With the Tokyo Olympic Games set to start in a couple weeks it is Team Brazil that appears best suited to claim surfing's first Olympic gold medal in the Men's Surfing competition. Based on the current WSL Leaderboard, Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira are currently the best surfers in the world ... and have been for a while. History beckons.
That the pair stand on the cusp of greatness also highlights Brazil's pre-eminent current place in the surfing hierarchy. While ISA President Fernando Aguerre met with the then IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, back in 1995 to discuss surfing's inclusion Olympics, the real breakthrough came 20 years later. That's when the new IOC President Thomas Bach proposed a plan to add more youthful, vibrant sports to the roster. Through Aguerre's unstinting efforts over the previous decades, surfing was well placed to be at the front of the queue for inclusion.
Yet even as relatively recently as 2015, it was hard to foresee Team Brazil being the out and out favorite to land surfing's first gold medal. While the year before Medina had made history by becoming the first Brazilian surfing World Champion, that result was seen as a potential outlier. Before his win, 32 of the 37 previous World Championships had been claimed by either an Australian or American.
Fast forward six years, though, and the pair of Medina and Ferreira look poised to make history. Filipe Toledo, the World No. 3 and perhaps the best beachbreak surfer of all time, can't even make the team due to the two-person per country rule.
In the last three CT seasons, Medina and Ferreira have claimed 14 of the 28 CT events. In that time, Medina l won his second World Title in 2018, before being clipped at Pipe by Ferreira in 2019. Since Italo's dramatic win there have been only three CT Finals where one of the pair hasn't made an appearance.
Such is the weight of success over the last three years it seems incredulous to suggest that they won't go far into the Olympics. With a smaller field of just 20, half of which come from the QS ranks, the pathway to a podium has far fewer obstacles than a normal CT event.
There will also, rather obviously, be no problem with motivation. Brazil has a strong Olympic tradition, though not an especially successful one. In 2016, as host nation, they earned their best return with seven gold medals. Most of their medals have come in the sports of volleyball, sailing and judo. Surfing, therefore, provides one of the country's best opportunities to win a precious, rare gold medal. The pair are already mainstream news in Brazil, and the interest in their exploits in Tokyo will be huge.
Crucially, both Medina and Ferreira feed, rather than freeze, under this type of pressure. After all, you don't amass a combined 10 million followers on Instagram if you don't like the attention. Performing under pressure is what they do best. They also come into the Games, unlike contenders John John Florence and Kolohe Andino for example, without underlying form or injury concerns.
Ferreira and Medina are on the brink of history. By the end of the month, we will know if they have made it.