Kanoa Igarashi missed his chance to win the first surfing gold medal in Olympic history on Tuesday, but he walked away with silver after being beaten by powerful Brazilian Italo Ferreira in a men's final that was moved forward due to an approaching typhoon.
Igarashi, who claimed the scalp of world No. 1 Gabriel Medina in the semifinal, was outscored by reigning world champion Ferreira 15.14 to 6.60 in the two-person final at the Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach venue.
"No matter how ready you are, you've got to ride waves to get scores," said Igarashi, who rode 14 waves but struggled to find any in the large, but messy conditions of a quality that allowed him to show his best.
"This is a good enough result but not one that I had hoped for. As grateful as I am for all the cheering that helped me win a medal, I wanted to go one step further...I'm mad at myself for not selecting the waves that were right for me," a tearful Igarashi said.
The beach in Chiba Prefecture, one of the closest surf spots to Tokyo, is closed to spectators as a part of the games' efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
In the penultimate medal event, the 23-year-old Igarashi, who was born in the United States to Japanese immigrant parents, struggled to find a decent wave that would stand up and allow him to string multiple turns together. Neither of his two highest-scoring rides reached the 4-point mark.
Ferreira was more than willing to spoil the Japanese party and managed to do so relatively easily despite breaking his board on his first wave. He scored a 7.77 on his fifth effort and backed it up with a 7.37 with three minutes to go.
From then, he could celebrate.
"I broke my good board on my first wave. That board gives me good speed, the other one is more slow. That's what I changed," said Ferreira.
"It's super hard out there, but I knew that there was a lot of opportunities around."
The Brazilian's huge smile beamed as he lay on his board riding a wave to shore, he then turned to look back out to sea and raised his arms as if to offer thanks to the ocean before being swamped by his team.
"That was one of the best moments for sure. The guys help me and give me confidence. That moment was special," he said.
Earlier in the day, on the women's side, Japan's Amuro Tsuzuki made the podium with a 2.54-point win over American Caroline Marks in the bronze medal heat. Both surfers took only four waves each and Tsuzuki's second-best score was only 1.80.
Tsuzuki recovered from a semifinal loss to American Carissa Moore, who went on to capture the gold medal. The four-time world champion from Hawaii defeated South Africa's Bianca Buitendag in the women's final, 14.93 to 8.46.
Two other Japanese surfers, Hiroto Ohhara and Mahina Maeda, were eliminated in the men's quarterfinals and women's third round, respectively.
Surfing's first Olympic finals were brought forward 24 hours to Tuesday because of Typhoon Nepartak.
Surfing is making its Olympic debut this year along with three other sports.