After her win in Rio at the weekend Red Bull surfer Sally Fitzgibbons is now breathing down the neck of the ASP Women’s World Championship Tour leader Stephanie Gilmore.
The 21-year-old Australian is just 1,500 points behind four-time world champion Gilmore with two events remaining after she controlled the event in the Barra da Tijuca district of Rio de Janeiro.
Like the rest of the field, Fitzgibbons was made to work hard by peaky 1-3ft waves. But with rankings leader Stephanie Gilmore finishing joint fifth, the competition was blown wide open. The semi-finals pitted Hawaii's Coco Ho against 18-year-old wildcard sensation Alessa Quizon, while Fitzgibbons lined up against reigning women’s world champion and fellow Red Bull athlete Carissa Moore.
Quizon’s dreams of a first ASP World Tour win were ended by Ho and Fitzgibbons got the better of long-time rival Moore to set up a dream final in Rio.
It was a closely fought thing with the lead changing hands several times. But with time running out Fitzgibbons finally caught the wave she'd been waiting for and notched a score of 7.93 (out of 10). It was her second win on this year’s tour.
“That was crazy," said Fitzgibbons afterwards. "Coco definitely had me on the ropes. I made a few mistakes, but I knew there would be one more wave towards the end. I am so excited!”
Although she closed the gap on Stephanie Gilmore to 1,500 points, the former world junior champion played down her title chances ahead of the season's remaining events in Biarritz (FRA) and Huntington Beach (USA): “This makes the title race more interesting, but there is still a long way to go. There are a couple of events left, so who knows.”
The Roxy Pro in Biarritz, France, takes place between July 10-14.