BARRA DA TIJUCA, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Saturday, May 12, 2012) ? Semifinalists have been decided for the Billabong Women’s Rio Pro, Stop No. 5 of 7 on the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour, as the world’s best female surfers made the most of the tricky one-to-two foot (0.5 metre) waves on offer at the primary site of Barra da Tijuca.
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 21, current No. 2 on the ASP Women?s WCT Rankings, got the best of a wave-starved heat this morning, tearing into select waves with precision and nailing one of the day?s highest heat totals of 16.00 out of 20 in Round 3.
?Everyone was struggling to get waves and there were only a few opportunities to get scores,? Fitzgibbons said. ?It?s really nice to have a good start to the heat. I was just hoping to find a couple of those rights and hopefully the swell picks up for the remainder of the event.?
Fitzgibbons would go on to defeat Pauline Ado (FRA), 21, in this afternoon’s Quarterfinals to earn her Semifinals berth.
Carissa Moore (HAW), 19, reigning ASP Women?s World Champion, took a come-from-behind win over Laura Enever (AUS), 20, in the final heat of the day to advance through to the Semifinals. The defending Billabong Rio Pro champion has yet to secure an elite ASP Women?s WCT event in 2012, but is hoping the Billabong Rio Pro will act as the catalyst to change her momentum for the year.
?It would be great to build momentum off of this event for the rest of the year,? Moore said. ?Each event is a clean slate and I?m trying to find momentum and find rhythm. I haven?t really done as well as last year this season, but I?m stoked to be surfing and traveling and I?m looking forward to the finish of this year.?
Coco Ho (HAW), 21, put in a standout performance today, besting four-time ASP Women?s World Champion and current rankings’ leader Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 24, on two separate occasions. Ho won her three-woman Round 3 heat and went on to take a dominant victory over Gilmore in the Quarterfinals by a score of 14.93 to 7.23, out of 20.
?It was definitely crunch time in that man-on-man heat and Steph (Gilmore) is trying to win a World Title and I?m trying to requalify and get a really good result,? Ho said. ?There definitely weren?t as many jokes and laughs as the last heat. Steph had priority most of the heat and kept taking the first one and somehow there started being more waves in a set and I kept getting really lucky.?
Ho, current No. 12 on the ASP Women?s WCT Ratings, needed a big result to remain on the ASP Top 17 roster for 2013 and is hoping her guaranteed equal 3rd finish at the Billabong Rio Pro will mark the beginning to a strong end to 2012.
?I?ve had a pretty bad beginning to the year and anything from here on out is a bonus,? Ho said. ?I?m looking forward to finishing up the year strong.?
Gilmore continually posted solid scores throughout the event despite the challenging conditions. The progressive natural-footer’s Equal 5th place at the Billabong Rio Pro is another strong result, but admittedly pushes her clinching of the 2012 ASP Women’s World Title further away.
“It’s always tough to lose in conditions like this,” Gilmore said. “That’s competition though and we all have to deal with the same field of play. The window for our event here was never going to have the best waves and would likely favor some of the surfers that excel in these conditions. Brush it off though and focus on the next one. There are still two more events and that will have a major bearing on this year’s title race.”
Alessa Quizon (HAW), 18, Billabong Rio Pro wildcard, continued to shine amongst the ASP Top 17, eliminating 2012 ASP Women?s WCT rookie Lakey Peterson (USA), 17, before Courtney Conlogue (USA), 19, to advance to the Semifinals.
?We had a restart and then there were no waves until the last 20 minutes or so,? Quizon said. ?It was really stressful. I?ve surfed against Lakey (Peterson) in amateur and Pro Junior events and she?s an awesome surfer. I?m just going in to this event as the underdog. I have no expectations and I?m just trying to gain experience and have a good time.?
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 10am at the primary site of Barra da Tijuca to assess conditions for a possible 10:30am start. A Billabong Women’s Rio Pro winner will be crowned tomorrow.