Slater plays down hopes of Olympic berth

Hossegor - Surfing icon Kelly Slater has played down the likelihood of competing for the United States when the sport he has helped revolutionise makes its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, when he will be 48.

But the 11-time world champion, hailed the inclusion of surfing as an Olympic sport as an "exciting" development that would not only give aspiring surfers something to dream of but also move it away from the "fringes".

"There's been talk for a long time about surfing in the Olympics," Slater told AFP in an interview on the sidelines of a World Surf League competition in Hossegor, southwestern France.

"Before I've never had a strong feeling for or against.

"We do have a World Tour which determines who the best surfer is in all the different conditions. So to have an Olympic champion in one type of conditions... I'll just have to see how it is."

The American, whose last world title came in 2011, added: "But I think to have the idea to be considered amongst all the greatest sportsmen in the world is a really cool thing, a special thing for surfing.

"To be regarded as more than just a fringe sport and to be part of your country's team would be really nice."

Surfing was one of five sports given the nod for Tokyo 2020 along with the returning baseball, skateboarding, climbing and karate.

Surfing chiefs highlighted the sport's "sex appeal" during their campaign for Olympic inclusion. Initial plans to compete on an artificial wave have been dropped in favour of holding the event, which will feature 20 male and 20 female surfers, on the coast south of Tokyo.

Slater acknowledged that he "didn't really grow up with the idea of winning the Olympics because I never thought surfing would be in the Olympics".

"I just wanted to be world champion and do well on our Tour. Every kid now has the chance of winning a gold medal, I think that's very exciting."

Turning to his own chances of competing in Tokyo in 2020, Slater was non-committal.

"I'm not sure, it's still a few years' away, I don't know," he said.

"There's going to be a lot of good young guys trying for those two spots for America. The obvious pick would be someone like John Florence (current world number one), so there'd be one spot really available for everyone from America.

"I'd have to be in good form at the time, be doing well on the World Tour still or proving myself competitively at that time.

"You have to pick the best guy at that time. Four years from now, I don't know how involved I'll be fully, but maybe.

"Ten years ago I didn't think I'd be doing it now!"

Slater admitted, however, that his approach to surfing had changed.

"My desires, my goals before were really about competition, but now it's about the enjoyment of the lifestyle, surfing good waves or big waves," he said.

"Yeah, I still dream. Every day I look online, I look at the surf forecast around the world and dream about somewhere I want to go in the world."

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