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Huntington Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi qualifies for 2020 Olympic Games

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Kanoa Igarashi, pictured competing in the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach on July 30, will represent Japan in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics next summer.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Kanoa Igarashi has checked another box on his lofty list of goals as he navigates his already impressive surfing career.

The Huntington Beach local has qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan next summer, and will represent the country of Japan, where his parents were born.

Igarashi will be one of 20 men’s surfers and 20 women’s surfers to compete next August at Tsurigasaki Beach in Ichinomiya, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. No more than two surfers per country are eligible to qualify in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

“Yeah, it’s crazy, that’s some crazy news to hear when you know you’re hitting your goals and hitting your objectives, it’s always an honor,” Igarashi said on the World Surf League’s broadcast from Portugal, where the 10th of the season’s 11 Championship Tour contests is being held. “It’s been a long year, long as in a lot of nights worrying about qualifying and worrying about how everything is going to play out. I’m glad everything worked out and I’m really looking forward to the new goal that I’m have next year.”

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One of Igarashi’s goals was qualifying for the WSL’s CT, and he did so, surfing on the CT for the first time in 2016 at the age of 18. He finished 20th in the world in 2016, 17th in 2017 and 10th last year. With just two contests remaining this year, Igarashi is ranked No. 6 in the world.

And with the goal of qualifying for the Olympics having been met, the next one, of course, would be winning the Olympics.

“That would be crazy,” he said. “It’s a huge goal of mine and with this news today I’m one step closer to it. And I’m really proud to be going to the Olympics and be a part of a huge moment in our sport and for my country.

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“Yeah, it’s crazy you know. I’m kind of speechless, there’s a lot of emotions involved. I can’t wait to tell my family and tell my friends and can’t wait for next year.”

So far, nine men have qualified for the 2020 Games — Igarashi and Shun Murakami (Japan), Lucca Mesinas (Peru), Jordy Smith (South Africa), Jeremy Flores (France), Ramzi Boukhiam (Morocco), Frederico Morais (Portugal), Billy Stairmand (New Zealand) and San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino (United States).

There are also eight women who have qualified — Daniella Rosas (Peru), Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons (Australia), Johanne Defay (France), Bianca Buitendag (South Africa), Shino Matsuda (Japan), Anat Lelior (Israel) and Ella Williams (New Zealand).

The second U.S. men’s qualifier has yet to be determined, but it could be decided by the end of the week. It probably will be either Kelly Slater or Hawaii’s Seth Moniz.

There also is an outside chance that two-time world championship John John Florence could sneak in, despite missing much of the CT season because of a ruptured ACL in his knee suffered in June.

Florence surfed in five CT contests and did well enough to compile enough points that if he surfs in the final CT contest at the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii in December and does well, he could snake that second spot.

As for the U.S. women, Hawaii’s Carissa Moore has the inside track for the first slot, while Santa Barbara’s Lakey Peterson and Melbourne Beach, Florida’s Caroline Marks will vie for the second slot. Santa Ana’s Courtney Conlogue, a Sage Hill School graduate, also is in the hunt.

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