Beckford optimistic about future of local surfing after Olympic qualifying event
National surfer Shama Beckford says that despite not qualifying for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, the impression they made on the world stage has put local surfing on the right track for further growth and success.
Beckford as well as Garren Pryce, Icah Wilmot, Imani Wilmot and Elim Beckford were a part of the contingent representing Jamaica at the ongoing International Surfing Association World Surfing Games meet in El Salvador. The nine-day event, which finishes tomorrow, serves as the final qualifying event for the Tokyo Games where the sport will make its Olympic debut.
Beckford advanced to the second round of the men’s competition by placing in the two top of the first round which saw him move to the repêchage (wild card) round for another opportunity at qualification. While he advanced out of that second wild card round, his third-place finish in round three ended his qualification hopes. Pryce and Wilmot finished third and fourth in their opening rounds, respectively. Pryce advanced out of the first repêchage round by finishing second but placed fourth in the next stage. Wilmot placed fourth in the first repêchage round which also ended the qualification journey for both.
While the qualification journey has ended for this cycle, Beckford said that he is encouraged by the response that their performances got in El Salvador and believes that Jamaica has made a real impression on the world stage.
“It’s just the feedback from the crowd and the judges, people who organised the contest, they were telling us how good our surfing is and how wowed they are that Jamaica has such top-class surfers,” Beckford told The Gleaner. “More than anything a good takeaway from it has been that we have shown the world that we have top-class surfers, which is a huge achievement.”
For the women, Imani Wilmot and Elim Beckford both failed to advance from the first round and their subsequent repêchage rounds. However, Shama Beckford says that he is nevertheless proud of their efforts as they adjusted to the demands of high-level competition.
“The conditions were really challenging. You are talking about 10 feet of surf, huge waves and (conditions) these girls aren’t normally surfing in and it was definitely outside of their comfort zone. They rose to the occasion, they competed and performed to the best of their ability,” Beckford said.
MOVING UP THE RANKS
According to Beckford, Jamaica entered the tournament ranked 49th out of the 51 countries putting them against highly ranked teams from the beginning. Currently, Jamaica has totalled 573 points which have the team ranked 39th overall. Beckford said that additional scores from his performance should see their ranking increase further, putting them in a better position to contend in 2024 as they would face players within their ranking first.
According to Beckford, the surfers showed a lot of heart as they came in as the underdogs and went up against the best guys and still accumulated enough points to move up their ranking. “What we have done now is put ourselves in a better position for the next games to have a better result,” Beckford said.
Beckford says that he is more motivated than ever to improve his skill set and challenge for the 2024 Games scheduled for Paris. Meanwhile, the final 12 spots for the Tokyo Games will be determined this weekend as the final rounds conclude in El Salvador.