Tyler Wright (AUS) claimed victory today at the Oi Rio Women’s Pro presented by Corona, the fourth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), after defeating Johanne Defay (FRA) in an intense Final at the celebrated Praia de Itaúna in Saquarema.
Wright’s victory today is her first of the 2017 season and third in Rio de Janeiro (2013, 2016, 2017), which earns her a place in the record books alongside Australian legend Pauline Menczer for tied wins at this event. In addition, the feat boosts Wright to the top of the Jeep Leaderboard. The Reigning WSL Champion will now share the coveted Jeep Leader Jersey with six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) heading into the OK Fiji Pro.
“It is sick to be sharing the Jeep Leader Jersey with Steph [Gilmore],” said Wright. “It is going to be a good year. It has always been a part of my plan after the Australian leg to be in this position. I am feeling really good. It is cool to be working on stuff over the last year and put it into action. Thanks to everybody. I also want to wish my mom a Happy Mother’s Day!”
Wright surfed through every heat of the Oi Rio Women’s Pro to defend her event title against a tough field of competitors, including 2017 World Title contender Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) in the Semifinals and Defay in the Final. “This has been a good week,” continued Wright. “The crew is absolutely amazing here at the moment. I have my brother Owen [Wright], Matt [Wilkinson], Laura [Enever], Fletchy [Ryan Fletcher] and Mick [Fanning]. I’ve put in a massive block of work before I came over, making sure that my backhand was where it needed to be. It is cool to be able to focus on performance and what I’ve actually got to do. I am psyched on that.”
The Final witnessed the tenth head-to-head matchup between Wright and Defay. The Australian came charging out the gates with a 7.50 (out of a possible 10) on her opening exchange and quickly locked in a near-perfect 9.67 to put the pressure on the Frenchwoman. Defay fought back with a 7.43 to escape the combination, but was not able to find the 9.74 required to win.
“I just want to thank the crowd here at Saquarema,” said Defay. “The waves have been so much fun and I think everyone enjoyed being here. It was so good and I am happy with my performance. Thank you to everyone for all of your support. I am excited for Fiji.” Defay’s runner-up finish marks her best result of the 2017 season and vaults her from seventh to fourth on the Jeep Leaderboard. Defay will head into Stop No. 5 on the Championship Tour, the OK Fiji Pro, eager to defend her event title after her stunning win last season.
En route to her win, Wright knocked out Fitzgibbons in the second Semifinal. In a rematch of this year’s Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Final, Wright got the upper-hand this time with a 17.87 combined score to Fitzgibbons’ 13.77 heat total. This is the second 3rd place result for Fitzgibbons this year, in addition to her 1st at Margaret River and 5th at Bells Beach. Fitzgibbons will now move to third on the Jeep Leaderboard.
Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) was eliminated by eventual runner-up Defay in the first Semifinal. Van Dijk, who has been in form all event, continued to showcased her quick, vertical surfing to post a 7.50 and 5.87. Defay locked in an excellent 8.00 but still needed a backup score to stay competitive. The final minute of the heat saw an exchange between Defay and Van Dijk for the win. Defay got the edge with a 6.33 to halt the Australian’s run for her career-best result. Van Dijk will now go from eighth to sixth on the rankings heading into the OK Fiji Pro.
After the completion of the women’s event, the men ran through non-elimination Round 4 to determine the first four Quarterfinalists. Adriano de Souza (BRA), 2015 WSL Champion, earned his place in the Quarterfinals after taking the win in his stacked Round 4 heat against 2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA). In a close battle between the Brazilian superstars, De Souza’s excellent 17.27 two-wave total put him just 0.73 points ahead of Dantas and 0.74 points ahead of Medina.
“I am pretty happy that I could put it all together in this heat, especially against Gabriel [Medina], who is a World Champ, and Wiggolly [Dantas] who has been on fire,” De Souza said. “I am so happy to move into the Quarters. I am glad to do well in front of my crowd and friends. I would like to dedicate this heat to my mom.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), three-time WSL Champion, defeated event wildcard Yago Dora (BRA) and 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) in Round 4 Heat 2 and will advance to the Quarterfinals for the second time this season.
“Yago [Dora] has been in great form and took down John [Florence],” Fanning said. “He is incredible on these lefts and surfed amazing. Joel [Parkinson] and I have had some history since we were thirteen, so it is always fun surfing against him. You’ve got to think about the backwash out there. It is always tricky, but I am stoked to get through.”
In the dramatic final heat of Round 4, Owen Wright’s (AUS) win came down to dying seconds of the heat. Wright held a commanding lead with his powerful backhand snaps for a near-perfect 9.73, but Kanoa Igarashi (USA) and Julian Wilson (AUS) kept fighting back to put pressure on the World No. 2. The last exchange saw Wright and Igarashi battle for the win, but Igarashi fell just 0.40 points short of advancing straight through to the Quarterfinals.
Adrian Buchan (AUS), current World No. 24, edged past current World No. 2 Jordy Smith (ZAF) and World No. 9 Matt Wilkinson (AUS) to claim his first Quarterfinal berth of the season. Buchan has struggled to bounce out of the early elimination rounds this year, but his win today guarantees a top five finish.
“The Australian leg was rough because I did not get results,” said Buchan. “But, to be honest, I really enjoyed myself. My wife had another little baby and we made it to the end of the leg. I felt like I did some good surfing, so when it was all said and done, it was like a victory for my family. I came out of that leg feeling good about the energy and effort I was putting into it. It is nice to see it is working.”
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:45 am local time to assess conditions and make the next call.
Surfline, official forecaster for the event, are calling for:
Fun, clean surf prevails Sunday off a mix of S/SSW swell. Strong SSW to S windswell/swell mix should build Monday afternoon/evening, peak Tuesday and ease on Wednesday. Variable onshore flow is expected during this time, although Tue and Wed morning should be manageable. Confidence is increasing that another strong swell, this one from the SSE, will fill in for the end of the week, likely peaking late Thur-Fri before easing by Saturday. While winds don’t look ideal, manageable conditions should again continue, especially considering the possible size of the swell.
The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.
Oi Rio Women’s Pro Final Results:
1 – Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.17
2 – Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.20
Oi Rio Women’s Pro Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Johanne Defay (FRA) 14.33 def. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 13.37
SF 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 17.87 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.77
2017 WSL Women’s Jeep Leaderboard (After Oi Rio Women’s Pro):
1 – Tyler Wright (AUS) 29,700 pts
1 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 29,700 pts
3 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 28,200 pts
4 – Johanne Defay (FRA) 23,000 pts
5 – Courtney Conlogue (USA) 21,800 pts
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 17.27, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 16.54, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.53
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.50, Yago Dora (BRA) 15.13, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.54
Heat 3: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.67, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.24, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 12.66
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 17.23, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 16.83, Julian Wilson (AUS), 15.94
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Round 5 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 2: Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 4: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)