Brazilian surfer Italo Ferreira became the first Olympic gold medalist in surfing, overcoming the early adversity of breaking his board on his first wave to defeat Japan's Kanoa Igarashi on Tuesday in Tokyo.
In Olympic surfing, each wave that a surfer rides is evaluated by a panel of five judges on a scale of 0.1 to 10.0. The highest and lowest of the five scores are discarded. The surfer’s score is the average of the three remaining marks. Each surfer’s two best scoring waves are added together to determine their heat total (out of a possible 20 points).
Ferreira, who is the reigning champion of the World Surf League, posted a 7.77 and a 7.37 for a combined 15.14 while Igarashi struggled to keep up. The silver medalist counted a 3.83 and a 2.77, combining for a 6.60. Ferrerira began paddling back to the shore with over a minute left as Igarashi was too far behind to best his score. The Brazilian was greeted at the beach by teammates who lifted him on their shoulders, carrying on a tradition that the winner's feet should not touch the sand.
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In the bronze medal match, Australian surfer Owen Wright edged out Brazil's Gabriel Medina. Wright, who sustained a brain injury on a wipeout in 2015 and had to relearn how to surf, celebrated the win enthusiastically on the beach.
Wright, 31, scored a 6.50 on his first wave and 5.47 on his fourth, combining for a match score of 11.97. Medina scored a 5.43 on his third wave and a 5.77 on his eighth and final wave, combining for an 11.77.
American Kolohe Andino was eliminated by Igarashi in the quarterfinals on Monday.
American Caroline Marks was upset by Japan's Amuro Tsuzuki in the women's bronze medal match, 6.80 to 4.26. Marks, after blazing through the first few rounds with sky-high scores, topped out at a 2.33 on her first wave.
The U.S. got a medal nonetheless — and the gold at that. No. 1 seed Carissa Moore came out on top in the gold medal match, defeating South Africa's Bianca Buitendag 14.93 to 8.46.
Moore's highest wave score came on Wave 5 with a 7.60, and Wave 4's 7.33 was just behind. Buitendag's highest wave score came on Wave 8, her last attempt, with a 5.23. Both took their time waiting for the right waves, but Buitendag struggled to find opportunities to keep up with the four-time World Surf League champion Moore.