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Hoje estou animada em anunciar que, seguindo em frente, estarei representando o Brasil tanto no WSL Championship Tour quanto na preparação para os Jogos Olímpicos de 2020 em Tóquio. Esta é uma decisão importante para mim e sobre a qual estou muito empolgada. A maioria das pessoas não sabem que meu pai é da Inglaterra e minha mãe é do Brasil. Me sinto verdadeiramente abençoada por ter sido criada na linda ilha do Kauai – tanto a comunidade quanto as ondas tiveram um papel importante na formação de quem eu sou como surfista e como pessoa. Eu sou muito grato por isso, mas como todos vocês sabem. O Brasil é o país a onde nasci e sempre fez parte de quem eu sou e, recentemente, fui abordada pela Confederação Brasileira de Surf e pelo Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro, com a oportunidade de representar o Brasil. Sempre foi um sonho meu competir nas Olimpíadas e quando o surfe foi anunciado como um esporte olímpico oficial, eu sabia que meu sonho tinha uma chance de se tornar realidade. O Brasil possui grande parte do meu coração. Eu tenho família, amigos e uma quantidade incrível de apoio lá. É um lugar que sempre me fez sentir em casa. Estou muito orgulhosa de representar um país tão incrível com tanta paixão e dedicação pelo nosso esporte. Embora essa mudança me dê a oportunidade de representar o Brasil em 2020, todas as vagas têm que ser conquistadas e eu vou tentar o meu melhor para me qualificar como um dos poucos surfistas capazes de representar seus países nas Olimpíadas. Eu me considero muito feliz por ter o apoio dos fãs do Havaí, do Brasil e do mundo. Obrigada a todos por entender, respeitar e apoiar minha decisão. So today I’m excited to announce that, moving forward, I will be representing Brasil on both the WSL Championship Tour as well as in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. This is a major decision for me and one that I’m really excited about. Most folks aren’t aware that my Dad is originally from England and my Mom is originally from Brasil. Brasil is where I was born, but I feel truly blessed to have been raised on beautiful Kauai – both the community and (please read the rest below)

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You might recall Elizabeth Swaney, the 33-year-old Californian and one time gubernatorial candidate, who represented Hungary at the Winter Olympics this year.

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Her story is unique for two reasons: First, she posted a freestyle skiing run that was so profoundly average and unexciting, many thought she’d either injured herself or was mounting some type of protest. And second, she qualified for the Hungarian team by way of her family heritage.

Swaney could have never cracked the U.S. team. She knew that but understood the Olympic system, her options, and planned accordingly. To qualify, Swaney had to finish in the top 30 at a World Cup event (some of which had less than 30 athletes) and score a minimum number of FIS points.

In 2020, surfing will be a part of the Olympic Games for the very first time and several athletes will be using similar paths to Swaney’s in order to qualify.

Allow me to go off the rails here for a moment and give some context: surfing in the Olympics has been an obvious point of debate in surfing circles for years (as far back as I can remember), with people mostly fitting into one of two camps.

There’s those who love it: For the sport of surfing, inclusion at the world’s most prestigious sporting event is a statement of legitimacy and a big step toward a brave new future. Surfing has now risen from the fringes, outgrown its crusty, mop-haired, stoner reputation, and entered the mainstream. And then there’s those who loathe it: Surfing is art, not competition, corporate dollars, and pageantry — Olympic surfing is not surfing. This part of the herd doesn’t see professional infrastructure fitting in with core surfing culture.

Regardless of where anyone stands, you can understand why professional competitive athletes seem fairly jazzed about the whole affair. It’s the goddamned Olympics, after all, and you get to compete on a gigantic stage.

While many surfers might not like the fact that their sport will be part of the Games, you sure couldn’t tell that from the reaction to announcements that two of America’s best surfers will compete under different national flags. Patriotic commenters came out in full force to express their displeasure.

Tatiana Weston-Webb and Kanoa Igarashi are U.S. citizens who have opted to compete for Brasil and Japan respectively. Weston-Webb is based out of Hawaii, Igarashi, Huntington Beach, and both have worked their asses off to get on to the Championship Tour, where they’re globally recognized as serious stars in the making.

Here’s a sample of the sour comments after the announcements:

“what is up with all these surfers turning there back on the USA? Super lame (sic)”

“Bye bye Tatiana, you’re forgettable style and approach to a wave will be sorely missed… and if you don’t start making more heats and surfing better on the Tour it won’t matter what country you represent.”

“Surprise Surprise! With Courtney, Caroline and the other Hawaiians competing for the spots on the US team, Tati had little chance of surfing in the Olympics for the U.S.”

“You gotta be kidding me. I’m a progressive, even liberal, but he wouldn’t be anywhere without America, the system here and so cal. Maybe he should move to Japan.”

“Wonder how the other true born Japanese surfers feel about this? Doesn’t seem right”

“I was a fan based on his USA status, but not now. Clearly he is just trying to benefit from the Japan connection, he should move (sic) there and show them how local he is.”

“how convenient. be piss funny if he fails to make the cut for the Japanese team and Donald denies him his duel citizenship.”

This is a small sample (there are a lot more and a lot worse), but the comments section of an internet article is not where one should go looking for inspiration.

Liz Swaney has done a lot of cool stuff in her life, like running for governor of California while a student at Cal Berkley, trying out for the Oakland Raiders’ cheerleading squad and even making a stab as a skeleton racer (the ones with their heads leading the way as they slide down an icy track) for Venezuela. But this is her greatest feat: gaming the system to qualify for the Olympics as a halfpipe skier, a sport the 33-year-old took up only eight years ago. Swaney is highly educated–Harvard and Cal-Berkley according to her Instagram account–and using her grandfather’s Hungarian heritage, she made the country’s Olympic team by traveling around the world to qualify while working at two Bay Area-startups to fund her travel. But her pizzas and french fries through the halfpipe scored just a 31.40, 40 points below the qualifying run scores that sent 12 women to the finals. In core snowboarding and skiing circles, the Olympics have a reputation of dumbing down the actual comp, since only 3-4 people from each country are allowed to represent when the best skiers and snowboarders usually come from a handful of locales. Hungary isn’t necessarily considered a skiing and snowboarding powerhouse, especially in freeride competitions like pipe and slopestyle. So social media went bonkers after Swaney’s pedestrian runs–many commenters claimed hard-working athletes are missing out on an opportunity. 📷 @nbcolympics #halfpipe #winterolympics #MTNlife

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But, what the comments do show is that people care. And athletes care and want to make it to that stage. That’s why Swaney’s ploy was understandable.

You could easily argue that both Igarashi and Weston-Webb have shots of qualifying for Team USA, which has a really deep talent pool and a lot of more-experienced surfers vying for the same opportunity in 2020. But the chances increase exponentially for each if they travel a similar road to Swaney.

If they make the Brazilian and Japanese teams, respectively, they may take a spot from a local athlete who would otherwise have made the team and gotten the opportunity. That does seem harsh. It also seems very privileged to be in a position to choose which country you represent, in a world where many people are just looking for a place to live.

But the Olympics are clearly special in the minds of athletes. And everyone, it seems, wants a chance to compete on that stage.

In the case of Elizabeth Swaney, it sounds like she was just making up numbers at an event the Hungarian side would have otherwise forfeited. Thing is, while both Igarashi and Weston-Webb are playing a similar numbers game to ensure their respective places, neither is pulling an Elizabeth Swaney, per se. They’re qualified athletes, both of whom are considered outside shots at maybe winning a World Title someday. Going to the Olympics and putting on a lackluster performance that confuses the hell out of people would be the last thing you’d associate with either one.