Itauna Beach, Saquarema, Brazil (Saturday, October 26) Taj Burrow today defeated fellow Australian Mick Fanning to win the Mundial Coca-Cola de Surf 2002. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) recommenced this morning with remaining round three heats, and then continued right through until climaxing with the grand finale this afternoon.
Clean 3-4 ft (1-1.3m) waves were on offer, with good right-handers coming through on sets. A passionate beach crowd turned out to support their Brazilian surfers, as well as cheer on the international field.
Burrow, who hadn’t won a WCT since 1999 when he took out the same event in Rio, also placed runner-up in 2000. The 24-year-old showed his determination today, however, overcoming the hardest opponents en-route to victory and the US$30,000 prizemoney. The West Australian was rated 6th leading into the Mundial Coca-Cola de Surf 2002, but following the win moved up into #3 and can still mathematically clinch this year’s world title if he reaches both upcoming finals in Hawaii and wins at least one.
Against Fanning in the 35-minute decider, Burrow trailed for the first half, but after locking in an 8.0 for an amazing re-entry into aerial maneuver, he then struck the lead with his next ride and furthered it on another. Riding his last wave in, he raised his arms in disbelief, overwhelmed with emotion.
“So stoked,” screamed Burrow, after being carried up the beach by a group of fellow Australian competitors. “I’m so, so psyched. I wanted that more than anything. It’s the first final I’ve made in that long, and I haven’t won one in ages. I thought I blew it a couple of times, as I had such a bad start and Mick was ripping. When I got that 8.0 we were just scrapping for a second wave, and I nailed it. I’m so bloody stoked (laughs).
“That’s amazing,” he continued, when told he was still in title contention. “I’m so stoked and am definitely going to go mad in Hawaii this year. So amped and it’s so special to be in contention. I love it!
“It’s too good,” he added, of winning another tournament in Brazil and the beach support. “The spectators are the most into it I’ve ever seen. They’re so determined, running around more excited than me, but it’s so cool. The guys carrying me up the beach was all-time. They had the (Australian) flags ready… we were guaranteed an Aussie was going to win, but I’m so glad it was me.”
Fanning, who began his second final of year in form, ultimately required another ride worth 7.26-points. Despite executing a carving reverse 360 on one wave, as he did in South African when he won, it wasn’t enough this time round. Still, the runner-up placing pushed him from 12th into 6th position on the ratings.
“So stoked still,” said Fanning afterward. “I knew Taj had an 8.0 and I needed to get something over a seven. I was just stoked to be in the final. It was always going to be hard with Taj and well done to him.
“I’m rapt,” he continued, of his maiden WCT year. “I didn’t do that well in Europe, but am just stoked to get some confidence back for Hawaii.”
Equal third today were Russell Winter (UK) and Kieren Perrow (Aus). Both received US$10,000 and a major jump up the ratings following their semifinal finishes.
Winter, Europe’s sole representative on the WCT, was the standout yesterday and kept his focus and momentum going against Australians Nathan Hedge and then Beau Emerton today. Burrow proved to strong, however, opening his account with an 8.0 and ultimately leaving the 26-year-old searching for his own ride worth 8.15-points. The result is the best to date for Newquay surfer.
“I made a mistake at the start by not paddling out first and getting the inside position on Taj,” reasoned Winter. “That was the difference, and why I was winning all my earlier heats. I came down a bit late and he was already out there. He waited and when the sets came got the two best ones. I think if I’d gotten his waves I probably would have surfed better, and definitely think I could have won.
“I’m so stoked,” he continued. “I was in a zone were you don’t get stoked when you win, you just keep going. So I’m definitely happy now to finish off near the end of the year with a result like this.”
Perrow began his clash with Fanning on track by posting a 7.5, but than sat too long with priority while his opponent got to work. Toward the end he required an 8.51, and while he caught another set, wasn’t able to increase his tally on it. Nonetheless, the WCT newcomer has already established himself well within the current top 10 with his second consecutive semifinal finish.
“I guess I played my game well at the start,” said Perrow. “I got my first quickly and then wanted to just wait with priority for another good one. I blew it by letting Mick get a couple underneath me and I respect his scores.
“My goal was top 10 and I’m just rapt,” he continued, of his current position. “Hopefully I can achieve it. I can’t wait for Hawaii.”
Finishing equal fifth in the Mundial Coca-Cola de Surf 2002 were Beau Emerton (Aus), current ratings leader Andy Irons (Haw), runner-up Luke Egan (Aus), and Rodrigo Dornelles (Brz).
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