Olympics-Surfing-Surfers ride wave of emotion to make Olympic history

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Surfing - Men's Shortboard - Round 1 - Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach, Tokyo, Japan - July 25, 2021. Italo Ferreira of Brazil in action during Heat 1 REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

TOKYO (Reuters) -Some of the world's top surfers made history on Sunday as their sport made its long-awaited Olympic debut, with Brazil's Italo Ferreira and American Carissa Moore emerging victorious in the first heats at the Tokyo Games.

"I'm so stoked, it's a special event and I've been training a lot these last couple of months, I'm so glad to be here," Ferreira told reporters after edging out Hiroto Ohhara, Leonardo Fioravanti and Leandro Usuna to qualify directly for the third round.

In the women's competition, world no.1 Moore scored a narrow win over Teresa Bonvalot of Portugal before admitting to being overcome by emotion the day before the event.

"Yesterday, I actually had a little mini-meltdown because of all the nerves and the anxiety and stuff that had built up," she told reporters.

"I had more of a sense of calm going into today ... Whatever happens, I've done everything I could, and now it's time to have fun."

Saturday's lame waves for the final training session were quickly forgotten as Sunday morning's swell offered the power the surfers were looking for to showcase their sport.

With the men leading off early in the morning, there was some discussion as to whether it was Ferreira or Argentina's Usuna who had caught the first Olympic wave in surfing, but as the heat wore on, the Brazilian world no.1 showed his class.

"That was a terrible (first) wave!" Ferreira laughed. "I did two turns and on the last one I fell, (but) I tried to catch a lot of waves and put scores on the board."

With the stronger waves perfectly suited to his air game, Ferreira attacked aggressively, carving into each wave from right to left across the beach and launching into late spins that impressed the judges.

"Compared to the last couple of days, today was really fun - more waves, more opportunity, and I hope tomorrow we can have more waves and we can create something quite different," Ferreira said.

For International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre, the morning heats were the culmination of decades of work.

"My heart was beating faster than ever ... it was just emotion. This is a special moment, a special moment for me and for everybody that surfs, and for the Olympic movement," he told Reuters.

The competition continues with the third- and fourth-placed athletes going into round two on Sunday afternoon, while the winners and runners-up qualify directly to round three.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Stephen Coates and Karishma Singh)

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