Mon, 27 May 2019

The guy who changed his nationality from American to Japanese just won the first event of his career a year before the Tokyo Olympics, and a 47-year-old just moved to ninth in the world.

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GARUDA PAIR: Kanoa Igarashi and Stephanie Gilmore with requisite carvings. Photo WSL / Dunbar

Yesterday, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) won the Corona Bali Protected at Keramas in cooking 6-8 foot surf. Gilmore wrapped up her win with a 10 pointer to take her 30th CT victory, while Igarashi captured the first CT win of his life to move to 2nd in the world after vanquishing a stacked field of veterans, including 11-time champ Kelly Slater, 47, in the semis.

Igarashi's win was also the first Championship Tour win by a Japanese person after he became the first full-time competitor to formally represent Japan on the CT. History is rapidly accummulating for the youngster, who also makes a strong claim for Olympic qualification.

The WSL rankings at the end of the 2019 season will determine the qualifiers for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (Top 10 men and Top 8 women). Although Slater has hinted at his last year, the Olympics could signal motivation for an amazing comeback in surfing’s biggest year in recent times.

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GROWING GILLS: This marks Gilmore's 30th Championship Tour victory. Photo WSL / Dorsey

“It all makes sense,” Igarashi said. “All the hard work you do makes sense after this. My first round was so terrible. I didn’t catch any waves and I was just thinking what is the point of all of the hard work you do, all of the one percenters, all of the time in the gym, all of the time alone and surfing alone and now it all makes sense. This means so much to me. I can’t even find words to describe it.”

Gilmore, seven-time WSL Champion, came into the Corona Bali Protected 5th on the Jeep Leaderboard, searching for a result above Equal 5th in 2019. Gilmore powered through the draw and defeated Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) in the Final, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) in the Semifinals, and Courtney Conlogue (USA) in the Quarterfinals.

Gilmore’s Final with event standout Fitzgibbons was an epic battle in perfect barrels at Keramas. Fitzgibbons hunted the tubes but struggled to find an exit, leaving Gilmore to control the heat with two mid-range scores until the final minutes when Gilmore utilized priority to take off on a set, hit the first section, pull into the longest tube of the heat and come out to attack the closeout. Her wave was the first and only Perfect 10 point ride of the event and only the second of the 2019 season.

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THROUGH THE ROOF: Igarashi makes a statement with the Olympics in sight. Photo WSL / Dunbar

“I can’t believe this, I just can’t,” Gilmore said. “I knew Sally (Fitzgibbons) was going to be out there looking for barrels, but I just had to stick to my game plan and find the right waves and make the best out of them. At the end, I was thinking ‘Just get the excellent range’ because I haven’t really done that all event and I just kept thinking about then pulled the trigger on that one and just closed my eyes and held my line and then I came up. It was so cool.”

Gilmore rockets to World #1 on the Jeep Leaderboard, overtaking 17-year-old Caroline Marks (USA). The Australian now wears the Jeep Leader Jersey heading into the Margaret River Pro next week.

France’s Jeremy Flores, 31, earned the runner-up slot in big, hollow barrels in which he is more comfortable than many, having won CT events at Teahupoo and Pipeline. His hopes for a fourth CT victory were elevated with the increase in swell and big barrels. Although he fell short in the final, Flores battled hard until the end, and he shoots nine places from 16th to 7th.

“Every time the waves pump like this it reminds me of why I’m on Tour and why I still do this,” Flores said. “This is what I live for: waves and conditions like this. Today was magical.”

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47 IN THE SHADE: Kelly Slater has woken up to a whole new reality: #12. Photo WSL / Dunbar

Slater started 2019 wanting to win an historic 12th World Title and qualify for the US Olympic team. He finished dead last with a 33rd at Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. That hasn't happened in more than a decade. The surfing world, including Slater, started questioning his place among the world's best. With two solid results at Bells and Bali, Slater is back in the race.

“I’m stoked and well done to Kanoa (Igarashi),” Slater said. “He definitely wanted it and was pushing. I was happy to have a heat with Kanoa, I don’t think we’ve had a heat before. He is going to be on this Tour for a long time and sit in the Top 10 for years to come, so that was cool. To get past Filipe (Toledo), who is a favorite out here, and Michel (Bourez), who had finaled out here twice, was good. Those were big heats, which were both confidence building for sure."

The next stop on the 2019 WSL CT is the Margaret River Pro in Western Australia. The event window opens in two days on May 29 and runs until 9 June. The fourth stop on the 2019 CT, the Margaret River Pro, will be broadcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com and Facebook.com/WSL

Corona Bali Protected Women’s
1 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.83
2 - Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 7.00

Corona Bali Protected Women’s Semifinal
SF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.07 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 12.86
SF 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.74 DEF. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 7.80

Corona Bali Protected Men’s
1 - Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.10
2 - Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.63

Corona Bali Protected Men’s Semifinal
SF 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.43 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 12.00
SF 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.07 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 13.84

2019 Women’s CT Jeep Leaderboard
1 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 19,490 points
2 - Caroline Marks (USA) 18,695
3 - Courtney Conlogue (USA) 17,355
4 - Carissa Moore (HAW) 17,290
5 - Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16,495
5 - Malia Manuel (HAW) 16,495

2019 Men’s CT Jeep Leaderboard
1 - John John Florence (HAW) 17,415 points
2 - Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 16,640
3 - Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16,075
4 - Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15,865
5 - Kolohe Andino (USA) 13,875
6 - Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13,500

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