- WSL / Matt Dunbar

With surfing's Olympic debut only a few short weeks away, South Africa's Jordy Smith has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics due to continued issues with a knee injury he sustained after the conclusion of the Championship Tour's four-stop Australia leg.

"It was tough to make the decision to withdraw. I've been looking forward to the Olympics a long time now and my build up was going so well," said Smith in a media statement released Friday and picked up by ESPN.

"However, this decision is the only way to ensure I have a long career in professional surfing and reach my ultimate goal of winning the WSL Championship Tour," he continued.

Smith, who was considered a favorite to medal in Tokyo, currently sits in seventh on the WSL Leaderboard after being forced to withdraw from the recent Surf Ranch Pro.

Victoria Bay's Bianca Buitendag will be the lone surfer representing South Africa in Japan. Buitendag's best season on the Championship Tour came in 2015 when she made two Finals and finished fourth in the world.

Smith's withdrawal means Italy's Leonardo Fioravanti will get his spot, according to the International Surfing Association.

"As per the Tokyo 2020 Alternates list published by the ISA, Fioravanti is the next eligible surfer to replace Smith via the qualification event from which Smith qualified: the 2019 WSL Championship Tour (CT)," the ISA said in a statement.

"The Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) has accepted the qualification slot for Fioravanti, finalizing the process."

Fioravanti, who placed 31st on the 2019 WSL Championship Tour, secured his eligibility by competing at the recent ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador, where he finished equal 19th.

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