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Brazilian Surfing Team Tokyo Games 2020 – Preview

Brazil has taken the surfing world by storm in recent years, with names like Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, Filipe Toledo and Tatiana Weston-Webb becoming consistent presences in the upper echelons of the world rankings. In many ways they have revolutionised professional surfing, particularly on the men’s side of things, with aerial manoeuvres which were barely ever attempted only a few years ago now a go-to move for a couple of the above names. Unsurprisingly they’ll take a pretty handy team to the inaugural Olympic surfing event at Tokyo, so let’s take a look at the Brazilian surfing team and how we think they might fare.

The Team

Most of the surfing teams heading to the Olympics are significantly stronger on either the women’s or the men’s side, and for Brazil it’s undoubtedly the latter. Their quota of two male surfers was reached via the Championship Tour route, from which the top ten at the end of the 2019 season receive a spot in Japan – Ferreira finished first and Medina finished second, which meant that poor old Toledo, despite finishing fourth in the world that year, didn’t receive an invitation. 

Both Brazilian women also qualified through the Championship Tour, though not in as emphatic a fashion as the men. Weston-Webb finished in sixth that year, while Silvana Lima finished 12th but got a call-up regardless because both the USA and Australia had three female surfers in the top ten. Weston-Webb and Lima certainly isn’t as dangerous a duo as Ferreira and Medina, but they’re more than capable of causing a stir themselves, so let’s take a deeper look at their chances.

The Women

Weston-Webb could have theoretically competed for any of Brazil, the USA or the UK – she was born in Brazil, raised in the USA and her father is from the UK, meaning she holds citizenship in all three countries. As of 2018, however, she has chosen to represent Brazil in the World Surf League and will do the same at the Olympics, and Brazilian fans will be more than happy to have her. 

The 25-year-old has finished in the top ten at the end of the Championship Tour season every year since 2015, including fourth place finishes in both 2016 and 2018. The powerful goofy-footer feels like a threat at most events, but throughout her career that hasn’t translated into many wins. This year, however, it seems like she’s ready to take the next step. After finishing third in Hawaii in the season-opener, she made the final in Newcastle in the season’s third event before winning the next one at Margaret River. Those results have her sitting in second place in the world rankings, and mean she will head to Japan as one of the in-form surfers in the world. 

She’s certainly the best hope of a medal for the Brazilian women, but Silvana Lima is an outside chance to be there or thereabouts late in the event too. At 36 years of age she’s been around for a while, though her career hasn’t been littered with the tour success that her talent at times suggested it would. She finished in the top five every year between 2007 and 2011 without ever winning a title, but since then she’s only sporadically been a part of the Championship Tour. In 2017, ’18 and ’19 she finished 12th, 13th and 12th respectively, and in her mid 30s she’s still a bonafide part of the tour, but she’s not exactly competing for the title of world champ.

Standing at just 5’1”, the enduring feature of Lima’s career has been persistence and determination, but she’ll need to bring more than that to feature in the medals in Japan. She hasn’t yet surfed on the Championship Tour in 2021 so she’ll enter the Olympics having not competed against the best in the world for a couple of years, and though on her day she is capable of surfing well, she heads in as Brazil’s least likely surfer to leave with a medal.

The Men

So talented is the male duo Brazil are sending to Japan, they could arguably lay claim to being the two favourites to take out the Gold Medal. A couple of others – most notably a guy named John John Florence – might have something to say about that, but regardless there’s every chance that Brazil leaves with two of the three medals on the men’s side of the Tokyo Olympics surfing event.

Medina, of course, has been one of – if not the – best surfer in the world for a number of years. Undoubtedly he’s been the most consistent, and of the top handful in the world he is the only one to continually push for a title over the past few years. His record speaks for itself – first winning the title in 2014 at the age of just 20, in the ensuing years he has gone on to finish 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st and 1st, in that order. It’s an incredible record and is testament to his ability to perform to a high level in all conditions – backhand or forehand, big or small, he can handle it, and is able to put together big scores in a variety of ways.

That will hold him in good stead heading into a tournament in which scores may need to be manufactured from waves of a lesser quality than what Championship Tour surfers are used to, as will the fantastic form he heads into it with. Medina is the runaway leader on the world tour after four events, having made the final in the first three. Two of those he lost, while at the Narrabeen Classic he was victorious, and a ninth place at Margaret River is the only blemish on an otherwise fantastic record. He probably deserves to be favourite to take out the Gold Medal.

As mentioned, there are only a couple of men who could challenge him for that favouritism, and one of them will also be representing Brazil. The 5’6” pocket rocket that we call Italo Ferreira burst into the upper echelon of surfers in the world in 2018 when he finished fourth on the Championship Tour, and the next year he followed it up with an inaugural world title. This year he will once again be in contention, having already won an event and finished third and fifth in two others in 2020/21, enough to have him sitting in a comfortable second place in the world standings.

Ferreira has a powerful, punchy surfing style, though in recent years he has begun to rely on his incredible penchant for aerials more than perhaps any surfer in the world. Even if the waves are only medium sized at Tsurigasaki Beach, expect him to take to the sky, though whether or not the judges reward him for it might determine just how far he goes in the Olympics. He has perhaps tended to be over-reliant on aerials in recent events and it has appeared at times that the novelty has worn off with the judges, but he is a dynamic and powerful surfer when he stays grounded too, so if it’s big hacks that they want, he is more than capable of dishing that up too.

The Brazilian men’s team is as good a chance of bringing home the Gold Medal as any, and there is every chance that they will snare a second piece of silverware as well. On the women’s side there are a couple of teams ahead of them, but with Weston-Webb elevating her status so far in 2021 she will also be a key threat. This makes Brazil arguably the most dangerous surfing team at the Tokyo Olympics, and it’s likely the nation’s medal cabinet will get a couple of shiny new items as a result.  

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