Toledo and Fitzgibbon win Rio Pro, Sal takes leader's jersey
SAQUAREMA, Rio de Janeiro/Brasil (Sunday, June 23, 20199) - Today Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) won the Oi Rio Pro, Stop No. 5 on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT). The beach came alive throughout the Oi Rio Pro with thousands of fans each day, including today’s Final at Barrinha in four-to-six foot (1.2 - 1.8 meter) waves. Fitzgibbons and Toledo surfed a full day from the Quarterfinals to the Final, resulting in their third CT victories in Brasil.
Toledo successfully repeated last year’s victory at Barrinha with dominant performances against Jordy Smith (ZAF) in the Final, Frederico Morais (PRT) in the Semifinals, and Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) in the Quarterfinals. This is Toledo’s third win in Brasil (2015, 2018, 2019) and the eighth of his career.
“Once I get into the Quarters and Semis, it’s like something clicks in my head, especially here in Brasil," said Toledo. "The crowd just gets me pumped and I just want to do my best. But it’s so hard, surfing can be anybody’s game. With Jordy (Smith) you never know. I had eighteen points, but he could’ve easily gotten two nines as well. I was tense until the last thirty seconds, but that first wave got me feeling pretty confident and I was stoked to get that one.”
Later on, at the awards podium, Toledo opened up and revealed that he was going through some personal issues throughout the year, but that the energetic Brasilian crowd provided the extra fuel he needed to push through.
“It can be really difficult if you don’t surround yourself with a good support crew and prepare yourself psychologically,” continued Toledo. “If you’re not prepared, the pressure can really get to you. What I really enjoy is the emotion and energy from the fans in Brasil. This gives me energy, focus, and motivation. I’ve been sick all week and feeling really weak and tired. But every time I ran down the corridor to the water, the energy from the crowd would give me a boost. A lot of people don’t know, but I’ve been going through a very difficult year personally. It’s been tough to concentrate on doing what I love most, but the crowd is what pulled me through and I’m eternally grateful. Now let’s head to another of my favorite waves at J-Bay.”
The Brasilian hero is back in the top five, moving up three spots to No. 3 on the world rankings. The next event on the CT is the Corona Open J-Bay, where Toledo is also the defending event winner. With his first win in 2019, Toledo will be fired up heading into an event where he can again defend his event Title.
Smith’s runner-up finish advances him one place up to No. 4 on the Jeep Leaderboard and that much closer to his maiden World Title. The 31-year-old has made the Final Series four times so far this year with only one early exit in Bali. Smith now returns to the Corona Open J-Bay as the obvious favorite in his home country of South Africa where he will now be welcomed home by his fans.
“I think Filipe (Toledo) had a massive support crew down here today,” said Smith. “I think the first wave was a momentum shifter. The wedge moved a little inside, and I missed it, and Filipe got barreled and did an air to a blow-tail and that was just kind of it. The wind picked up right after, but what can I say? He’s an incredible surfer, and I was just honored to be in a Final and was pleased to finally make one this year. It was a great event and there’s no other crowd like this in the world. I just hope that at J-Bay they can share a little bit of love my way.”
California’s Kolohe Andino (USA) lost to Smith in the second Semifinal but still holds his position as No. 2 on the world rankings behind John John Florence (HAW). Andino is gunning for his maiden World Title and his first CT event win in 2019 and shows no sign of slowing down. He came incredibly close in two Finals already this year (Gold Coast, Margaret River) and continued his form in Brasil.
Fitzgibbons’ win today is her first CT victory since 2017 and her third in Brasil (2012, 2014, 2019). This season the Australian superstar has secured consistent results with four Final Series appearances, including two Finals. Fitzgibbon’s win vaults her to No. 1 in the world, surpassing Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and Carissa Moore (HAW) on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“It’s definitely one of those feelings where you feel so alive,” said Fitzgibbons. “The whole process of running down through the crowd cheering and paddling out is pretty sick when it all comes together. After all these years it’s still special and to be in the Final with a friend like Carissa (Moore) is pretty amazing. It could’ve gone either way and it just went my way today, it was unbelievable, this is insane. I knew I needed something special at the end when that set wave came through. When I paddled in, I knew there was some opportunity and I just gave it everything. I just wanted to commit and everything just came together.”
