Sally Fitzgibbons finished runner-up once again on the ASP Women's World Tour as reigning champion Stephanie Gilmore came from behind to clinch the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic in Sydney on Monday.
After four consecutive lay days, the world-renowned point break of Dee Why helped deliver a thrilling finale for the 2,000-plus crowd, with Gilmore and Fitzgibbons both in top form.
Aussie teenager Fitzgibbons held the lead for the majority of the 35-minute Final, but Gilmore’s experience ultimately proved decisive as the current champ finished strongly, jagging a set wave and throwing out a mix of powerful, top-to-bottom moves to end with a two-wave combined total of 14.20 (out of a possible 20) to Fitzgibbons' 12.40 total.
Gilmore, who first won the Beachley Classic as a wildcard four years ago, picked up the biggest prize check of the entire ASP Women’s World Tour – US$20,000 – and, at the halfway stage of the 2010 series, looks well placed to repeat her 2009 win.
Fitzgibbons, who picked up US$10,000 for finishing runner-up, can count herself unfortunate to miss out a title for the second time in the space of two weeks.
The 19-year-old, who was beaten in New Zealand by Hawaiian Carissa Moore, is refusing to get too downbeat though.
"I haven't been this high on the rankings before. World number two is a great place to be." –Sally
“It’s a little frustrating to get back-to-back seconds,” said Fitzgibbons. “But I’m so happy to be in the situation to reach the Final and eventually go down to Steph. I’m happy with the result but am looking forward to the next event.”
Fitzgibbons remains Gilmore's closest challenger for the 2010 title.
“Being world number two is a great place to be at this stage of the year,” said Fitzgibbons. “I haven’t been this high on the rankings before; I’m definitely closer to where I want to be.”
Carissa Moore, fresh off her win in New Zealand, looked poised to make another title run until she met up with Gilmore in the Quarterfinal, while Sofia Mulanovich made it to the Semifinal round, where she went head-to-head with Fitzgibbons, losing 10.17 to 11.97. Mulanovich, the 26-year-old former champion, is looking forward to the next stop on the tour – a return to her home country of Peru in June.
“I love surfing at home, it’s my favorite place in the world,” said Mulanovich.
For the latest on the tour, including the current rankings for the women's title, visit aspworldtour.com