- Surfer Bianca Buitendag is proud and honoured to be a part of the South African Olympic team for the Tokyo Games.
- Buitendag is the only South African surfer in Japan following the late withdrawal of Jordy Smith.
- As surfing makes its debut at the Olympics, Buitendag hopes to use local knowledge to her advantage as 20 women surfers compete for glory.
South African surfer Bianca Buitendag acknowledged that she is feeling a bit overwhelmed as she makes her Olympic debut.
Surfing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo at the Tsurigasaki Beach with an elite field of 20 men and 20 women.
Buitendag will be making history by becoming South Africa's first and only surfer at the Tokyo Olympics after SA star surfer Jordy Smith withdrew due to injury.
"I'm so proudly South African. I can't brag about my country enough ... it is unbelievable to be part of our team," said Buitendag.
"In my unit at the Village, there are four other girls. Two triathletes, one is a canoeist and one does javelin, so that's pretty cool. We never get to mingle with other sporting disciplines so that's a first for me."
Buitendag qualified for the Olympics at the 2019 World Surfing Games in Japan.
The 27-year-old has been around the top-level surfing scene since 2013 as she prepares to represent her country at the world's biggest sporting spectacle.
"I'm still kind of overwhelmed, but it has settled down to a degree," admitted Buitendag.
"I'm starting to see other competitors around. It's starting to feel more like a surf contest and less like a dream. It's not completely normal yet though. It feels different.
"The fact that you're only a small part of the huge event makes it different. It's not like the event is running for you. You're a guest to a certain extent.
"We still feel the Olympic vibes and the fact there's only 40 competitors here - that doesn't happen a lot. It's very small."
They'll compete in groups of four or five in the preliminary rounds before entering into a one-on-one to determine the ultimate gold champion.
It'll be fierce competition as Buitendag competes against American Carissa Moore, Australian power-house duo Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons.
Buitendag is unsure how this event will play out at Tsurigasaki Beach.
"With conditions like this, you never know, it's difficult to say. There could be some upsets."
Buitendag is scheduled to get her Olympic campaign under way on Sunday from 03:00 (SA time). However, surfing is unlike any Olympic sport, whereby it is dependent on the waves.
The Tsurigasaki Beach is known for its small waves during summer months, which has resulted in the surfing competitions taking place over four days.
"In Japan, you always know it's one of two extremes. It's either flat or in the middle of a typhoon," said Buitendag.
"Luckily, I've been in Japan a few times before, so you've got to be prepared for the best or the worst, I guess.
"As for now, since the conditions of the waves will be different in a few days, we're just loosening up, putting our feet in the water."
*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympics for Sport24.