En route to her 11th CT win, Fitzgibbons eliminated Moore in the Final, good friend Keely Andrew (AUS) in the Semifinals, and Lakey Peterson (USA) in the Quarterfinals. The CT veteran has come runner-up to the World Title three times, and this could be a breakthrough year after her success leading up to the season’s halfway mark.
Moore put up some of the strongest performances at the Oi Rio Pro but missed her shot at the event win by just 2.07 points. Fitzgibbons closed the door of the Final with an excellent 8.67 (out of a possible 10), leaving Moore searching for the requirement in the final five minutes. Moore hasn't lost yet before the Quarterfinals this year but still continues the quest for a win in 2019. The three-time WSL Champion moves ahead one place to World No. 2, also advancing past Gilmore, who drops to No. 3.
“It’s been a really positive year and I’m really happy to make the Finals,” said Moore. “It’s a keeper event for me, but of course, it would’ve been great to win. I’m happy for Sally (Fitzgibbons) and I’m feeling good overall. Like I mentioned after my first round, I would’ve been happy just making it to the Semis, so second place is great. Saquarema has treated me really well, the waves have been fun but challenging and the crowd has been great, so it’s been really good energy for sure.”
10 World Titles were present in the second Semifinal matchup with seven-time WSL Champion Gilmore against three-time Champion Moore. As the defending event winner and World No. 1, Gilmore had all the momentum on her side heading into this event. The two exchanged incredible rides, starting with Moore’s 7.50, but quickly followed by Gilmore’s near-perfect 9.00. The lead went back-and-forth with Moore’s second 7-point ride and then came down to the buzzer when Gilmore had one final opportunity needing a 6.30 to advance. The Australian put down two turns, but her 5.83 was not enough. Gilmore earned a third-place result in Brasil and now moves into the next stop on the WSL CT, where she is again the defending event winner. Gilmore will focus on repeating last year’s success to stay on top of the world rankings.
Gabriel Medina (BRA), reigning WSL Champion, was eliminated by Andino in the Quarterfinals. A close heat saw air attempts by both surfers, but Andino came away with the win with his 13.10 combined score (out of a possible 20) to Medina’s 12.00. Medina leaves Brasil with his third 5th place finish but advances up to the 8th spot on the rankings.
“I’m pretty pleased with my result here, but there were definitely some difficult moments,” Medina stated. “Conditions today weren’t the greatest, but I felt confident throughout the event and performed well. Now it’s time to focus on the remainder of the year and I hope to get better opportunities in the water, but I’m still happy with everything that went down in Saquarema. I’d like to thank all the fans in Brasil, the energy and the fans are phenomenal and see you all next year.”
The only Brasilian women left in the draw, Silvana Lima (BRA) and Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) lost to Andrew and Moore, respectively, in the Quarterfinals. Lima’s low-scoring heat saw her miss the mark by only 0.78. Lima is now back to full-time competition after returning from a knee injury last season and needs to get some strong points on the board to climb back up the rankings.
“I’m kind of bummed because I could have easily won that heat,” said Lima. “All I needed was a three to advance, but I ended up falling when the backwash hit the lip. But when it’s not your day, stuff like that happens. I’m still grateful for a good result and now I’m looking forward to J-Bay which is a wave I like a lot.”
Lima also commented on her full recovery from injury: “I feel great, confident and I feel like I’ve never surfed so well after all the preparation and training during my recovery and all the support I’ve gotten. Even though I’m the veteran on Tour and I’m 34-years old, it feels like I gathered all this energy from those seven months away from the Tour and I feel like a 16-year old grommet.”
