Olympics

Surfing legend Kelly Slater doesn't qualify for 2020 Olympics

AFP-JIJI

Surfing legend Kelly Slater, seen by many as the greatest of all time, won’t be competing at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 47-year-old American didn’t qualify for a spot on the U.S. squad for the sport’s Olympic debut next July, with John John Florence returning from knee surgery to edge Slater for the final spot at an event in Hawaii on Thursday.

Slater, an 11-time world champion who became the youngest and oldest to win the crown, inspired a generation of surfing stars with videos of his amazing efforts becoming must-see viewing for fans and competitors.

Competing as an Olympian would have been an epic farewell for a 40-year career than began at age 8 in a youth event but instead Slater will be watching the event.

“I’m going to enjoy it as a spectator,” Slater told The New York Times, dismissing any notion he would end his career early after missing out on the Olympics.

He added: “Be sure that in 2020, they will continue to see me at the top of a wave.”

Slater needed a victory at the Pipeline Masters on Oahu’s North Shore to secure the title but lost in the semifinals, leaving him ranked eighth in the world but one spot behind 2016 and 2017 world champion Florence, who took the second U.S. men’s team spot behind already qualified Kolohe Andino.

Florence, an Oahu North Shore native 20 years younger than Slater, was a former protege of the surf icon.

“He has been my idol since I was a child,” Florence said. “He’s like a member of my family, like an uncle.”

Florence, who missed five of 11 tour events this year with a knee injury, returned for the season finale but was eliminated in the Pipeline quarterfinals. He sealed his Olympic spot when Slater lost to Brazil’s Italo Ferreira in the semis.