New Zealand surfers Ella Williams and Billy Stairmand have had their Olympic dreams confirmed, being named in the New Zealand team for Tokyo.
They secured their Olympic spots with performances at the 2019 International Surfing Association World Games. With last years worlds cancelled, it meant those marks retained their importance. Taranaki’s Paige Hareb and Gisbornes Saffi Vette tried to force their way into contention at this years ISA worlds in Ecuador but came up short.
This is a dream come true for me, said Raglan-based Stairmand.
The Kiwi surfer said he was focused and raring to take on the Olympic competition.
Ever since surfing was named as a sport in the Olympics I put it at the top of my goals list.
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Surfing is one of six sports making their debut at the Olympics, along with softball, baseball, sport climbing, skateboarding and karate as the Games look to capture a new youth market.
Stairmand, 31, an eight-time New Zealand champion, described becoming the first male New Zealand Olympic surfer as huge.
Id like to thank everyone who has always backed me and believed in me. Anything is possible if you work hard.
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Raglan surfer Billy Stairmand has the repertoire to make him a threat at the Tokyo Olympics.
Stairmand has qualified for the World Surf League Challenger Series in a major development for his professional career.
He has competed regularly with most of the field assembled for the Olympics and believes he could have a chance of getting on the podium if conditions and the draw go his way.
Williams, who works in her parents surf shop at Whangamata, describes her selection for Tokyo as so special.
I wouldnt be where I am today without my family, so Im super grateful to have them by my side every step of the way, Williams said.
The surfing selection was something of a formality, but the significance has still been strong for Williams.
Im just so proud to be a Kiwi surfer. Its a great day. To be wearing the fern, its been a dream come true, Im so, so stoked today has come, Williams said as the surfing announcement was made at a function at Auckland’s Piha beach.
The Covid pandemic has impacted the World Surf League events hard and forced Williams to do her competitions and preparations in New Zealand. The Olympics has been her focus, but even that has had its challenges.
Its been an interesting time everything kind of got put on hold, Williams told Stuff.
Ive just been going with the flow, and Im just happy that the Games are happening. There was a stage when we were all unsure if it was or wasnt happening. The fact that it is going ahead, and we are heading to Japan, its the most exciting time ever, its not long to go now.
Williams said she planned to use her final phase at home wisely, feeding off the encouragement of family and friends, and surfing and training.
Youve got to train smart as weve only got a couple of weeks to go. I cant wait.
Her parents taught her to surf when she was four. She remains the only New Zealand surfer to win the womens world junior championship title achieving that after receiving a wildcard into the 2013 event.
The surfing competition is being held at Tsurigasaki Beach, about an hours drive from Tokyo. There will be 20 competitors in the men’s and women’s fields with competition due to run from July 25-28, waves permitting.