BRONZED: Tofino surfer Mathea Dempfle-Olin balances on the nose of her longboard during the last day of surf competition at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Dempfle-Olin went on to win a historic bronze medal in the women’s longboard division. Her podium performance marks Canada’s first-ever surfing medal at the Pan Am Games. (Pablo Jiménez Photo)

Island surfer wins historic medal for Canada

Tofino’s Mathea Dempfle-Olin wins bronze at Pan Am Games

A teenage Vancouver Island surfer made history for Canada at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru on Sunday.

Tofino’s 16-year-old sensation Mathea Dempfle-Olin claimed bronze in the women’s longboard competition, which took place at the world-renowned point break of Punta Rocas, south of Lima’s city centre in Punta Negra.

Mathea and her new shiny friend. Photo by Pablo Jiménez

This isn’t the first time Dempfle-Olin has made sporting history for her country. At the 2017 Pan American Surfing Games, she won Canada’s inaugural surfing medals in international competition; a bronze in women’s shortboard and gold in longboard.

While the young athlete is constantly on the road competing in various ISA events, Tofino is where she was born and raised and her home break is Cox Bay Beach.

The result may have been a first for Canada’s surfing team but it still fell short of her title aspirations.

“At the moment I’m definitely a little bit bummed,” Olin said, fighting back tears. “But I think when I go home and look at the big picture, I’ll be pretty happy.”

In longboard, surfers must impress judges by performing manoeuvres with style, control and speed. Bottom turns, cutbacks, walking up and down the nine-foot surfboard, and dipping toes in the water while nose riding are all encouraged.

Conditions were considered smooth Sunday with the waves — many as high as a basketball hoop off a floor — crashing hard before eventually ending up by the moss-covered rocks on the shore.

“It’s such a big playing field out there,” said Canadian coach Shannon Brown, also a Tofino resident. “It’s easy to get caught just a little bit out of position. When the wave that she was looking for came through, she was just in the wrong spot.

“She was so close to getting it. So close but so far.”

Olin, who usually competes in shortboard, surfed on the longboard since teammate Bethany Zelasko edged her for the qualification spot in the other discipline.

Olin started surfing competitively at age 10 and joined the World Surf League as a junior in 2017 before being promoted to the women’s qualifying series last year.

Lima 2019 is the first time any surfing discipline has been featured on the sports program at the Pan American Games. Shortboard, longboard, SUP racing and SUP surfing all made their debut in the Games during the week of competition.

Surfing at Lima 2019 has a direct impact on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualifying, with the winners of the men’s and women’s shortboard earning a qualification slot in surfing’s Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

Olin’s third-place longboard finish came on the final day of surfing competition.

“It’s Canadian surfing history so once she’s had time to reflect on her heat and pick it apart, learn what she can from it, it’ll sink in,” Brown said. “I’m sure she’ll be ecstatic about the final result.”

Led by Dempfle-Olin and coached by Brown with support from Surf Canada’s executive director Dom Domic, the Canadian surf team at Lima 2019 was: Lina Augaitis (SUP race), Mike Darbyshire (SUP race), Finn Spencer (SUP surf), Catherine Bruhwiler (SUP surf), Cody Young (shortboard), and Zelasko (shortboard).

Peruvian teammates Lucca Mesinas and Daniella Rosas were crowned shortboard champions at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games on Sunday, which makes them almost certain to earn qualification slots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, notes a media release from the International Surfing Association (ISA).

“It has been a memorable and unrepeatable competition. It was a day full of emotions. The dream of Pan Am inclusion became a reality and, of course, we brought the love for the ocean and the passion that is part of surfing to this incredible edition of the Games,” said ISA president Fernando Aguerre in the media release.

Lima 2019 runs from July 26 to August 11. It brings together 6,700 athletes from 41 nations of the Americas and features 62 disciplines in 39 sports. It is the largest sporting event ever held in Peru.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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