Could John John Florence come back from injury and make the Rip Curl WSL Finals? With two events remaining in Mexico and Tahiti, one big result could see the Hawaiian slip into the top 5. And if makes it to Trestles, well, he's in with a chance of winning the World Title.
That Lazarus-like scenario seemed impossible when Florence underwent surgery on his left knee after injuring it during competition at Margaret River in early April. Up until that point he'd been the form surfer of the event. That setback came after he'd only recently recuperated from full reconstruction on his other knee back in 2019.
Initially, all of the chat around Florence's recovery was centered around whether or not he'd be ready to represent the United States in surfing's debut on sport's biggest stage in Chiba. Even from his hospital bed, the two-time World Champion made it clear he would be ready.
And as we reported, Florence's latest Instagram post showed him back in the water nine weeks after surgery and two weeks before Chiba. And while he wasn't surfing at 100-percent, he showed enough of his pre-injury form to suggest he's where he wants to be.
Florence's return to competition does however raise the question of him making a surge back into contention for the WSL Finals. His surfing in Tokyo should give the first indication of whether he is back to anywhere near his best. If he is, he'll have two events to climb back into contention.
If he needs any confidence he can look back to his injury-ravaged year in 2019. Then he finished as the World No. 7, despite missing five of the 11 events on the CT. As it stands now he is at No. 10 on the WSL Leaderboard, just over 4,400 points behind Griffin Colapinto, who holds the all-important 5th spot.
It's a significant, though not impossible, gap that he has to close. However, if does regain full fitness, a win at either Mexico or Tahiti would put him right back in touch with that leading pack. And why wouldn't you back a fully flying Florence at either Barra de Cruz and Teahupo'o?
If he was to perform such a miraculous comeback, it would be another advantage to the new Rip Curl WSL Final's format. In previous years any serious injury would derail a World Title campaign. However, if a fully fit Florence could squeeze into Trestles, the prospect of him tackling Medina, Ferreira, Toledo, and let's add Colapinto for argument's sake, would be a truly exciting finish featuring the world's best, most in-form surfers.
Now that scenario is a long way off, but Mexico is still weeks away and there's always Chiba to get him back in competitive form. Maybe a World Title number three isn't that far off for Florence after all?