Team Pilipinas Surfing’s gallant stand was not enough as the waves dashed its dream of being one of the sport’s pioneers in the Games.
The last two surfers standing Nilbie Blancada and John Mark Tokong exited the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador, getting shut out of a spot in next month’s Tokyo Olympics with the results from Thursday.
Blancada made the El Sunzal beach in this Central American paradise her playground as she dished out most of her best runs in the competition. However, she could not get one last huge wave and instead settled for a third-place finish in the Round 5 of the repechage.
The 2019 Southeast Asian Games champion grabbed the pole twice in the heat: first with a solid 5.23 run, then followed it up with 4.23. Only this time, she was the one at the losing end of a comeback.
The battle for the lead started with Blancada trading blows with Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki.
With less than seven minutes left and with Tsuzuki in the lead, the 28-year-old Filipino standout then regained pole position with a 4.23, en route to a total of 9.46. The advantage did not last long as the Japanese took a 5.83 wave almost simultaneously for the 10.43.
Australian Sally Fitzgibbons then came out of nowhere to spoil the party and pulled off a huge 6.10 wave with just two minutes left at the clock.
Tsuzuki and Blancada who were 1-2 at the priority could not find a productive wave as the succeeding sets die out fast and along with it their chances of scoring.
In the end, the Japanese settled for that total, and, unfortunately for the General Luna-native, it was the end of the road.
Blancada could not carry her momentum from a huge victory in the previous round where she pulled off a 5.50 and a 10.7 total to overhaul Canadian Paige Alms 6.67 and 8.74 total.
As soon as the buzzer signaled Blancada’s win in that round, it almost simultaneously sounded for John Mark Tokong’s exit at the other beach of La Bocana.
The previous SEA Games’ bronze medalist had a qualifying position at the start of the heat, but better scores from Israel’s Yoni Klein and Germany’s Dylan Groen took him out of the picture and eventually sent him packing.
Team Pilipinas will take this as a learning experience as they look to bounce back and attempt to get into the 2024 Paris Games in three years time.