Raglan surfing legend Billy Stairmand flew out of New Zealand last weekend unfazed by all the controversy over the Tokyo Olympics and determined to make the podium in the sport’s first appearance as a Games discipline.
The Covid-19 pandemic may be casting a long shadow over the delayed 2020 Olympics but Billy believes the absence of spectators will minimise distractions and allow “more concentration on the contest”.
And the 31-year-old’s upbeat on his chances. “I want a medal – and I believe I can medal too,” he told the Chronicle last week. “That is my goal for New Zealand surfing, and for myself and my family. I can’t wait to compete, to put my rashie on and give it my all.”
Billy – along with fellow Kiwi surfer Ella Williams, their coach Matt Scorringe and an accompanying physio – was to stay in the Olympic Village for five days, then to take an hour’s drive east of Tokyo to the surfing venue, Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba.
He said he’d been to that particular beach “heaps” and done really well there in the past, including placing third in a World Qualifying Series (WQS) event. He had “good vibes” about the location and was feeling really confident.
“I love Japan – it’s one of my favourite places,” he added.
Surfing heats are due to start at Tsurigasake Beach this Sunday (July 25). “We’ve got four days’ competition and then another four days if needed, it all depends on the conditions,” Billy explained. “That’s an eight-day window all up.”
In preparation for the comp he’d been over at the Mount “trying to surf bad waves because Japan is not known for good waves”.
He added the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021 had also been something of a plus as it gave him an extra year both to get body and mind in sync and to get over an injury – a grade three MCL strain in his left knee.
Billy expects to be away from New Zealand about two weeks in all. He’s due back on a chartered flight on August 1.
So far this year the eight-times New Zealand champion has done a couple of WQS events in Australia and qualified for the WSL Challenger Series.
After quarantining, he’s home for three weeks ahead of events in America, Portugal, France and Hawaii to “hopefully make the World Championship Tour”.
Meantime, a rower understood to divide her time these days between Cambridge and Te Mata is off to Japan for her third Olympics.
Canterbury-born and raised Eve Macfarlane will compete for New Zealand in the women’s quadruple sculls, the same event in which she represented the country at the 2012 London Olympics. She rowed in the double sculls at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Look out for:
Sunday July 25 – 10:00– Men’s Surfing Heat 1 Billy Stairmand
Sunday July 25 – 13:20– Women’s Surfing Heat 1 Ella Williams
Fri July 23 – 11:30 – Rowing heats begin
Fri July 23 – 22:50 – Opening Ceremony
Sat July 24 – 17:12 – Men’s Boxing David Nyika
Sat July 24 – 20:30 – Women’s Football Game 2 NZL v USA
Mon July 26 – 13:00 – Men’s Rugby 7s Game 1
Tue July 27– 15:00 -Sailing 49er FX Race 1
Wed July 28 – 12:00 – Women’s Trap Shooting Natalie Rooney
Thu July 29 – 13:00 – Women’s Rugby 7s Game 1
Fri July 30 – 22:25 – Women’s Shot Put Valerie Adams
Sky TV will have Olympics coverage across 12 channels and streaming platforms, while TVNZ will feature 12 hours of free-to-air action each afternoon and evening,
All times are NZT