Road to Tokyo Heats Up with Surfing Olympic Qualification on the Line

June 1st, 2021

New swell rolls into La Bocana and El Sunzal on third day of competition at 2021 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games

Hometown hero Bryan Perez, 2-time ISA World Champ Sally Fitzgibbons fall to Repechage Rounds

Venezuela’s Rosanny Alvarez earns women’s event-high heat total; Portugal’s Yolanda Sequeira nears perfection with 9.6 point wave ride 

Olympic hopeful Leilani McGonagle is surfing in honor of the late Katherine Diaz

First elimination rounds make or break Olympic dreams

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After three days of competition at the 2021 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games the chase for Gold Medals and Olympic qualification is heating up among the 51 competing nations.

Day 3 saw a fresh, strong swell grace the coast of El Salvador to greet the Main Event heats and first elimination Repechage heats of the event thus far.

The women’s Repechage Rounds at El Sunzal featured some excellent surfing from the female surfers determined to keep their Olympic dreams alive. The Repechage Rounds give surfers who lose in the Main Event a second chance to advance, however they present a longer, more challenging road to the Grand Final.

Venezuela’s Rosanny Alvarez earned the women’s event-high heat total of 17.57 with two beautiful rides down the long point of El Sunzal. Spain’s Nadia Erostarbe and USA’s Alyssa Spencer also impressed among the women to avoid elimination, earning heat totals of 16.84 and 16, respectively.

Portugal’s Yolanda Sequeira made the most of the afternoon low tide conditions with two of the most crucial maneuvers among any surfer in the event thus far. Sequeira was awarded for her commitment and earned a near-perfect 9.6-point ride. Sequeira was able to move into first place in the heat advancing alongside qualified Olympian Stephanie Gilmore (AUS).

A couple of past ISA World Surfing Games Gold Medalists who lost their footing in their first heats of the event were able to regain their composure and get back on track in Repechage Round 1. Mexico’s 2017 Gold Medalist Jhony Corzo and Argentina’s two-time Gold Medalist Leandro Usuna both avoided elimination with convincing performances.

The Main Events rolled on at La Bocana with a few upsets that sent stars such as 2-time World Surfing Games Gold Medalist Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), down to Repechage where they will look to take the long route to a medal.

Olympic hopeful and past ISA World Junior Champion Mahina Maeda will look to round out Japan’s squad at Tokyo 2020. Photo: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Perez falls to Repechage, focused on Reps

The hometown hero and local favorite Bryan Perez narrowly missed out on a buzzer-beater wave to advance and ended up falling to Repechage.

Perez now has to face the elimination rounds, but he plans to surf loose without pressure.

“The waves are really tricky,” said Perez. “But they are good and fun. I got third in the heat but I still have another chance. I am still as focused and motivated as ever. I am so stoked just to be here and can’t wait to go out there my next heat and show my surfing.

“I am not going to change my strategy that much moving forward. Next round I am going to try to enjoy it more and have fun, no pressure. I am not going to be thinking so much, just be in the present. That’s my goal for the next round.”

Bryan Perez gathers his focus before paddling out. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

The top male performance of the day also belonged to a Venezuelan, Rafael Pereira, who earned a total of 14.83 points

Following Pereira was Japan’s Hiroto Ohhara with 14.6 points and Argentina’s 2017 ISA World Junior Champion Ignacio Gundesen with 14.43 points.

Leilani McGonagle honors Katherine Diaz

Costa Rica’s Leilani McGonagle continued strong in the Women’s Main Event, making it to the halfway point to the Grand Final. Aside from qualifying for Tokyo, McGonagle has deeper reasons to go for an Olympic slot.

“Winning is fun, however I feel like I am surfing for a greater purpose,” said McGonagle. “I was really close friends with Katherine Diaz who recently passed away here at La Bocana. She was a really important person to me. Waking up every day here in El Salvador and not seeing her is really hard for me. I think it would be an honor to qualify for my country, but even more so to qualify for her at her home break. I am surfing with her by my side and by my heart.”

Leilani McGonagle looking sharp through the first three days of competition, remaining in the Main Event. Photo: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

Ado looks for second ISA Gold

France’s Pauline Ado, the 2017 ISA World Surfing Games Women’s Champion, kept her Olympic dreams alive by continuing onto Women’s Main Event Round 4. Ado spoke about fond memories of years competing at ISA Global Events

“I’ve been doing ISA World Championships since I was 13 and I love these events. I feel really lucky with the year we had that we are able to compete again and represent my country. I’m just having fun.

“It’s a great mix of girls competing here. We have some young girls emerging, previous CT surfers, and even World Title holders like Sofia Mulanovich.”

2019 ISA World Junior Champion Noah Klapp (GER) is stoked to be advancing to Main Event Round 4. Photo: ISA / Pablo Jimenez

ISA President Fernando Aguerre said:

“It’s amazing to think that we are less than two months away from Tokyo. It’s going to be a very different Olympic Games, but we are safe, we’re healthy, and the Games will go on. The whole surfing world is looking forward to that. For many years we knew it was coming, but now it feels great to be on the doorstep.

“I look around and I see all different types of people from all different walks of life. I see rich, poor, young, old, white, black, and I smile at how we are bringing together all these different nations in peace, in the name of a sport: surfing. At the same time when I look around at all these promising, inspirational athletes, I see 12 Olympians – 5 men and 7 women. We still don’t know who they are, and neither do they, but come Sunday they will have booked their tickets to Tokyo 2020. Now that is exciting.”

The 2021 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games runs from May 29 – June 6. Follow the event with live broadcasts, news, videos, photos, schedules, results, and more on

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