SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Summer Olympics in Tokyo will have a California accent when the 17-day sports festival opens in a year.
We're not talking about "dude" speak, although a Kelly Slater sighting would be the "bomb."
The Tokyo Games, July 24-Aug. 9, will introduce two of California's emblematic counterculture sports - surfing and skateboarding - in the International Olympic Committee's continuing fight against aging.
Surfing and skateboarding will join sport climbing, karate and the return of baseball/softball in the Olympic program on a one-time-only basis. The action sports are the latest contributions from the Golden State, which has hatched Olympic sports in beach volleyball, BMX, mountain biking, snowboarding, triathlon and windsurfing.
Surfing and skating provide an appetizing potential for wave master Slater and three-time snowboard gold medalist Shaun White to perform on the Summer Olympics stage.
"There's a whole group of people in my generation and the generation after me who haven't had the draw to the Olympics like my parents have," said Conner Coffin, ranked 12th on the World Surf League men's championship tour. "Hopefully it will draw more young people and revitalize that viewership."
The Tokyo Games will feature 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries competing in 33 sports, including all of those action-packed endeavors that add to the Californication of the Olympics.
Here is a quick look at what to expect when Olympic fever takes hold next summer.
Dude, this one could be "epic."
Climbing has enjoyed recent popularity fueled by the perilous ascents on Yosemite National Park's El Capitan by "Free Solo" star Alex Honnold and "Dawn Wall" ace Tommy Caldwell. They will not be part of the Olympics, but two Stanford climbers have a chance to make it. Katherine Lamb and Solomon Barth are members of the U.S. sport climbing national team. Sport climbing is one of three Olympic disciplines. The others are bouldering and speed climbing. Honnold, climbing's biggest name, said he plans to watch the competition although he does not participate in sport climbing and thus would not try to qualify.
Honnold said in an interview in April that the "Olympics is a big deal" because it will encourage growth of the sport. "It touches on a couple of important things just because it can be done in urban spaces and there is a big community aspect," Honnold said. "People who live in cities need some ways to remain active and have fun with their friends."
Northern California athletes could become household names, starting with swimming.
The Bay Area is producing so much talent that USA Swimming executives appointed two Bay Area coaches to lead its teams. Stanford's Greg Meehan will coach the women's team; Cal's Dave Durden will coach the men.
The U.S. roster could be jammed with Bay Area swimmers past and present. Stanford could have seven swimmers in Tokyo. Katie Ledecky, Simone Manual, Lia Neal are likely to be there, and Ella Eastin, Katie Drabot and Brooke Forde might join them. Two-time Olympic medalist Taylor Ruck will be swimming for Team Canada.
Cal is likely to be represented by Katie McLaughlin and Abbey Weitzel on the women's team and it is expected to produce some of the leading men, as it did in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Sprint star Nathan Adrian and backstroke gold medalist Ryan Murphy are the biggest names. But Jacob Pebley, Josh Prenot and Andrew Seliskar also could be in the mix.
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Kerri Walsh Jennings is trying to qualify for her sixth Olympics after winning a medal in beach volleyball four consecutive times.
It won't be easy for the South Bay star. Walsh Jennings, an Archbishop Mitty and Stanford alumnus, will be almost 42 by the time the Games take place. She is trying to qualify over the next year with new partner Brooke Sweet because of a split with 2016 Olympic teammate April Ross. The women ended their partnership in 2017 when Walsh Jennings broke with the Association of Volleyball Professionals to start a rival beach tour.
Ross found another big-hitting Stanford alum to replace Walsh Jennings. Ross and 6-foot-5 Alix Klineman finished second at the recent World Championships and are atop the international rankings this summer. Klineman, 29, seemed destined to play on the U.S. indoor team until switching to the beach in 2017 when she was AVP rookie of the year.
Stanford alum Kate Courtney, of Kentfield, grew up in the shadow of mountain biking's birthplace of Mount Tamalpais. She used to ride up the mountain in tandem with her father Tom Courtney. Now the fast-rising star is one of the sport's biggest names. Courtney won the 2018 cross-country mountain bike world title a year after graduating from Stanford.
Slater, the Pele of surfing, will be 48 next summer. But the Floridian has won an unprecedented 11 world titles and continues to excel. He would bring star power to a sport that is central to the Bay Area outdoor consciousness with Mavericks in Half Moon Bay and Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. The Olympics should attract many stars the way snowboarding has for the Winter Games. Southern California pros "John-John" Florence and Coffin are two to watch.
The four-day competition will be held at Tsurigasaki Beach, Japan's popular surfing break about 40 miles southeast of Tokyo. Organizers had to work around sea turtles laying eggs on the beach near the competition area at a recent test event. The biggest issue is Tsurigasaki's waves, which are formed by the build up of sandbars on the long stretch of beach. It will be considered a success if surfers compete in small waves of 3- to 4-feet high.
"If it is knee-high, it won't be the best debut for that stage," said Coffin, a Santa Barbara pro. "But we're pretty used to having to make something out" of less-than-ideal conditions.
Skateboarding could revive a winter rivalry if White and Japan's Ayumu Hirano qualify. Hirano, 20, is a two-time Olympic silver medalist in snowboarding. He won Japan's national skateboard title in May.
White, on the other hand, admittedly is struggling. The Olympics is not offering his signature event called the "vert." White will try to win a spot in the discipline called "park," which features concrete bowls that have different obstacles.
But X-Games stars Nyjah Huston, Tom Schaar and Brighton Zeuner are among eight Southern Californians on the 16-member U.S. national team. It should come as no surprise the southern part of the state is supplying many strong Olympic candidates: Santa Monica's "Dogtown" and other L.A. beach locales are boarding hotbeds.
The Tokyo Games is the second of three consecutive Olympics being held in Asia. The first was the Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea last year. The last is the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The Olympics return to Tokyo for the first time since 1964. Those were the first Games the International Olympic Committee placed in Asia. It also marked Japan's rise as an economic force two decades after World War II.
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