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Surfing | How Australia Is Helping Increase the USA’s Chances of Olympic Success

The majority of Team USA’s Olympic athletes - and most Olympic athletes around the world for that matter -  are having to fight with Covid-19 restrictions and changes to what would be their usual preparation routine.

One of the few exceptions is Australia, who have controlled the pandmeic well thanks to early deduction and strict travel rules. The Land Down Under has been closed off to non-residents with strict quarantine rules since the pandemic began last March. 

As a result, the people can now live their lives largely as they did before the pandemic ever existed. This means concerts, capacity sports stadiums and walking to bars and restaurants without masks or the mandatory use of hand sanitizer. 

No Restrictions or Rules for Athlete Training

It also means that sports stars and Olympic athletes in Australia have for months now been able to train and prepare for events the way that they normally would have. As a result, Australia’s Olympic athletes have the added advantage of having better circumstances for physical and mental preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

The only other nation that can share in such luxury is neighboring New Zealand, with whom Australia recently opened a quarantine free travel corridor. Aside from New Zealand residents, only Australian citizens, permanent residents or people who can prove immediate family ties are allowed to enter Australia. Even then, they are subjected to a strict 14 day hotel quarantine at their own cost. 

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How Then Did Two of Team USA’s Olympic Squad Manage to Get In?

There are some exceptions for athletes who are entering Australia to participate in major sporting events. Organizations for several sports have worked together with the Australian government to make sure that events can still go ahead. This has meant that foreign athletes for past events have been able to enter the country, though they have still had to do the 14 day quarantine. You might remember the stories coming out of the quarantine hotels in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open back in February. 

Surfers John John Florence and Clarissa Moore were able to enter the country back in March thanks to this exception, due the WSL events taking place in Australia in April and May. Florence and Moore, both Hawaii natives, are set to represent Team USA in Japan this summer, as surfing makes its Olympic debut.

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Florence and Moore - Olympic Surf Training in Oz

There were two WSL events on Australia’s east coast in April, with a further two set to take place later in May on the west. John John Florence and Clarissa Moore were both therefore permitted to fly into Australia back in March, though they did have to complete the mandatory 14 day hotel quarantine. 

Upon emerging from their hotels after 14 days, both surfer expressed their surprise - and initial unease - at the return to pre-pandemic life. Florence has said that training and competing in WSL events in Australia ahead of the Tokyo Olympics has allowed him “to focus all [his] mental energy on technique or whatever it is in that moment.”

Florence and Moore are joined in Australia by Floridian teen surf sensation, and fellow Team USA Olympian, Caroline Marks. On the subject of training in a country without many pandemic restrictions she said, “It’s awesome not to, you know, live in fear.”

Have Australia Hindered Their Own Chances by Allowing US Surfers In?

Could Australia inadvertently be facilitating the relinquishing of Olympic medals to the USA by allowing athletes to stay and train in their close-to-normal environment? We’ll never truly be able to know for sure, no matter what the outcome in July may be. However, when it comes to sport at elite level, it often comes down to very fine margins when the winners and losers are decided. 

Therefore should Australia's surfers miss out on the Olympic Gold to John John Florence and/or Clarissa Moore and Caroline Marks, they might look back with regret at opening their doors for the WSL. With Moore being the world’s current number one and John John Florence being ranked third, they will both go into the Olympics as favorites to pick up some form of medal.

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The US and Oz Face Stiff Competition From Brazil

It’s not only US Olympic-bound surfers that have been representing at the WSL events in Australia. Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, Silvana Lima, and Tatiana Weston-Webb will all be representing Brazil in Japan this summer and have all been in Australia for the April and May WSL events. 

Brazil’s Italo Ferreira won in the men’s category at WSL Newcastle, while the USA’s Clarissa Moore won for the women. Italo Ferriera sits at the top of the WSL rankings, with his countrymen Gabriel Medina behind him in second, followed by the USA’s John John Florence. Australia themselves currently only have one male surfer in the top 10 - Morgan Cilbilic in sixth place. Morgan might be below Florence in the rankings, but he did take him down in WSL Newcastle last month.

In the women’s rankings, the USA has the top two spots clinched by Moore and Marks, with Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb holding third spot. Fourth fifth and sixth place are all held by Australian surfers though. 

Surfing at the Olympics - Who’s Likely to Win Medals?

If recent WSL showings and the current world rankings are anything to go by, then the medal place in both men’s and women’s surfing are likely to be dominated by the US and Brazil, with Australia closely in with a shout. In the men’s competition, Japan, the host nation, have a hot medal prospect in the form of Kanoa Igarashi, who is fourth in the WSL rankings. 

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Can the USA Cinch Surfing Olympic Gold?

According to the bookmakers, the USA are once again heavy favorites to get the most medals overall with crazy-slim odds of -800. This is hardly surprising as the USA has by far the most Olympic medals in the history of the games. The US also has strong athletes in the majority of the new events for the Tokyo 2021. 

As well as surfing, the sports debuting at this summer’s olympics includes, skateboarding, BMX and 3x3 basketball. In addition baseball and softball are returning to the games for the first time since Beijing 2008.

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