Surfs up! South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag qualifies for Tokyo Olympics surfing final
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CAPE TOWN - SOUTH Africa will claim a second medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday after Bianca Buitendag continued an amazing run to qualify for the women’s surfing final.
Swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker clinched a silver medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke earlier in the day, and now it will be gold or silver for Buitendag.
The 27-year-old from Victoria Bay on the Garden Route had already knocked out seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore 13.93 to 10.00 on Monday.
Then she faced Portugal’s Yolanda Hopkins in the quarter-finals at the Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on Tuesday, with all the surfing finals brought forward by a day due to an impending storm.
Buitendag got the job done against Hopkins, winning with 9.50 points to the 5.46 from Hopkins.
It was then on to the semi-final at 6am SA time on Tuesday for Buitendag, where she was up against American Marks, a 19-year-old from Boca Raton in Florida.
Buitendag piled on the pressure in her second wave, scoring 4.33, and then her big moment came in her third wave, as the judges awarded her a 6.67 score to total 11.00.
Marks had it all to do, but could only muster 3.00 in her third wave and 3.67 in her fifth – with the third wave score eventually changed to zero due to ‘priority interference’, which means that Marks hindered the scoring potential of Buitendag, who was determined by the judges to have had the right of way for that wave.
After beating Gilmore on Monday, Buitendag told the Team SA website: “Being up against a seven-time world champ, you can understand my sentiment going into it. I had nothing to lose… I felt absolutely no pressure.
“I’m the underdog, coming in at 17th seed for this event. It’s a really comfortable spot to be in. It takes away all the nerves and pressure that could exist.
“Things just seem to be going my way… many times in the ocean, it doesn’t. So, a lot of things had to align for this victory to happen. I knew I had to be on the best waves, otherwise I stood no chance. I just made sure that was at least covered, to give myself the best chance possible.”
Now Buitendag has a chance of becoming the first ever women’s surfing Olympic champion, and she will face American Carissa Moore, who scored 8.33 to beat Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki (7.43) in the second semi-final, in the decider.