Winning their first ISA World Surfing Championship gold medal, Japan has officially asserted themselves as a power player on the international surfing stage.
Anchored by WSL Championship Tour star, Kanoa Igarashi, who earned a silver medal in Tahara, the Japanese squad has quickly ascended to the highest level of the sport since it was announced two years ago that the 2020 Tokyo Games would include surfing. Team Japan didn't officially join he ISA until 1984.
"What a week," exclaimed Igrashi on Instagram. "Proud of the team ... Each surfer on team Japan stepped up."
With the impending Quiksilver Pro France on the horizon and conflicting travel arrangements, Igrashi was unable to be on hand for final awards ceremony, but was certainly there in spirit. Besides Igrashi, Japanese copper medalist Shun Murakami did a lot of the heavy lifting for the team, helping ensure their gold medal.
"This is a truly a momentous occasion for the history of surfing, as we have seen Team Japan assert themselves as one of the emerging, global powerhouses of the sport," said ISA President Fernando Aguerre. "Japan has a strong, rich surfing culture and the timing could not be better for them to win the gold with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics fast approaching."
"We saw the progression of women's surfing with the first edition to feature gender equality in competition slots," Continued Aguerre. "And we saw the talents of new and solidified stars of surfing who rose to the occasion on a global stage."
Rounding out the podium, Australia took home the silver medal, largely thanks to Sally Fitzgibbons, who won the individual gold in the women's division, while the United States got the bronze and South Africa claimed the copper.
"The Olympic spirit was on full display in Japan this week with the International Olympic Committee and United States Olympic Committee officials on site preparing for next year when the World Surfing Championship becomes an Olympic qualifying event," said USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse. "The World Surfing Championship is such a special event. The diversity of countries and athletes creates a next level excitement and electricity that will be absolutely captivating on the Olympic stage."
Billed as a warm-up to the 2019 ISA World Surfing Championship, which, as Cruse noted, will serve as the qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Games, the Olympic dream is less than two short years away.
The next big Olympic-oriented event will be the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, which lands in Huntington Beach, California, this October.
2019 ISA World Surfing Championship Team Results Gold - Japan Silver - Australia Bronze - United States Copper - South Africa 5 - Peru 6 - France 7 - Spain 8 - Argentina 9 - New Zealand