World Champ Gilmore takes out Midori
Pro at Merewether Beach
Top: Midori finalists Stephanie Gilmore and
Sally Fitzgibbons take to the winner's podium.
Above: WQS ratings leader Sally Fitzgibbons
continued to impress, running second in
the final to current ASP World Champion
Left: 2007 ASP World Champion
Gilmore takes out the Midori Pro at
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
World Champ Gilmore takes out Midori Pro
at Merewether Beach
MEREWETHER BEACH, Australia (Saturday,
April 5, 2008) - REIGNING world surfing champion Stephanie
Gilmore has taken out the 6-star World Qualifying Series (WQS)
Midori Pro at Newcastle’s Merewether Beach.
In a dream final match up for contest
organisers, the 20-year-old from Tweed Heads defeated the
reigning world junior champion Sally Fitzgibbons to take out
2008’s biggest WQS event for women in Australia and
Small right-handers up to a metre in
height were affected by a light onshore wind, but Gilmore
still found plenty of wave faces to perform some big maneuvers
that were cheered by thousands of spectators and rewarded
by the judges.
Gilmore, who came into the Midori Pro
as the number one seed in the round of 48, won each of the
five heats she contested before assuring herself victory half-way
through the thirty minute final when she had a 7.83 and 8.83
on the score sheet while Fitzgibbons had only managed a 6.17.
"I was a little bit nervous out
there in the earlier heats because I am pretty used to surfing
in the man-o-man heats of the top tour," Gilmore said.
"I am absolutely wrapped. Sally
was surfing really well here and did great in the semi –
I knew it was going to be hard to beat her," she said.
"I’ll slip this one under
my belt –it’s another feather in my cap,"
The Midori Pro winner paid her respect
to Fitzgibbons and said she expects to be meeting her at the
top-level events in 2009.
"Sally really is going to be one
to watch. There’s no doubt she has a great future,"
The world champ said she was going to
take some time off from the grind of the tour and will not
be competing at next week’s Margaret River event.
"I haven’t been home since
Bells and it is good to go into a break with a couple of wins.
"I just want to spend some time
with my family and friends –home is just so good.
"I will then go to Bali for a couple
of trips and the next contest I’ll surf will be the
Billabong Pro in Brazil," she said.
Earlier in the quarter-finals, Gilmore
accounted for three-time winner at this event and current
world number six Rebecca Woods from Copacabana on the New
South Wales Central Coast.
In the semi-final, Gilmore easily accounted
for South Africa’s Rosanne Hodge on the right-handers
off Merewether reef.
Fitzgibbons, who hails from Gerroa on
the New South Wales South Coast, has made three finals in
three WQS events on the Australian leg of the Qualifying Series
She won at both Phillip Island and at
the Central Coast - and after her second placing today today
she is likely to have already racked up enough points to ensure
a berth on the elite tour in 2009.
Fitzgibbons made it to today’s
final by defeating fellow Aussie Jessi Miley-Dyer from Coogee
in Sydney and then defeated Hawaiian Alana Blanchard in the
Fitzgibbons said she was happy to have
made her third final on the Australian leg of the WQS in 2008.
"Steph is the current world champion
and is doing extremely well so it was a privilege and honor
to be in the same heat and pick up some tips at the same time.
"Just watching the way she surfs
is awesome – there’s always something to learn
from the world’s best.
"It’s a dream of mine to be
on the world tour like her," Fitzgibbons said.
"Steph got two good waves early
on and I knew I had to do something big but I couldn’t
get the waves so unfortunately she got me.
"I am going over to Margaret River
and it is going to be my first time competing in WA so it’ll
be great to get the experience and have some fun as well,"
This morning’s round of 32 in the
Mark Richards Pro saw competition heat up as the field was
narrowed down to the final 16 surfers.
The day’s honours went to current
world number nine, Adrian de Souza, after the Brazilian secured
his name at the top of the day’s tally-sheet with a
Jeremy Flores (France), who is ranked fourth on the ASP World
Tour and the number one seed here, continued to dominate in
the water by eliminating Aussies Nathan Hedge (Narrabeen)
and Leigh Sedley (Sunshine Coast).
Last weekend’s winner of the Motorola
Pro Junior at the same beach, Owen Wright from Culburra on
the New South Wales South Coast, was unable to hold off the
experienced attack provided by Sunshine Coast hot shot Julian
Wilson and Kiama’s Rhys Bombaci.
Wright was bundled out of the competition
by less than one point.
Wilson will tomorrow meet Flores in heat
seven of Sunday’s round of 16 which gets underway at
Other surfers who progressed through
this morning’s round included Aussies Adam Melling,
Blake Wilson, Ryan Campbell, Nic Muscroft, Michael Campbell
and Jarrad Sullivan.
Internationals still in contention at
Merewether include Kiwi Bobby Hansen, Brazilian Willian Cardoso
and Tahiti’s Alan Riou.
Also at Merewether today, a legion of
legends gathered on Merewether Beach for the Landcom Charity
In a unique event, retired rugby league
great and likely immortal Andrews Johns went board-to-board
with former world champions Mark Occhilupo, Mark Richards
and Sunny Garcia along with Merewether’s Matt Hoy, former
world number two Luke Egan and Simon Law.
This is one of the first opportunities
Johns has had to surf back on his home break since his move
to Sydney late last year.
Johns was pleased to be among his surfing
idols, which showed in his "dreadful" performance
in the surf.
"I think the occasion got the better
of me," Johns said.
"To surf in the sort of thing is
really an honour.
"Mark Richards, especially in this
town, is a god."
Occhilupo, who said goodbye to professional
surfing at the conclusion of last year’s end of tour
event in Hawaii, was enjoying the opportunity to catch some
waves with his surfing mates. Newcastle provides fond memories
for Occy. He took out the Surfest main event in 1986 and 1998.
"It feels great surfing with all
my really good friends," Occhilupo said.
"Newcastle has been such a special
spot to me over the years and it felt really good being back.
"It weird being down here without
competing, I guess that’s when you know you’re
Occhilupo will be honoured in Newcastle
tonight with a special dinner and at Merewether Beach tomorrow
with his very own expression session that starts at approximately
1:30 local time.
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