Olympics: Two Kiwi surfers qualify for Tokyo after Paige Hareb falls agonisingly short

New Zealand will have two representatives in surfing’s debut at the Olympic Games, after Paige Hareb fell just short of the mark to secure a third spot in the lineup.

In her final bid to earn qualification at the International Surfing Association World Games, Hareb finished in 11th after a strong run through the contest. However, needing to finish in the top seven eligible surfers to earn a spot at the Games, the result meant she missed out by two places. While the final day of the event is expected to play out on Monday (NZT), none of the results will change the outcome for Hareb.

It means 2013 Junior World Champion Ella Williams and Billy Stairmand will be the only Kiwis in the lineup in Japan later in the year, after earning their spots at the 2019 ISA World Games with the continental qualification spots.

At the 2019 event, the highest placed surfer from each continent aside from the Americas secured a spot for their country in both the men’s and women’s fields.

However, Williams had to wait on results from the 2021 World Games before knowing her spot was official. With both Hareb and Gisbourne surfer Saffi Vette contesting the event in El Salvador, had they both finished inside the top seven eligible surfers, they would have been the two to earn qualification as the criteria prioritised overall placings this year above the continental spots. The part of the criteria proved to be detrimental to Hareb’s hopes.

Japan had two surfers qualify through a top-seven placing in the 2021 ISA World Games, and take those spots despite having one allocated to them as the host nation and having secured another through the continental qualification in 2019.

Williams’ spot was confirmed after Vette was eliminated in the fifth round of the repechage draw. Because no Kiwi men attended the contest, Stairmand’s spot was always secure.

New Zealand will be one of 12 nations to compete in the women’s field, and one of 14 to compete in the men’s. Australia, Brazil, France and the United States are the only countries to fill their full four-person quota.

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