ARPOADOR, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Thursday, May 10, 2012) - The Billabong Rio Pro returned to the lefthanders of Arpoador to complete Round 2 of women's competition in challenging one-to-three foot (0.5 metre) waves.
Event No. 5 of 7 on the 2012 ASP Women's World Championship Tour, the Billabong Rio Pro made the most of the conditions on offer today, completing the elimination Round 2 and setting up for a finish by the final day on the waiting period this Sunday.
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 24, four-time ASP Women's World Champion and current frontrunner, commanded her Round 2 bout against replacement surfer Melanie Bartels (HAW), 30, earning one of the day's highest single-wave scores of 8.50 out of 10 en route to the day's highest heat total of 16.70 out of 20 with fluid backhand surfing.C
"I was pretty worried going into that heat because the waves were just so minimal," Gilmore said. "Performance-wise, when it's inconsistent and very hard to surf, there are so many things going through your mind. It was really nerve-wracking, especially going against Mel Bartels, she's one of my favorite surfers and I was nervous."
Gilmore, who suffered a surprising Round 1 loss to wildcard Alessa Quizon (HAW), 18, yesterday, admitted that the combination of jet lag and the tight takeoff zone of Arpoador provided additional challenges yesterday, but the phenomenal natural-footer has regained focus for the future rounds.
"The girls really were hassling really hard yesterday," Gilmore said. "When you're sitting next to the rock you're basically pushing each other on to that rock. It's like a weird war out there and young Alessa (Quizon), it's her first World Tour event, I think and I was still pretty jet-lagged after that first one."
Coco Ho (HAW), 21, bounced back this afternoon from yesterday's difficult Round 1 loss, and was responsible for some of the day's highest scores. Ho caught only two waves in her heat, but managed to post the day's highest single-wave score of 8.57 out of 10 and nearly matched Gilmore's two-wave total with a combined 16.57 out of 20 in her heat win over New Zealand's Sarah Mason (NZL), 17.
"Aproador is pretty fun when there are waves, it was just inconsistent and scary for a heat," Ho said. "I got my two, so I'm really stoked. I'm really happy that I just got to surf, because in my Round 1 heat, I didn't even get to surf."
Ho, current No. 12 on the ASP Women's WCT rankings, is coming off of her season-best result of a 5th place finish in Sydney and is looking to climb the rankings with a solid performance at the Billabong Rio Pro.
"I'm looking for a good result here in Brazil," Ho said. "I'm pretty comfortable in these waves and I've had good results in the Star events here. My results in Brazil are what got me on tour a few years ago and I'm just hoping to keep my consistency throughout the event."
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 21, runner-up at last year's Billabong Rio Pro, returned to form this afternoon, getting the best of veteran Jacqueline Silva (BRA), 32, despite the inconsistent conditions in her heat.
"Conditions today are a little bit tricky, but everyone's on the same boat," Fitzgibbons said. "It's tough when you get hard conditions like we have this week, but the weather's nice and there are people down here supporting me all the way down here in Brazil. I just hope there is a little pulse in the next round."
Courtney Conlogue (USA), 19, current No. 4 on the ASP WCT Rankings, advanced to Round 3 of Billabong Rio Pro competition this afternoon with a win over rookie surfer Justine Dupont (FRA), 20, with solid backhand surfing at Arpoador.
"I was just trying to pick the best waves out there with how inconsistent it is and have priority when the right waves came," Conlogue said. "It was super tricky with the dropping swell and the tide change. I'm stoked I got through that Round 2 heat and I'm looking forward to the next round."
Conlogue, who is fresh off of her maiden ASP WCT victory in Sydney, admittedly felt a bit of pressure entering the Billabong Rio Pro, but feels back on track after her Round 2 victory today.
"I had a bit of nerves, the conditions were a little tricky and it was only my third surf out here at Arpoador," Conlogue said. "I'm stoked to have had that second chance and I'm really looking to the remainder of the event."
Billabong Rio Pro event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 8am local time at the primary site of Barra da Tijuca to assess conditions for at possible 8:30am start.
The Billabong Rio Pro is proudly supported by Monster Energy Drink and Xperia Sony Mobile Smartphone.
BILLABONG RIO PRO WOMEN'S ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Pauline Ado (FRA) 10.00 def. Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.17
Heat 2: Laura Enever (AUS) 12.96 def. Sage Erickson (USA) 12.23
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.70 def. Melanie Bartels (HAW)
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 12.60 def. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 5.30
Heat 5: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.17 def. Justine Dupont (FRA) 10.47
Heat 6: Coco Ho (HAW) 16.57 def. Sarah Mason (NZL) 10.00
BILLABONG RIO PRO WOMEN'S ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Tyler Wright (AUS), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Alessa Quizon (HAW)
Heat 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Lakey Peterson (USA), Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW), Rebecca Woods (AUS)
Heat 4: Carissa Moore (HAW), Laura Enever (AUS), Pauline Ado (FRA)