Dan Ninham
Special to Indian Country Today

An Indigenous athlete in an Olympic sport with Indigenous roots is a gold medalist at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Carissa Moore, 28, an ethnic Hawaiian representing Team USA, won the inaugural gold medal in Olympic women’s surfing when she defeated South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag, who earned the silver medal, 14.93 to 8.46, in the final round in Ichinomiya, Japan. Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki took bronze.

Moore was ranked number one in the world heading into the Olympics, just in time for surfing’s debut as an Olympic sport.

“It’s been a crazy couple of days,” Moore said. “A little bit of a rollercoaster of emotions just trying to figure out the break, find my rhythm, learning how to trust myself without my family here.”

Moore is among more than 50 Indigenous athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics, with more than 33 of those from New Zealand. Other countries sending Indigenous athletes to the games include Australia, with 16; the U.S. with three; and Canada, with one.

READ MORE: Indigenous athletes set to shine in Olympics

Moore was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and began surfing by age 5 with her father. By 16, she had become the youngest Triple Crown of Surfing champion, and by 18 had become the youngest surfer ― male or female ― to win a world surfing title, according to her Team USA profile.

With four World Surfing League world titles under her belt in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2019, she peaked at the right time in 2021 with a pre-Olympic win at the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup and as runner-up at the Maui Pro Pipeline.

Moore “surfs with remarkable power and finesse and is known for her work to help young girls develop confidence and pursue their dreams,” according to the profile.

Moore has been receiving recognition for the past decade. She was named an Adventurer of the Year in 2012 by National Geographic, Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 2013, and was named Top Female Surfer in Surfer Magazine polls in 2011 and 2015-2017.

Surfing has been a sport in Hawaii for centuries, with native Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku credited with spreading surfing to the U.S. and Australia in the early 1900s. He won Olympic gold medals for swimming in 1912 and 1920.

But surfing had not been an Olympic sport until this year’s games. The competition marked the first in Olympic history, and Moore is its first gold-medalist.

Fans can follow the Olympic champion on her personal website: https://www.carissamoore.com

This article contains material from The Associated Press.

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