STEPH OFF RACE PACE
STEPHANIE Gilmore has blown a golden opportunity to put herself back in the World Surf League title race despite beating defending champion Tyler Wright at the Swatch Pro in California.
Gilmore’s win over Wright in their knockout Round 4 clash not only allowed her to advance at the event at the famed Lower Trestles break but halted the run of the tour leader, opening the door for Gilmore to reignite her bid for a record-equalling seventh crown.
The Tweed Heads surfer won the opening event of the year at Snapper Rocks, starting the push to equal Layne Beachley’s record of seven world titles.
Despite a golden start on the Australian leg of the tour, where she picked up second and third placings at Bells Beach and Margaret River, Gilmore had fallen back to fourth in the rankings after failing to make the quarter-fi- nals in Fiji, or at the US Open. But a shock loss to Brazilian Silvana Lima in the quarters derailed Gilmore’s bid to make ground on Wright, Sally Fitzgibbons and Courtney Conlogue.
While Lima and Gilmore traded excellent opening scores in their heat, there were few waves on offer until the final minute, when the pair traded blows again.
Lima came up trumps on both occasions though, with Gilmore knocked out and fin- ishing with a fifth placing. Fitzgibbons lost her quarter-final also in a result that could have an even greater impact on the season.
The NSW surfer took the tour lead after Wright’s loss but may not end up in the tour leader’s jersey for the next event, in Portugal, after she was beaten by Courtney Conlogue, who can pass her if she wins through to the Swatch Pro final.
Conlogue made a slow start to the season and is carrying two ninth placings – results she will want to discard – but is the only woman to have won two events on tour this season.
It’s now up to Aussie young gun Keely Andrew to knock her out in the semi-finals to preserve Australia’s hold on the tour lead.
If Conlogue loses her semi and finishes in third place overall, Fitzgibbons will wear the yellow jersey to Portugal.
But if the Californian steps into the final at Trestles, she will take the tour lead.
Stephanie Gilmore missed an opportunity in her world bid.