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The Next Wave of Olympic Dreams

For the first time, surfing joins the lineup of Olympic sports in this year’s delayed, pandemic-burdened Japan summer games. Alpha-1 advocate Arran Strong is already training for 2024.

Surfer Arran Strong hangs on to a wave
photo by Reinaldo Andrade

Riding the waves is now a medal-worthy sport.

Surfers will compete for the first time at the Japan games, giving the thrilling sport a new level of prestige on the international stage. Arran Strong, an energetic advocate for people who have alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, is hoping to be there next time around at the Paris 2024 games. (The surfing contest will happen in Tahiti since the Seine doesn’t offer many swells.)

Strong, 22, hopes to compete for Great Britain, where he was born. He trained and competed in Portugal’s Ironman Race in 2019 and his Olympic goal crystalized for him during the pandemic.

“I have had a lot of time to define my goals as an elite athlete and focus on one objective. I have set myself to train and focus on qualifying for the 2024 Surfing Olympics representing Great Britain,” Strong said. “Now more than ever I will be able to demonstrate that no matter what difficulties we go through, we can overcome them and motivate other people to chase their dreams.”

Strong was born with the genetic condition, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. The rare disease can impact both the lungs and liver because the person has too little alpha-1 antitrypsin, a blood protein that guards against inflammation.

His condition inspired his mother, Shane Fitch, to start an organization for patients with respiratory conditions called Lovexair. Strong is an ambassador for the group and participated in patient events prior to the pandemic, coining the motto “Surf and Breathe.” CSL Behring sponsors his advocacy work.

To learn more about how he has overcome health obstacles, watch the short film Back on Two Feet.

Surfer and alpha-1 advocate Arran Strong