With just minutes remaining in the finals for the Billabong Women's Rio Pro in Brazil, Sally Fitzgibbons needed a high seven-point ride to put her on top of Coco Ho. The waves were small -- peaky one- to three-footers -- but Fitzgibbons never lost confidence.
“I just had my fingers crossed and knew there would be one towards the end," she said. "I made a few mistakes and it happens in Finals but I was able to recover there at the end.”
She didn't just recover. She hit a blowing lefthander on her backside and scored a 7.93 (out of 10) for a total of 14.10. It was just enough to squeak by Ho, who finished with a 14.03.
“That was so crazy, and Coco had me on the ropes for sure,” said Fitzgibbons.
The win solidifies the Australian's no. 2 ranking on the ASP Women's World Championship Tour and closes the gap between her and current no. 1 Stephanie Gilmore, also of Australia.
“This makes the World Title race more interesting, but thinking ahead, it’s still pretty far to go,” said Fitzgibbons, who also won at Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in April. “There are still a couple of events, but to get a win, it’s an amazing result. To win at Bells too, it’s been an awesome year so far.”
The waves in Rio de Janeiro had been small throughout the weekend, and Sunday was no different amidst gray skies and rain at Barra da Tijuca.
To reach the finals, Fitzgibbons beat fellow Red Bull surfer Carissa Moore (and last year's champion in Rio) in a close semi-final heat that saw each score big in the waning moments.
“I think we all want to make the Final and it’s disappointing,” said Moore, who finished third. “I’ve lost to Sally twice this year and I’ve just got to keep trying in the next couple of events and that’s it.”
Moore, who has yet to win in 2012, sits in third with two events remaining. The next stop on the Women's World Championship Tour is Roxy Pro Biarritz from July 10-14, 2012.
Billabong Women's Rio Pro Final
1 - Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.10
2 - Coco Ho (HAW) 14.03
Billabong Women's Rio Pro Semi-final
SF 1: Coco Ho (HAW) 14.16 def. Alessa Quizon (HAW) 10.94
SF 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.47 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.36
ASP Women's WCT Top 5:
1. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 38,400 pts
2. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 36,900 pts
3. Carissa Moore (HAW) 30,200 pts
4. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 29,600 pts
5. Tyler Wright (AUS) 28,700 pts