South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag achieved the best result of her fledgling professional surfing career when she placed third in the Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro, stop No. 5 of 7 on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), at Barra da Tijuca beach in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday.
The 19 year-old rookie from George in the Southern Cape, competing in just her fifth event at this level, overcame a string of the world’s best female surfers to reach the semi-finals before bowing out to eventual event winner, Tyler Wright (AUS), 19.
“I think it’s the best result of my professional career,” Buitendag said. “I’m really happy with my result and happy to be here in Brazil. It’s good to get my head above water for a change. I’d been in a tough mental space over the last few events and kind of putting myself down and this allowed me to think and surf smarter. Now that this event is over I’ll be able to go back and analyze my performance.”
Buitendag won US $8 000 (approx. R72 000) and an invaluable 6 600 points that saw her move up one place to eighth on the ASP Women’s WCT leaderboard. With two events left in the 2013 season she is now a significant 3 550 points ahead of Malia Manuel in the 10th and final spot for automatic requalification for next year’s elite WCT.
Buitendag started her Rio campaign with a third place finish in Round 1 before bouncing back to defeat Philippa Anderson (AUS) in Round 2. After repeating her third place in Round 3, the South Africa overcame the challenge of ASP No. 13 Pauline Ado (FRA) before holding on to defeat the third seed, Courtney Conlogue (USA), in their quarter-final match-up.
Tyler Wright defeated fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons, 22, in a high-scoring final (17.80 to 15.67) to win the Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro in peaky two-to-three foot waves and take the lead on the 2013 ASP Women’s WCT rankings
Wright dominated the Barra da Tijuca line-up from start to finish, posting the high scores of each round with progressive combinations including the final where she unloaded committed forehand combinations and was rewarded a 9.33 and 8.50 to secure the win.
“This feels pretty good,” Wright said. “This whole event has been stepping stones for me. I started off a bit shaky and this is my first even where my family is not here with me. Brooke Farris was here looking after me and thanks to everyone for all of their support.”
Wright’s victory in Rio marks her second of the season following a win on the Gold Coast and the two victories combined with two additional runner-up finishes have launched Wright to the No.1 position over Carissa Moore (HAW), 20.
“It’s awesome to move to the top of the rankings, but I’m honestly not thinking about the World Title,” Wright said. “I’m just having fun surfing and enjoying each event and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”
Sally Fitzgibbons, defending event champion, put in an amazing effort in an attempt to retain the Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro Title, ousting Oahu’s Carissa Moore in their semi-final bout, but was unable to put a stop to Wright’s momentum in the final to finish runner-up overall.
“I’m happy to progress though to the final,” Fitzgibbons said. “It’s always exciting to come in to a final against Tyler (Wright) and I knew she’d be tough to beat out there. I love coming to Rio and I always get good results here. Unfortunately I fell at the last hurdle, but I’ll come back bigger and better next year.”
Highlights from the Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro will be available via http://wctbrasil.com/rio13
Event organizers will reconvene this morning at 7:30am local time (12.30pm SA time) for a possible start to Round 2 of Billabong Rio Pro Men’s competition.
When men’s competition resumes, South Africa’s Travis Logie will contest Heat No. 10 against fellow ASP WCT veteran Kieren Perrow (AUS). Jordy Smith advanced directly to Round 3 after winning his opening encounter in Rio last Thursday.
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
COLGATE PLAX GIRLS RIO PRO FINAL RESULTS:
1 – Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.80
2 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.67
COLGATE PLAX GIRLS RIO PRO SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.90 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 11.97
SF 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.94 def. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 13.64
COLGATE PLAX GIRLS RIO PRO QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.50 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 8.34
QF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.10 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 10.24
QF 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 15.83 def. Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.74
QF 4: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 12.20 def. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.33
ASP WOMEN’S WCT TOP 5 (Following Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro):
1. Tyler Wright (AUS) 40,000 points
2. Carissa Moore (HAW) 38,200
3. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 34,200
4. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 32,100
5. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 26,450
8. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 21,450
BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Gustavo Fernandes (BRA)
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Messias Felix (BRA)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (BRA) vs. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 6: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 8: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 10: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 11: Alejo Muniz (BRA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)