It was a fitting end to an event steeped in a mix of camaraderie and tough competition as Team USA took the overall gold medal today over Team France at the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games presented by Monster Energy in Costa Rica. It was the first time that the Americans have won an overall gold medal in since the 1996 World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach, California.
From the opening heats of the Games at Playa Hermosa that began eight days ago, Team USA appeared committed and focused, as they competed against 34 other teams for a spot on the podium. With the final day of competition looming overhead, Team USA stood firm and was able to place five or their eight team members into the three finals, hence becoming the team to beat.
The team was led by Ian Cairns who assumed the position as Coach less than one month ago. “We had good surfers and what we did was to stay very concentrated," said a low-key Cairns. "This is a long event and it was very important to preserve your energy."
“I am really very happy" said Cairns of the first American title in more than a decade. "My goal was to come here and win. But also I wanted to establish a different personality for American surfing. I didn’t want to make a lot of noise until things were happening. We built the support, the calmness and we focused on being together and concentrating on doing things well. Later, at the final, we went to the beach to wave the flag."
ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, said about the amazing Billabong ISA World Surfing Games: “This was a great event. The new team format (4 open men, 2 open women and 2 longboarders) proved to be the right decision. The inaugural Billabong ISA World Surfing Games will go down as a historical moment for surfing, with record number of competitors and national teams in attendance. Congratulations to all the nations and see you next year!"
Hot on the USA’s heels was the French team, led by ASP World Tour surfer Jeremy Flores. He looked in stellar form throughout the entire contest. France managed to put a one athlete in each of the Open, Women’s, and Longboard divisions.
Kick-starting the final day of the contest was the ISA Aloha Cup, run as a tag-team event with five surfers from each team taking turns competing in the hour-long final. The unique format brought the national pride and overall competitiveness that had been simmering to a roaring boil.
Historically, one of the strongest teams in the event and last year’s overall event winner, Team Australia, took the lead in the Aloha Cup at the outset of the heat and managed to hold on to it despite a strong rally from the French Team. It was a bittersweet moment for the Aussies as the team was not able to secure the ISA Team World Championship gold medal as it’s done many times in the past. The Aloha Cup was the only gold medal for the Australians.
Following the Aloha Cup, the Longboard finalists took to the tepid 4 to 5 foot Costa Rican lineup and put on a tremendous show. The final, that included an American, a Frenchman, an Australian, and a British surfer, brought the thousands of fans that swarmed the beach to their feet, blending old-world noserides and iconic style with modern high-speed turns and speed floats. In the end, France’s Antoine Delpero came out on top as he narrowly edged out Aussie surfer Harley Ingleby with a two-wave combined score of 15.50 points.
"I feel unreal – I’m so happy I can’t say a word," said a beaming and visibly shaken Delpero following his win. "This is so cool for me and Team France."
In the Women’s final, 16-year-old American Courtney Conlogue was surfing on a higher plane as she dismantled her competition with a determined backhand attack on the lefts that earned her a slew of 8- and 7-point rides along with a gold medal.
Heading into the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games, Conlogue was coming off monumental performances this year, including silver medal at the ISA World Junior Championship in Ecuador, and a victory at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA. Judging from her recent competitive dominance, Conlogue has proven that she will be a formidable figure in the sport for years to come.
With her face partially shaded behind a pair of aviator sunglasses, Conlogue remained poised following her gold medal win. "To be surfing in front of all these people is amazing. It’s been such a great event. To be in the final I had to put it all on the line," she said. "The conditions were really good out there – it’s just really been such a fun journey so far."
Highlighting the final day’s action was the Open final. Comprised of two Americans—Floridian Cory Lopez and North Carolina native Ben Bourgeois—a Peruvian and a Frenchmen, the level of surfing in the Men’s final showcased just how technically advanced surfing has become throughout the world.
Opening up the heat with a barrage of mind-numbing turns was American Cory Lopez. Throughout the Games, Lopez looked extremely relaxed and confident—a dangerous mix in the game of competitive surfing. Despite Lopez’s stellar rail work and progressive turns, France’s Jeremy Flores was the man to beat. Surfing like a man possessed, Flores seemed untouchable, putting his trademark low center of gravity style and lightning fast turns to good work in the final. That surfing earned him a pair of 8-point rides that the other competitors couldn’t touch as Flores went on to win the gold medal.
Following his win, Flores appeared proud and confident as he reflected on the impact of bringing home a gold medal. "I haven’t won too many contests, I’ve always done well, but I hardly ever seem to win. For me this is huge. This was more than a victory for me. I never win anything – I can’t believe I just won. Wining the gold medal for my country, is the best feeling I ever had in my surfing career."
Then the Medals and Closing Ceremony took place. The nations anthems were played honoring the gold medalists with the crowd applauding each one of them. The event was d officially closed by ISA Vice-President, Alan Atkins, who said: "The global surfing family has come together again and has tightened more than ever. I want to thank, in the name of the ISA to all those who were involved in the contest, the sponsors, the local Federation and all the volunteers that worked hard during this week. I am now declaring officially closed the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games."
Another edition of one of the biggest and important surfing events in the world came to an end. It will come again in 2010. The next ISA event will be the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship to be held in New Zeland in January. For more information log on www.isasurf.org.
FINAL Team Results:
?GOLD – United States – 14910 points
?SILVER – France – 13280 points
?BRONZE – Australia – 10996 points
?COPPER – Hawaii – 10856 points ?
INDIVIDUAL FINAL RESULTS ?
?Gold: Jeremy Flores (FRA)
?Silver: Cory Lopez (USA)
?Bronze: Gabriel VIllarn (PER)
?Copper: Ben Bourgeois (USA)
?Gold: Courtney Conlogue (USA)
?Silver: Rosanne Hodge (RSA)
?Copper: Sage Erickson (USA)
?Bronze: Pauline Ado (FRA)
Gold: Antoine Delpero (FRA)
?Silver: Harley Ingleby (AUS)
?Copper: Ben Skinner (GBR)
?Bronze: Tony Silvagni (USA)
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
1 – USA – 14910 points
2 – France – 13280 points
3 – Australia – 10996 points
4 – Hawaii – 10856 points
5 – South Africa – 10666 points
6 – Peru – 10180 points
7 – Costa Rica – 9650 points
8 – Venezuela – 9040 points
9 – Brazil – 9000 points
10 – Puerto Rico – 8820 points
11 – New Zealand – 8100 points
12 – Argentina – 7160 points
13 – Tahiti – 6688 points
14 – Ecuador – 6170 points
15 – Panama – 5952 points
16 – Italy – 5670 points
17 – Mexico – 5560 points
18 – Japan – 5324 points
19 – Chile – 5208 points
20 – El Salvador – 4784 points
21 – Ireland – 4568 points
22 – Austria – 4320 points
23 – Barbados – 4128 points
24 – Germany – 4024 points
25 – UK- 3810 points
26 – Guatemala – 3696 points
27 – Switzerland – 3440 points
28 – Jamaica – 2912 points
29 – Canada – 2784 points
30 – Nicaragua – 2656 points
31 – Colombia 2544 points
32 – Trinidad & Tobago – 2240 points
33 – Bahamas 2240 points
34 – Rep. Dominican – 1680 points
35 – Aruba- 384 points