In a historic moment for the Olympic Games, Team USA’s Carissa Moore wins the first-ever Olympic gold in women’s surfing.
Moore’s scoring waves of 7.33 and 7.60 exceeded Buitendag’s total score of 8.46, relegating the South African to the silver.
Surfing’s long-awaited debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 came to a thrilling conclusion after three days of surfing in challenging conditions.
After two days of flat waves at Tsurigasaki Beach, the surfing finals were brought forward a day due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nepartak.
But the approaching storm created surf worthy of a final day of competition with some of the world’s best surfers.
In the head-to-head battle to become surfing’s first-ever women’s Olympic champion, Buitendag caught eight waves versus Moore’s six.
Reigning world champion Moore, 28, scored first with a total of 0.5 and 3.17 to open her account. Buitendag responded with a score of 0.3.
After some back and forth between the pair, Moore finished with a total score of 14.93.
Unfortunately for Buitendag, she simply could not catch a wave good enough for a big score. The South African ended the competition on 8.46.
Moore was the favourite entering the competition, and beat Brazil’s Silvana Lima and Japan’s TSUZIKI Amuro to get to the final.
“It’s quite heavy (the medal). I’m very proud and honoured,” said Moore.
“It’s been a crazy couple of days, a little bit of a rollercoaster of emotions just trying to figure out the break, find my rhythm, learning how to trust myself without my family here.
“I feel super blessed, super fortunate. It’s been an incredible experience.”
Buitendag is similarly enthralled after winning the silver after coming into the event as 17th seed.
“I surprised myself.” said the South African. “It was a wonderful experience. I think it was one of the most wonderful weeks of my life. I will never forget it.”
The gold medal is not Moore’s only accolade. In Hawaii, the Honolulu native has a day named after her. Carissa Moore Day is 4 January in honour of the surfing star.
In the third-place match, there was joy for the host nation as Tsuzuki defeated the USA’s Caroline Marks to claim the bronze medal.
Tsuzuki, who originally trained in classical ballet, scored first, with waves 1.67, 1.37 and 5.00, leaving Marks to play catch up.
The American bided her time before mounting a fight back, hoping to pull off a late win.
But the 19-year-old’s powerful and exuberant backhand style failed to work miracles in the surf.
Her counting waves of 2.33 and 1.93 were not enough to surpass her 20-year-old Japanese rival’s total of 6.80.