Gisborne teenager Saffi Vette is hoping to make rival Ella Williams regret her decision not to travel to El Salvador to the World Surfing Games at the end of the month.
19-year-old Vette, the reigning national women's champion, and veteran Paige Hareb leave for Central America on Sunday for their unlikely attempt to usurp Williams who has provisionally qualified for Tokyo following her result at the 2019 World Games.
New Zealand can take a maximum of two men and two women to Tokyo but to do that will require a phenomenal result from Hareb or Vette or both of them.
If one of the two Kiwis finishes in the top seven in El Salvador, they would join Williams at the Olympics, if both make the top seven, Williams would miss out. Vette says by not travelling to compete in El Salvador, Williams may have counted the chickens before they hatch.
"Quite possibly, Ella has made her decision and I can't change that but I can just focus on myself and I'm sure Paige is doing the same. But I can't change Ella's decision because I want to take her spot, so it's still competitive but she may have a situation in her hands," Vette said.
Williams has clearly gambled on the quality of the competition being too hot for the Kiwi duo and Vette acknowledges she will need to perform better than she ever has to have a chance of making the grade for surfing's debut at the Olympics.
"It's definitely going to be the toughest competition I have ever competed in," Vette said.
"The likes of Stephanie Gilmore from Australia who is a seven-time world champion, four-time world champion Carissa Moore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Caroline Marks. All the top surfers are going to this event and to be able to be amongst the best surfers in the world is going to be so eye-opening and inspiring for me."
Vette draws confidence from her performances this year, winning the National Championships at Piha and also the South Island Champs in Dunedin.
"I am 19 years old and have a lot of years ahead of me competing-wise but I am taking this opportunity and taking it super seriously as I would with any other event. I am not going there to muck around and I want to do well and make sure I make myself proud and my family and friends and those that support me.
"Winning the nationals was a huge confidence booster for me, knowing that I can still win and surf good after not surfing in competitions too much in the last year, so it's been a huge step for me to go and compete halfway across the world for an Olympics spot."
Vette has just had her second shot of the Pfizer vaccine and is confident she will be safe inside the surfing bubble being created in El Salvador. She is also relishing the opportunity to travel with Hareb who has been an idol for her growing up.
"I stayed with her in Taranaki at her home a couple of weeks ago and that was a huge test for both her and I and we got along great. She has done what I hope to achieve and that is to get out and compete on the world stage. It's going to be amazing to be able to travel with her especially because she has travelled there before and competed in El Salvador. So she has been really helpful with accommodation and booking and getting my head around what the break is going to be like."
Surfing New Zealand has not provided any funding for Vette and Hareb but Vette says the surfing community in Gisborne has rallied around her.
"I am super lucky coming from Gisborne - we have such a great community here and a few of my sponsors have helped me get over there and they want to see me thrive in the sport I love. I feel privileged to have that support from them so fingers crossed we can get in the top seven and go to the Olympics."
The World Surfing Games start on May 29 and run until June 6.