Olympics-Surfing-Japan picks Aussie-born O’Connor for bonus Olympics spot

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(Reuters) – Australian-born surfer Connor O’Leary said on Wednesday he had been selected for the Japan team for the Paris 2024 Olympics, after officially switching his allegiance to the country of his mother’s birth last year.


O’Leary, who was raised in the south Sydney suburb of Cronulla, was granted a third men’s spot by the Nippon Surfing Association after the team secured an extra slot for winning a qualification event at Huntington Beach in 2022. Most teams are limited to two surfers of each gender for the Olympics.

“So excited to officially announce that I will be representing Japan at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Thank you to the NSA & the JOC for the incredible opportunity. Tahiti here we come,” O’Leary said on Instagram.

O’Leary, a powerful goofy-footer (stands with his right foot forward) is comfortable in heavy tubing waves including the Olympics venue of Teahupo’o in Tahiti and will be a big boost to the Japan team, which includes Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallist Kanoa Igarashi and Reo Inaba.

Shino Matsuda is the only woman to qualify for Japan for Paris 2024.

The 30-year-old O’Leary finished 11th on the professional world championship tour last year, below Jack Robinson and Ethan Ewing who took the two men’s spots for the Australian Olympic team.


O’Leary speaks Japanese and has carried Japan’s flag on his competition shirt for several years, but now officially represents Japan on the world tour where he is ranked fifth after a solid showing in the opening two events in Hawaii.

Announcing his switch of allegiance in 2023, O’Leary said he had not always embraced his dual national identity while growing up in Cronulla, where dozens of people were injured when crowds of mostly Anglo-Australians attacked people of Middle Eastern appearance in 2005.

“I spent lot of times as a kid, putting my Japanese heritage behind me to try and fit in with the Australian culture and fit in at school,” he told media outlet SBS Japanese last year.

“As I have grown older, I’ve matured and realised being multicultural is something so special. How cool is it to be Australian but also Japanese, and I just want to highlight that.”

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Michael Perry)

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