In a candid interview with ESPN’s Alyssa Roenigk, John John Florence has admitted to eyeing a Pipe comeback – fitness dependent – for a chance to try and finish above Slater (and Connor Coffin, Seth Moniz, etc) for the coveted second USA Olympic Team spot (behind Kolohe Andino) for next summer’s Tokyo games.
“It is still a goal of mine to qualify for the Olympics, and I want people to know I am working toward that goal,” Florence told ESPN, six weeks after surgery on the ACL injured in Brazil in June. “There’s a good chance it’ll be feeling great for Pipe”
In a refreshing departure from Championship Tour surfers pretending they haven’t had someone crunch the numbers on their behalf to consider potential scenarios, Florence admits he’ll have to “sit back and watch what Kelly can do” for at least the next four events; Teahupoo (waiting period on now), Freshwater, France and Portugal, with a view to only possibly needing to surf Pipe to retain the Olympic qualifying spot he still currently holds (with a 11 300pt gap over Slater, pre-Teahupoo) “in case I have to come back to gain points”.
The audacious, yet not outrageous suggestion that he could in fact still qualify ahead of Slater by only having surfed 5 events this year is something we’d like to imagine would privately rile the 11-time World Champ, who’ll be 18 months shy of his 50th birthday when the Olympic opening ceremony takes place in the Japanese capital next summer, and also underlines what we’re currently missing out on in terms of the 2019 World Title race.
John’s rehab currently includes paddling 5-10 miles every other day (whilst listening to podcasts via waterproof headphones), while he’s turned his North Shore home into a recovery centre, doing everything he can to resist the urge to try and come back too soon.
When Florence posted an IG video of his paddleboard training sessions with ‘Back in the water #Tokyo2020’, earlier this month, Slater then confirmed the next day that he would be taking part in the ISA event in Tokyo this September, a prerequisite for WSL qualifiers, despite having recently been non-committal about potential ISA and Olympic participation.
Florence responds, jokingly, “I don’t believe anything Kelly says about competing.”
Presumably, Florence himself has been told he could receive an injury exemption from having not surfed this September’s ISA games – which he’ll definitely miss – and still be eligible for Tokyo 2020.
Looking beyond surfing’s Olympic inauguration, he revealed he hoped future Olympic events would be held in wavepools, not the sea.
“I’m hopeful the Olympics ends up in a pool in the future. I think the wave pool is perfect for the Olympics. If you think about snowboarding in the Olympics, with the halfpipe and everyone at the bottom, it’s awesome. Kelly’s wave pool is so good for that type of event.”
Elsewhere Florence plans an environmental/sailing mission to Palmyra – 1000 miles south of Hawaii this September to participate in a coral recovery study, assuming his knee is up to it, but has as yet not responded to my plan for him to sail the entire 2020 WSL Championship Tour.