Despite a magnificent run by dark horse Venezuela, host country Costa Rica’s Carlos Muoz called all his chips in today to vault into contention for a World Title at the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games fueled by Monster Energy.
With conditions ranging from blazing sunshine to pouring rain, and tides at both high and low extremes, the 16-year-old Muoz managed to have an interference call in two consecutive heats - and still win both of them, a feat that in most cases is considered almost impossible.
"When you lose your leash 3 times, get two interference calls, and still take the highest scores, that’s beyond just great surfing" said former US Champion team member Jimmy Hogan, who now lives in Costa Rica. "That’s pure entertainment!"
The young Tico has brought huge crowds to their feat and electrified his teammates as he blazed through heats that eliminated WQS and ASP World Tour pros. Only a handful of other teams have qualified more than two team members into the next qualifying round and Muoz’ performances are a big factor in keeping the Costa Ricans in the race.
Big surf powerhouses South Africa, Hawaii Australia, France and the USA have all placed several team members in the next round as well as some underdogs. But each of them took heavy hits today, losing some of their very best performers to underdogs like Venezuela, Argentina, and an unexpected last minute charge from unlikely Italy.
The Cinderella story of the moment is Venezuela, which has battled its way into repercharge after repercharge and now stands ready to enter several members into the next round and a shot at the title.
"Three years ago we thought it was impossible even get through the qualifying rounds," said Jess Chacn. "Now we have a shot!"
"We have a lot of momentum going into today," added another team member Rafael Pereyra, who won 2 repercharge heats today. "The local Venezuelan people really gave us support, which made us work even harder. We feel like the second locals here!"
"For months and months we have been working together as a team." Chacon explained through his coach how hard they had worked to prepare for the Games. "We trained physically, psychologically, technically, philosophically, and tactically to do our best."
With five repercharge rounds being held today, it is becoming more clear which teams are fighting for the Gold Medal in the Overall Team Standings.
The top five nations right now are:
1 – Australia and USA - 19080 points
3 – Costa Rica - 16970 points
4 – Hawai - 16960 points
5 – Brasil - 15640 points
Note: Points above are the potential maximum each team can achieve. However, in practice the final scores will be always lower.
With half of the event behind us, all the participating nations have lost at least one of their team members. Only 24 surfers remain from the original 128 competitors in the Open Men division. On the ladies side, only 12 surfers out of the 64 remain. These surfers represent only 14 teams out of the 35 competing in the event.
Right befote his unscheduled earlier departure, ISA President Fernando Aguerre stated: "I am very happy with the contest so far. Bringing the inaugural Billabong ISA World Surfing Games to Costa Rica was an historical decision. We plan to have more ISA events in Central America, in the near future."