CHIBA – Minori Kawai captured the Ichinomiya Chiba Open on Sunday, part of the World Surf League’s qualifying series.
The 16-year-old Kawai, who came from behind to win her semifinal against Australia’s Dimity Stoyle, defeated Hinako Kurokawa 13.10-12.40 in the final.
The victory was the first on the senior pro circuit for Kawai, who has her eye on the 2020 Tokyo Games, where surfing will make its Olympic debut.
“I’m so happy to win a big tournament like this,” Kawai said. “It (the Olympics) is three years from now, but it will be on us in a hurry. I want to improve more and more and be able to win a medal.”
The 3,000 qualifying points for the win lifted Kawai to 23rd in the series rankings, a jump of 95 places. Kurokawa improved 49 notches to 28th.
In the men’s competition which offered 6,000 points, Jesse Mendes of Brazil took first place, beating Australia’s Cooper Chapman in the final.
Hiroto Ohara finished ninth, but that was enough to take him to second in the rankings behind Mendes.