Carissa Moore a bright spot among Hawaii athletes

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Aug. 9—The athletes with Hawaii ties at the just-completed Olympics won just one medal, and it happened early in the Tokyo Games, on July 27.

But it was big.

Carissa Moore, 28, a four-time surfing world champion from Honolulu, was favored to win the gold in the sport's Olympic debut.

Nothing is guaranteed in surfing, though, where the conditions can change drastically at the whims of nature. In this case, it was Typhoon Nepartak brewing near Tsurigasaki Beach.

The storm made the waves unpredictable. "Just imagine looking out at the ocean and it looks like a total mess, " Moore said later.

Moore mastered the mess enough in every heat, beating Japan's Amuro Tsuzuki in the semifinal and then Bianca Buitendag of South Africa for the gold.

Three other surfers who call Hawaii home were knocked out in their third-round matches : Another world champion, John John Florence of Haleiwa, in the men's competition, Tatiana Weston-Webb of Kauai surfing for Brazil, and Mahina Maeda (Sunset Beach ), competing under Japan's flag.

The surfers were among seven Hawaii athletes competing in sports that had never been contested in the Olympics before.

The others were skateboarders Heimana Reynolds (Mid-Pacific, Aina Haina ) and Jordyn Barratt (Haleiwa ), who both did not make it out of their preliminary heats in the men's and women's park divisions, and Sakura Kokumai (Honolulu born and raised ), who lost in the kata bronze medal bout in karate.

Hawaii did have some Olympics veterans, like Micah Christenson, and brothers Erik and Kawika Shoji, who hoped to improve upon their bronze medal showing in 2016. But after winning their first two matches, the U.S. team fell to fifth in pool play with losses to Brazil and Argentina.

"This isn't the way we wanted to finish, plain and simple, " said Christenson, the team's starting setter who graduated from Kamehameha. "It's heartbreaking."

The Shoji brothers of Honolulu were also disappointed, but last week both said they were enjoying decompressing with family and friends in Hawaii after the intense competition, including unprecedented conditions brought on by the worldwide pandemic.

"The risk of injury while you're preparing for the Olympics is always in the back of your mind, and that was obviously compounded by waiting the extra year due to COVID, " Kawika Shoji said. "You gotta stay healthy longer and you gotta stay COVID-free. Leading up to and during the games you're tested every single day and it's constantly on your mind. Even if you're very responsible you're never guaranteed."

'Iolani graduate Kawika Shoji, 33, said he might retire as a player after one more year of professional volleyball. Erik Shoji, 31, who, like Moore, went to Punahou, will now play professionally in Poland. He said he will try to become a three-time Olympian in 2024.

"I don't know what's in the cards, but that's been a goal of mine for a while, " he said.

Erik Shoji said life in the athlete's Olympic Village was more fun than in Rio, even though "it wasn't as interactive because everyone had masks on."

They missed being able to explore the city and the energy of the fans, but the brothers said there seemed to be more of the Olympic spirit among the athletes than five years before.

"It felt less cutthroat, while still ultra-competitive, " Kawika Shoji said. "You want to win for your country, but there's this underlying feeling built upon mutual respect and admiration, in your sport and the others. I think there's more gratitude because everyone knows it took a ton to get there. One day I was walking in the area where they have all the flags, and it hit me that there's no other event in the world where people from all of these countries come together and share in something. There are no political conflicts in the village. It's all athletes at the highest level striving to do their best."

In other sports :

BASKETBALL 'Iolani graduate Hugh Hogland, also known as Hyu or Hugh Watanabe, was on the Japan basketball team. He did not see action in his team's 0-3 pool play run. The 6-foot-9 dual citizen of the U.S. and Japan was, however, featured in a Wall Street Journal feature identifying him as "the Most Interesting Man in Olympic Basketball."

BEACH VOLLEYBALL When Taylor Crabb was knocked out of the games with a positive COVID-19 test, the Punahou graduate was replaced by another Hawaii product to be Jake Gibb's beach volleyball partner. No, it was not Crabb's brother, Trevor. Trevor's playing partner, Tri Bourne, an Academy of the Pacific alum, joined the 45-year-old Gibb.

Bourne, a beach pro and national team veteran, and Gibb won their first two matches but were knocked out by Germany in the round of 16. Gibb announced his retirement after his fourth Olympics.

RUGBY Wahiawa's Martin Iosefo, who was a multi-sport athlete at Leilehua, played for the U.S. rugby team that went 3-3. The Americans advanced from pool play, but were knocked out of medal contention by Great Britain.

SOFTBALL Team Australia—with former University of Hawaii players Stacey Porter, Rachel Lack, Kaia Parnaby and Clare Warwick—went 1-4 in the six-team round-robin tournament.

SWIMMING Taeyanna Adams, the flagbearer for Micronesia who trained at the Kona Community Aquatic Center, was fourth of six competitors in her first-round heat of the 100-meter breaststroke and did not advance.

WATER POLO Five former UH players were on on three women's teams : Dagmar Genee and Maartje Keuning (Netherlands ), Monika Eggens and Elyse Lemay-Lavoie (Canada ) and Jordan Wedderburn (South Africa ).

In pool play, The Netherlands went 3-1 and finished sixth overall, Canada was 1-3 and South Africa 0-4.

U.S. Men's team captain Jesse Smith, who was born in Kailua-Kona, tied his sport's record with a fifth Olympics appearance. The Americans finished sixth with a 14-11 loss to Croatia on Sunday.

Smith was the center of a strange situation at the opening ceremonies, where he went from consideration to be the U.S. flagbearer to not being part of the ceremonies at all because he was designated as the team's alternate for its first game.

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