Former World Junior Surfing Champion Ella Williams has become the first New Zealander to qualify to represent the country in surfing at the Olympic Games.
Williams, 24, unofficially clinched her spot in the Tokyo 2020 line up at the International Surfing Association World Games this week as the last standing Kiwi in the women’s field.
This year’s ISA event was the first opportunity to qualify for surfing’s Olympic Games debut, with the top male and female surfer inside the top 30 overall from each continent earning a continental qualification spot.
The New Zealand athletes benefit from the quota system put in place for the Olympics, with only two men and two women able to represent each country.
Eight women and 10 men qualify by way of the World Surf League Championship Tour, where the Australian quota for the Games will be filled. As a result, the continental spot was left to be fought out between surfers from New Zealand, Fiji, American Samoa and Guam.
While all three Australian surfers are still in the draw, Whangamata’s Williams was the last women standing from the other Oceania nations competing at the event and progressed through to the top 30 mark.
Williams’ selection, which still needs to be ratified by the New Zealand Olympic Committee before being confirmed, will likely remain unofficial until the end of the World Surf League season where the Australian qualification spots will be filled by the two highest ranked surfers from the country.
With only four of the 10 competitions on the CT left to surf, Australian duo Sally Fitzgibbons (2) and Stephanie Gilmore (3) are firmly in the world title race and it would take something miraculous for them to finish the year outside the top eight.
While missing out on the qualification spot at this year’s ISA world games, Kiwi CT athlete Paige Hareb could still qualify through the World Tour. With four of the eight spots expected to be filled by athletes from the United States and Australia, Hareb is one of five in the hunt for one of the remaining four slots alongside surfers from Brazil, Costa Rica and France.
After this qualification spots from this year’s CT and ISA continental qualifiers are filled, the remaining part of the field will be decided at next year’s ISA World Games, where the first four eligible men and six eligible women will qualify.
The men’s competition at this year’s ISA World Games is yet to get underway, but will see Kiwi trio Ricardo Christie, Billy Stairmand and Kehu Butler try to secure Olympic qualification as well.