Weston-Webb exits in Equal 5th place alongside Lima. The 23-year-old has had three appearances in the Final Series this year (5th in Gold Coast, 2nd in Margaret River, 5th in Rio) and moves up two spots to seventh after her result today.
“I felt like I had some moments of brilliance and me and my support crew thought that I won the heat," said Weston-Webb. "You know, coming here everyone thought that we’d be surfing the left at Itaúna and I felt like we had no reason to be surfing here today. I think it’s necessary to surf lefts on the Tour. Of course, yesterday morning it was pumping at Barrinha, but we only arrived in the afternoon when it wasn’t that great. And despite that, we still came back today. I really wanted to surf Itaúna, but it wasn’t my call. I love the fact that we surf world-class waves on the Tour, but I don’t think the WSL is being fair to the goofies and we need more high-performance lefts on Tour like Cloudbreak, Uluwatu, or Macaronis.”
2018 event runner-up Peterson fell to Fitzgibbons in the opening Quarterfinal. Peterson failed to find or complete any rides under the Australian’s 8.00 and 6.17. The American now sits in 5th place on the Jeep Leaderboard heading into to J-Bay, where she is the event runner-up. Fellow American Courtney Conlogue also lost in the Quarterfinals, her elimination was by Gilmore in a rematch of their battle in Bali. Conlogue comes up to World No. 4.
Injury replacement Morais had a great run in Brasil with a third-place finish, eventually falling to Toledo in the Semifinals. Morias missed the requalification cut-off at the end of last year and has been working to requalify on the WSL Qualifying Series (QS). Taking full advantage as the injury replacement, Morais showcased that he belongs on the elite CT amongst the world’s best surfers. He will continue to compete on the QS while awaiting his next opportunity to sub in on the CT.
Julian Wilson (AUS) has had a slow start to the 2019 season after his runner-up finish to the World Title in 2018. Wilson was the final Australian left in the men’s draw before injury replacement Morais knocked him in out in the Quarterfinals. He now climbs up four places to World No. 9 on the Jeep Leaderboard and is now the highest ranking Australian on the men’s CT.
Florence, two-time Oi Rio Pro winner and WSL Champion, withdrew this morning from the event after injuring his knee in yesterday’s Round of 16. Florence came into the event as World No. 1 and kept his position at the top of the rankings despite the withdrawal.
Oi Rio Pro Women’s Final Results:
1 - Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.64
2 - Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.57
Oi Rio Pro Women’s Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 7.63 DEF. Keely Andrew (AUS) 4.40
SF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.30 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.83
Oi Rio Pro Women’s Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.17 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 1.20
QF 2: Keely Andrew (AUS) 7.24 DEF. Silvana Lima (BRA) 6.46
QF 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.33 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 12.04
QF 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 10.90 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 10.66
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Final Results:
1 - Filipe Toledo (BRA) 18.04
2 - Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8.43
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.00 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.30
SF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.06 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.40
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.00 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 7.57
QF 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.17 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.83
QF 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) DEF. John John Florence (HAW) INJ
QF 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.10 DEF. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.00
2019 Women’s CT Jeep Leaderboard (following Oi Rio Pro):
1 - Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 32,580 pts
2 - Carissa Moore (HAW) 31,175 pts
3 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 30,320 pts
4 - Courtney Conlogue (USA) 26,845 pts
5 - Lakey Peterson (USA) 26,050 pts
5 - Caroline Marks (USA) 26,050 pts
2019 Men’s CT Jeep Leaderboard (following Oi Rio Pro):
1 - John John Florence (HAW) 32,160 pts
2 - Kolohe Andino (USA) 27,760 pts
3 - Filipe Toledo (BRA) 27,195 pts
4 - Jordy Smith (ZAF) 26,045 pts
5 - Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 24,705 pts