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PERU RIDES FAMILIAR WAVES TO GOLDS IN SURFING’S PAN AM GAMES DEBUT

In just one day and one sport, Peruvian athletes matched the country’s gold medal total from the entire Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, reaching the top of the podium three times in surfing’s debut at the Pan Am Games of Lima 2019.

August 4 is now a day that will never be forgotten in Peru’s history. On an incredible afternoon in Punta Rocas with a sold out crowd at their back, Peruvian surfers set out to accomplish what had never been done before.

Not only was Surfing making its debut on the sport program at the Pan American Games at Lima 2019, but it was also the first time that athletes could qualify to the Olympics in Surfing. The two gold medalists in the Open Surf (Shortboard) event that took place at the end of the day would be the two athletes from the Pan Am Games moving on to Tokyo 2020.

With so much at stake, and with so many expectations — including Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra watching from the shore — the great surfers of Peru rose to the challenge.

Once the day was over, seven surfers from Peru wore medals around their necks, with three golds, three silvers and one bronze. Six of the athletes achieved their medals on the final day of the Surfing events, with Itzel Delgado securing his bronze medal on August 2 in the Men’s Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) Race, but only officially receiving it along with his fellow Peruvian medalists after all the Surfing competitions had concluded on August 4.

Although the day started with many Peruvians dreaming of six gold medals for the Host Nation, siblings from Colombia had their own thoughts of gold medals and glory. Sister and brother Isabella and Giorgio Gomez both won gold medals in the SUP Surf competition with scores of 10.73 and 17.33 points, defeating Vania Torres and Tamil Martino of Peru. The siblings spoke to Panam Sports after their victories, singing words of praise for each other following the achievement that may never be repeated in the history of the Pan Am Games.

“It still hasn’t sunk in yet, it’s really cool. I was just really happy to win and then knowing my brother was in the next heat I was hoping he would kind of get fired up after my performance,” said an excited Isabella Gomez with the Colombian flag draped over the shoulders of her and her brother.

“I did get fired up. I was in the water getting ready for my heat and I heard [Isabella] get the score and started splashing the water and screaming. So I was like okay, now I gotta go! And going up against Tamil was really tough, he’s one of the best to do it and he runs the show here. I was psyched after Isabella won, but I was like now I gotta win too!” Giorgio Gomez joked about the friendly sibling rivalry with his sister.

Surfing World Tour Champion Chloe Calmon of Brazil also kept the anxious Peruvian fans waiting for their first gold, as she put together a great series of waves for a combined score of 15.36 to win the gold medal in Women’s Longboard over Maria Fernanda Reyes of Peru who won the silver.

Finally, the moment the fans and the Peruvian President had all been waiting for arrived, as Peruvian surfing legend Piccolo Clemente squared off against Uruguay’s Julian Schweizer in the Men’s Longboard final. With the support of a raucous crowd, Clemente showed why he was the favorite coming into the competition, pulling off two nearly-perfect runs with scores of 9.83 and 9.30 for 19.13 of a possible 20 points. The fans went wild once Piccolo secured Peru’s first surfing gold medal at these Games and fifth overall, but the party was just getting started.

The main events of the day were saved for last as Daniella Rosas of Peru battled Dominic Barona of Ecuador in the Women’s Open Surf final, and Lucca Mesinas of Peru faced Leandro Usuna of Argentina in the Men’s Open Surf final. Each athlete was fighting for the gold medal and the chance to directly qualify to Surfing’s Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

Daniella Rosas pleased the crowd once more with a combined score of 13.93 to Barona’s 12.50, becoming the first surfer at the Pan Am Games to ever qualify to the Olympics and adding another gold to Peru’s already historic total.

Her teammate Lucca Mesinas would follow with a great performance of his own, narrowly besting Usuna’s 13.77 total score with 14.00 total points of his own. Another gold and another Olympic qualifier was in the books for Peru, bringing their gold total from the entirety of Lima 2019 to seven, more than double their total at Toronto 2015.

“The truth is, we are super excited about this. Super excited for the group because today we won six medals as new competitors in the Games, so we’re really satisfied with all we have been able to achieve and super happy with everything,” Piccolo Clemente told Panam Sports after all of his teammates had been given their medals.

“It’s amazing to see how surfing continues to climb, with people, with the press. It is a sport that requires very strong discipline, you have to be very focused, you have to adapt to the changes because the sea changes a lot. There are many factors that make surfing a very exciting sport,” the new Pan Am Games Champion added.

It was also a great day for El Salvador, as Bryan Perez won the country’s first medal at these Pan Am Games, taking home the bronze in the Men’s SUP Surf event. At just 19-years old, Bryan has a bright future of surfing ahead of him.

Multiple World Champion Connor Baxter of the United States and Lena Guimaraes of Brazil both also took home the gold medals in Men’s and Women’s SUP Race, respectively.

Surfing’s debut at the Pan American Games was filled with exciting competition, incredible support from the fans and great waves at Punta Rocas, proving it belongs at the most important sporting event of the Americas featuring the best athletes of the continent. We can’t wait to watch the action continue at Tokyo 2020!