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Peruvian Surfing Team Tokyo Games 2020 – Preview

Peru isn’t a nation typically associated with producing a plethora of elite surfers at the top level. In fact, throughout the course of the six events which have already taken place this season on the World Surf League’s Championship Tour, they haven’t had a single representative. Despite that, they have managed to fill their quota of four surfers at the Tokyo Olympics, making them one of just six countries to do so. The others, it’s worth noting, are far more established surfing countries like Australia, Brazil, the USA and France, along with host nation Japan also has four, so it’s safe to say the Peruvians have done well to join this illustrious company. 

The Team

Given their current lack of representation on the aforementioned Championship Tour, it’s no surprise that the four Peruvian representatives had to find alternate avenues to the Tokyo Olympics. In fact, in 2019 – the year during which qualifiers for the Olympics from the CT were decided – no Peruvian made it into an event, much like this year to date.

Instead, it was the ISA World Surfing Games through which these surfers were able to qualify. The two men – Lucca Mesinas and Miguel Tudela – both came through the recently concluded edition of the event, from which the top five surfers who had not yet qualified for the Olympics got the call-up. Of the women, Daniella Rosas also made it through courtesy of her performance at that event, while former world champion Sofia Mulánovich was the first Peruvian to book her spot at the ISA World Surfing Games – Asia back in 2019.

There’s no doubt this team doesn’t exactly carry names like the upper echelons of teams going to Tokyo, but do any of them have a chance of causing a few ripples?

The Women

Unequivocally the most well-known name on this team, and indeed in Peruvian surfing history, is Sofia Mulánovich. Mulánovich, of course, was once a staple of the World Surf League, and famously became the first surfer from Latin America to win a world title when she took out top honours in 2004. She won three of the six events that year, and over the course of the next five years she would win another seven Championship Tour events, including the event at Bells Beach, the Roxy Pro Fiji and the Roxy Pro Gold Coast. 

Now 38 years of age, she’s not exactly at the peak of her powers and hasn’t competed at the top level since 2013. However, she has continued surfing intermittently in the Qualifying Series since then, though she hasn’t competed since 2019 when she qualified for the Olympics at the ISA World Surfing Games. If we rewound 15 years she would be a top hope here – nearing 40 years old it’s a bit of a different story, but with her talent and experience at major events she is likely Peru’s best hope at a medal.

Her Peruvian teammate in the women’s event is at the opposite end of her career. Daniella Rosas was just a couple of years old when Mulánovich won her world title, and now 19 she no doubt harbours ambitions of following in the footsteps of her more experienced counterpart and making waves at the top level, but at her young age she’s a fair way off that point just yet.

She was involved in the Sofia Mulánovich Surfing Program as a young teenager and her talent has been clear throughout her junior career, but just how far that will take her is yet to be seen. She has had some positive results already, winning the Pan American Games in Lima in 2019 and, of course, finishing high enough at the recent ISA World Surfing Games to qualify for Tokyo, but this will be the toughest field she’s ever competed against.

At opposite ends of their career, it would be a surprise to see either of these two end up on the podium. A few years ago Mulánovich would have been a much better chance while perhaps a few years from now Rosas will be, but at 38 and 19 respectively they’ll have limited expectations on their respective shoulders heading in.

The Men

Lucca Mesinas is a 24-year-old from Mancora who has spent his time over the last few years plying his trade in the Qualifying Series. Mancora is a small town in the northwest of Peru, and according to the residents themselves there’s not a whole lot to do there but surf. The regular footer began at seven years age and grew up sharing waves with his parents, and the considerable amount of time he’s spent in the water throughout his life has obviously paid off.

Though he hasn’t been able to crack it onto the Championship Tour, he has had some success at the lower levels, with a career highlight coming in 2018 when he was part of the Peruvian team that won the Pan American games. Few will be expecting him to be able to go with the best surfers in the world, though he does come into the Olympics in good form having qualified through the ISA World Surfing Games in early June, before winning the Corona Montañita Open a little over a week later.

His teammate will be Miguel Tudela, a 26-year-old who grew up at Punta Hermosa, a district about 40 kilometres south of the nation’s capital, Lima. Like Mesinas, he has been doing his competing in the Qualifying Series for many years, though he was set to make his Championship Tour earlier this season at Pipeline before he was unfortunately forced to withdraw prior to the event as a result of an injury.

Growing up surfing Punta Hermosa, Tudela is accustomed to a variety of conditions. His home break is more than capable of dishing up huge waves, meaning he’s very comfortable in heavy swells, but equally he made a name for himself as a youngster as someone capable of shining when the waves aren’t at their best. The waves at Tsurigasaki Beach at the Olympics might be decent enough, but they won’t be at the quality we’re used to on the Championship Tour, and having to make the most of potentially average waves could be in Tudela’s favour.

Nonetheless, neither he nor Mesinas will be favoured to earn a medal. With the likes of Medina, Ferreira and Igarashi in the water they will be up against it just to advance to the latter stages, but who knows – they both enter the contest in good form and could spring a surprise.

None of the four Peruvian surfers heading to Tokyo are likely to be able to match it with the best in the world, but there’s enough talent there to spring a surprise. Mulánovich might be their best hope – she’s the best surfer Peru has ever produced and if she still has an iota of the skill level that took her to the 2004 world title, she could perhaps cause a few upsets. Overall their chances of a medal are low, but stranger things have certainly happened in sport.

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