Sally Fitzgibbons wins Rio surfing Pro with a flourish
Sally Fitzgibbons waited until the death to steal the Billabong Rio Surfing Pro from Coco Ho and claim her second ASP world title event for the year.
SALLY FITZGIBBONS waited until the death to steal the Billabong Rio Surfing Pro from Coco Ho and claim her second ASP world title event for the year.
The Australian is now within reach of countrywoman Stephanie Gilmore at the top of the women’s world title standings with two events to go, after 21-year-old Fitzgibbons backed up her Bells Beach win in style.
Fitzgibbons finished with a combined wave score of 14.10 out of 20 to sneak past Hawaiian Ho (14.03) in pesky one-three foot waves at Barra da Tijuca in Rio.
The final culminated in a thrilling finish with both Fitzgibbons and Ho exchanging the lead multiple times before the hooter sounded.
In need of a high 7-point ride with just minutes remaining, Fitzgibbons executed a lefthander on her backside, notching a 7.93 out of 10 to take the elite win, her second of the year.
“That was so crazy and Coco had me on the ropes for sure,” Fitzgibbons said.
“I just had my fingers crossed and knew there would be one towards the end. I made a few mistakes and it happens in finals but I was able to recover there at the end. I’m so excited.”
Fitzgibbons, No.2 on the ASP Women’s rankings, has significantly narrowed the gap between her and current frontrunner Gilmore.
However, Fitzgibbons stayed coy on her world title chances and said she wouldn’t be getting ahead of herself in her pursuit of 24-year-old rival Gilmore.
“This makes the world title race more interesting, but thinking ahead, it’s still pretty far to go,” Fitzgibbons said.
“There are still a couple of events, but to get a win, it’s an amazing result. To win at Bells too, it’s been an awesome year so far.”
Ho, who was ranked 12th on the ASP Women’s ratings before the Billabong Rio Pro, had yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals this year, but her runner-up finish vaults the young Hawaiian to ninth in the world.
“This result really opens things up for me,” Ho said. “I’ve been having a really tough year and I’m stoked to get into this final. This is my best result of the year and this has been an important event for me. Congrats to Sally on her win.”
Fellow Hawaiian Carissa Moore, 19, last year’s Billabong Rio Pro winner and reigning ASP Women’s World Champion, was edged out of a hard-fought battle against Fitzgibbons in their high-scoring semi-final. Both competitors posted big-scores in the dying seconds of the heat, but it was Fitzgibbons who earned the best of the exchange. – AAP