Here’s What The World Title (And Olympic) Race Looks Like Post John Florence
How Kelly Slater has an Olympic chance and Gabriel’s positioning for Title Contention just went from 7 to midnight.
One must assume John Florence was deep in the midst of a dreamy, pain-killer haze as he punched these characters into his recent Insta post:
“I’m excited for this new adventure and everything I will learn along the way.”
But despite its origins, it was a typical sentiment for a man of his ilk. Wonderful positivity, great for the children.
But while John’s post downplayed it, his injury is a big deal (he’s already gone through surgery). The implications stretch far and wide.
And really, John likely couldn’t be fucked tapping that Instagram post; somebody surely did it for him.
Kolohe Andino is now the best surfer in the world
It does look odd, that sentence, and many of you will vehemently disagree. Yes, he’s still technically ranked second, and depending on results at J-Bay, may not even taste first position. But, in effect, he’s currently the highest ranked surfer in the ball game.
So, before Kolohe dons the unofficial top spot at J-Bay, let’s peer closely at the man and consider his chances. With high office comes great scrutiny.
PRO: He’s supremely talented: we know of his capabilities, you don’t qualify at eighteen without them. And while his past years have been a mix of good and bad, on his day, he’ll always be hard to beat.
PRO: Many of the title threat posse are MIA: As we approach the 2019 mid-point, John is out, Julian is likely done, and Medina’s on his knees.
PRO: He tends to finish better than he starts: for five of his seven years on tour, Kolohe has produced better results in the second half of the season, compared with the first.
CON: He’s never won a CT event: every world title winner in recent history (except CJ in the shortened ’01 season) has won an event on their way to title glory. Without a 10,000-point bundle in the bag, it makes a world title too difficult. It’s worth noting Kolohe has finished second twice, just missing that 10k bonus.
CON: His stats are not world title quality: if you compare Kolohe’s career numbers to those of recent world title winners, he’s a long way off the pace.
Filipe Toledo will likely win the Title this year
And for good reason. Results wise, Filipe’s start to 2019 is similar to last year, and given his past results at J-Bay compared with Kolohe, expect him to be in yellow post-South Africa.
Many punters still believe that Toledo lost 2018, rather than Medina winning it. If we look at Medina, Julian and Toledo’s last few results of the 2018 season, it’s hard to argue:
Medina: 3rd (France), 3rd (Portugal), 1st (Pipe).
Wilson: 1st (France), 5th (Portugal), 2nd (Pipe).
Toledo: 13th (France), 13th (Portugal), 13th (Pipe).
He’s coming off a win in Brazil, and about to enter a contest he’s won the last two years straight. Don’t expect Toledo to make the same mistakes as last year.
Gabby is officially back in contention!
While Stab recently ran a piece arguing that Medina was just about cooked for 2019, there was one important caveat to that prediction, being that John’s knee holds up. Which it hasn’t.
John’s departure effectively wipes 4,400 points (the difference between him and Kolohe) from the top of the leader board. This brings surfers who may have been out of touch with John’s lead back into the mix.
John was that guy on tour who everybody was chasing. Now there’s no one. Without him, the current Top 5 is title-less.
Kelly Slater might actually surf in the Olympics
Who would have thought! There are a few scenarios at play.
Let’s assume John is out for all of 2019. The first US spot will probably go to Kolohe. The second will likely go to Kelly or Conner, assuming the higher placed surfer finishes Top 10. There are other chances for John, especially if Kelly and Conner fall away this season, but the process gets a little complicated and uninteresting, and depends on qualification of surfers from other nations.
Imagine that. Old boy Slater, 48 years young, Star-Spangled Banner draped around his neck wavering gently in the Japanese breeze. Oh, the money I’d give.
But John’s Insta post says, “I’ll be pulling out of J-Bay and likely the rest of the CT season.”
He’s left the door open for a possible return this year, which depends entirely on his recovery time. Post-ACL surgery rehab can differ markedly between athletes.
It’s very unlikely, but not out of the question.
Last year, Kanoa sealed tenth place with 30,520 points. Kelly is now on 17,735 (7th) and Conner 16,035 (11th), and the completion of J-Bay will take us past the season’s halfway point. If they both drop away in the next few events, and come Pipe, John only has to show up and scrap together a few measly points to guarantee his spot…
The financial implications of a busted hinge
What a time it is to be alive for surfers sporting the same stickers as John. When contract negotiations roll around there’ll surely be a little more in the kitty for those lower in the pecking order, and a little less flowing to their number one man. ‘Cause pumping out leg extensions in a stinking gym with a rehab therapist named Leeroy don’t sell product to the children.
While 2018 wasn’t shaping up to be particularly successful for John, his ACL has likely cost him large this year: event wins, title bonus, and any contractual penalties built into the fine print. And while young John won’t be going hungry any time soon, and his fat Hurley deal is under lockdown for years to come, it’s hard to see future contracts being as generous as those he’s on now.
Judging by his current position at the top of the leader board, some 4,400 points clear, it can safely be inferred that John, in terms of his ability, recovered well from his 2018 ACL tear. But his body is another issue. His body didn’t recover at all.
Injure a body part once—anomaly. Injure it twice—reoccurring.
His body will now have to be tweaked. Exercises that stabilise and strengthen his lower half are now part of his weekly routine. Flexibility will also become a bigger focus.
While many athletes physically recover from repeat injuries, their ability never reaches the same heights. John is now susceptible to future ACL problems, and he’ll be forever aware of that.
Expect to see less of him mid-air.
Any sportsperson worth their salt will tell you an athlete’s psychology is at least as important to success as their physical feats on the field or in the water. If you think John’s injury won’t play on his mind going forward, especially in the early post-op years, you are mistaken.
The end of next season. That’s when we’ll be able to measure how great John Florence really is: undisputed surfing genius, or that kid who was great until he hurt his knee.
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