Tokyo Olympics

SA's lone surfer Bianca Buitendag reaches Olympics quarter-finals: 'I had nothing to lose'

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South African surfer Bianca Buitendag
South African surfer Bianca Buitendag
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

South African surfer Bianca Buitendag advanced to the Olympic Games quarter-finals after stunning seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia in their round three clash at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on Monday. 

Buitendag, the country's lone surfer at this year's Tokyo Olympics, will now compete in the quarter-finals against Yolanda Hopkins of Portugal on Tuesday (02:24 SA time).

The 27-year-old scored 7.10 in the first wave and 6.83 in the second wave to total 13.93, beating Gilmore by 3.93 points.

"I was in the first heat up against a seven-time world champ, so you can understand my sentiment going into it," Buitendag said following her round three performance.

"I had nothing to lose, [I felt]  absolutely no pressure. I'm the underdog coming in at 17th seed for this event. It's a really comfortable spot to be in. It takes away all the nerves and pressure that could exist."

Buitendag admitted that it was quite "nerve-wracking" competing against Gilmore but stated that wave selection helped her gain the advantage.

"I know she can get a 10 (point score) at any given moment. That was probably the longest three minutes of my life. It was tough," said Buitendag.

"In the ocean especially, you've got to give yourself the best chance. If you are on the smaller waves, that's not going to happen. I just made sure my wave selection was really good because that was the only advantage that I could bring out."

The 17th-seed Buitenbag will now face ninth-seed Hopkins in the quarters and the South African is hoping to give herself the best possible chance.

"It just seems to go my way, many times in the ocean it doesn't. So a lot of things had to align for this victory to happen," she said.

"I knew I had to be on the best waves, otherwise I stood no chance. I just made sure that was at least covered to give myself the best chance possible.

"I've got no pressure, it's like the best spot ever. I obviously want to do my best but with no great expectations weighing on my shoulders, I've got the freedom to surf the best that I can," continued Buitendag.

"The further I go, the more I'm an underdog, I think."

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympics for Sport24.

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