campaign both placing equal ninth. The surfing event was completed a day early on Tuesday to make the most of the large 2.0m plus waves generated from the typhoon hitting the region.
The first ever surfing gold medals were won by Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and USA’s Carissa Moore.
Silver medals went to Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) and Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) while bronze medals went to Owen Wright (AUS) and Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN).
The Kiwi duo were eliminated a day prior to the finals in 1.0m – 1.5m messy waves affected by the onshore winds from the typhoon.
Ella Williams went up against Costa Rica’s Brisa Hennessey in Round 3 and came up short – 12.0 points to Williams 7.73 points.
“The way I looked at the heats was simply to control what I could control and at the end of the day, if I was on the best waves it would allow me to open up and do my best surfing” said Williams.
“The conditions changed so much, every five minutes it was changing. I stuck to my plan and waited out the back for the sets. I took that risk. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t” she added.
Williams third round loss had her in good company with the likes of seven-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) also bowing out alongside World Tour surfers Johanne Defay (FRA) and Tatiana West (BRA).
“It is good to finish alongside some good company. To be honest this whole week has been such a dream week to be here competing. I have been enjoying it and soaking up every minute of it because I know how hard I have worked to get to this place” said Williams.
“I feel proud to be a Kiwi, I feel proud to be representing New Zealand and the small town of Whangamata. I am slowly taking it all in and eventually, once this loss washes away, I will cherish this opportunity to compete on the world stage and to represent New Zealand and make history surfing in the Olympics.”
Stairmand also bowed out of the event in the third round, ending the Kiwi campaign. Coming up against defending World Champion Italo Ferreira (BRA), Stairmand put it all on the line with his performance.
“Yeah, that punt, damn I wish I landed that” said Stairmand in reference to the gigantic forehand air that he attempted and fell on.
“I got that wave and it gave me heaps of speed. I had the World Champ who is especially good at airs so I thought why not go for a huge punt. I wasn’t gonna do a cutback to get a 3 point ride, I wanted to give it my all and I did” Stairmand added.
“I personally like surfing against the best surfers. I think it brings out the best surfer and competitor in me. And I love a good challenge. I felt comfortable and confident the whole way through and I was honestly enjoying every moment. I think a happy surfer is a dangerous competitor and I was happy.”
“Unfortunately, I didn’t beat the World Champ, but I had one the best days of my life. I became an Olympian, I surfed against two world champs and think I did pretty well matched up against them. And I hope I did New Zealand proud.”
“The last seven days have truly been the best experience of my life. The travel, the Olympic Village, the greeting into the NZ Team, the family vibe, the opening ceremony, and the competition. There have been so many amazing things happening over this whole journey and I am so honoured and proud to be a small part of the NZ Team.
On the opening day of the surfing, Stairmand placed third in his opening heat behind Kanoa Igarashi and Miguel Tudela (PER). That dropped him into the repechage round where he bounced back with a third place finish behind John Florence (USA) and Rio Waida (IND) in his five man heat to advance to Round 3.
Williams placed second behind Caroline Marks (USA) in her first heat to advance directly to Round 3 on the second day of the event.
The New Zealand surfers will get the first New Zealand charter flight home on August 1 before completing two week’s quarantine.
Men’s Round 1 (top 2 advance)
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), 12.77, 1, Miguel Tudela (PER), 10.67, 2, Billy Stairmand (NZL), 9.97, 3, Jeremy Flores (FRA), 7.63, 4
Men’s Round 2 (top 3 advance)
John Florence (USA), 12.77, 1, Rio Waida (IND), 11.53, 2, Billy Stairmand (NZL), 11.34, 3, Manuel Selman (CHI), 9.74, 4, Carlos Munoz (CRC), N/S
Men’s Round 3
Italo Ferreira (BRA), 14.54, 1, Billy Stairmand (NZL), 9.67, 2
Women’s Round 1 (top 2 advance)
Caroline Marks (USA), 13.40, 1, Ella Williams (NZL), 9.70, 2, Leilani McGonagle (CRC), 9.64, 3, Yolanda Hopkins (POR), 9.24, 4
Women’s Round 3
Brisa Hennessey (CRC), 12.0, 1, Ella Williams (NZL), 7.73, 2
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics comprised twenty males and twenty females with country’s fielding a maximum of two athletes in each category.
In 2019 Ella Williams was joined by Billy Stairmand as the two Oceania qualifiers from the World Surfing Games. The highest placed male and female from Oceania secured Olympic spots provided they finished inside the top 30 at the event.
The Olympic qualification process started with the World Surf League (WSL) where ten males and 8 females on the 2019 World Tour directly qualified for Tokyo 2020.
The final allocation comprised the top five males and seven females from the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games held in El Salvador in May.
View the full Olympic qualification system.
For further information on the New Zealand Surfing Team, please contact Surfing New Zealand’s Ben Kennings on 021 2278732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
High resolution action images of team members are available to media free of charge upon request.
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Author: Ben Kennings