Single mom and Southeast Asian Games gold medallist Nilbie Blancada outscored Amuro Tsuzuki, one of Japan’s top-notchers in women’s shortboard, at the start of the 2021 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador.
A mother of one, Blancada emerged as the highest-scoring Philippine entry when she topped Heat 12 with 12.3 points.
Tsuzuki, ranked no. 18 in the World Tour, was close behind with 12.26 points when the women’s first round ended at the beach of El Sunzal.
The 29-year-old Blancada, with her two-year-old son Clyde serving as one of her inspirations, advanced to the second round with three other Filipino bets seeking qualifying slots to the Tokyo Olympics.
“Laban lang. Para sa bayan ito,” said Blancada in a video to her supporters before the start of the competitions.
Blancada, who is from Catangnan in General Luna, Surigao del Norte, last saw action in a major international meet 17 months ago in the 2019 SEA Games, where she claimed the gold medal, only three months after giving birth to her son.
The SEAG triumph made up for her absence in numerous international meets that year because of pregnancy.
Gabrielle Gittens of the Barbados checked in with 4.13 points to also reach the second round with Blancada and Tsuzuki.
John Mark Tokong was the second-highest scoring Filipino surfer as he moved on to the second round, with Edito Alcala Jr. and Daisy Valdez.
Tokong, a SEA Games bronze medallist, tallied 11.9 points behind Heat 16 top notcher Anthony Fillingen (12.97) in the men’s division over at La Bocana. Grayson Grant of Sweden came in third (7.06)
Alcala placed second in men’s Heat 24 with 8.44 points, with Australian Ryan Callinan in front (13.74) and Cristian Portelli in third (6.26).
Valdez, a bronze medallist in the 2019 SEA Games, grabbed a women’s berth to the second round in Heat 24, with Japanese Shin Matsuda ahead of her with 14.4 points. Grace Doyle of Ireland took third with 3.66 points.
Vea Estrellado did not reach the second round following an encounter with World Surfing League veterans in Heat 5, which saw up-and-coming star and 2017 ISA World Junior Champion Alyssa Spencer of the USA emerging as the top performer after tallying a 16-point total.
With the competition employing a double-elimination format, Estrellado moved to the relegation round and will have a chance to reach the second round with good points earned.
Meanwhile, defending individual champions, Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich, both started strong, with Ferreira showing fluidity and style on his way to the highest heat total of the day with 16.43 points.
Mulanovich went past the women’s Round 1 heat in first with 13.16 points.
Eight participants, who have already qualified for the Tokyo Games showed up, namely Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons, Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb and Gabriel Medina, Costa Rica’s Brisa Hennessy, Peru’s Daniella Rosas, and Lucca Mesinas, Morocco’s Ramzi Boukhiam, and Portugal’s Frederico Morais, who all earned first places in their heats.