BUOYED by his maiden win at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics venue, Merewether’s Ryan Callinan is daring to dream of a berth in Australia’s first Games surfing team.
Callinan, 26, won the Ichinomiya Chiba Open on Saturday at Shida Point, Japan, to put one foot in the door to a return to the championship tour for 2019.
The 2016 CT competitor beat Hawaiian Seth Moniz 13.2 to 11.7 in the final of the World Surf League 6000-point qualifying series contest to jump to fourth in the second-tier rankings.
A top 10 ranking at the end of the year will guarantee Callinan a spot on the elite tour for 2019.
And while another crack at the CT is Callinan’s focus, the goofy-footer is hoping to beat the odds to make Australia’s Olympic line-up.
A maximum of two male and two female quota spots from each country can be secured. Twenty men and 20 women will compete for the first surfing Olympic Games medals.
The first 10 men and first eight women from the 2019 CT will earn quota spots for their nations. Results from the 2020 and 2019 ISA World Surfing Games, and the 2019 Pan American Games will fill out the Olympic field.
Merewether’s four-time world champion Mark Richards is on the Australian team selection panel along with Layne Beachley, coach Kate Wilcomes and Mick Fanning.
Callinan and Merewether clubmate Philippa Anderson, who is third on the women’s QS, were invited to an Olympic Readiness Camp in January at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre at Casuarina but neither made the national squad named in March.
Given the depth of Australian men’s surfing, including part-time Novocastrian and world No.1 Julian Wilson, Callinan will be a rank outsider to secure a berth.
The breakthrough win in Japan, though, has boosted Callinan’s confidence.
“It was really cool because the Olympics are going to be at that beach,” Callinan said of the win.
“It’s a long-shot, but if I got to go to the Olympics and compete, I know I can surf well there. That would be a huge thing for me and I’d love to do that.”
Regardless of selection, Callinan said Japan already held a special place in his heart. Not only was Japan the venue of his first QS win, Callinan had a two-week family holiday there at the start of this year.
“I don’t get to do many trips like that, that are just holidays with no boards. It was really nice and it just recharges you,” he said.
“I don’t get to do many trips with my family either, so to have as minimal distractions as you can and get away with them was so special.
“I love Japan. I’ve surfed comps there in the past, but I feel like I’m embracing the cultures a lot more now when I go places.
“It’s so unique and different there. I feel like it fits well with me. Everything in their culture is about doing it with quality. I don’t know if that helped with the win, but it felt like it had something to do with it.
“It definitely feels like a special place now.”
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