Tuesday became a milestone moment for John John Florence. His day started with a comeback win against Joel Parkinson in Round Five of the Billabong Pro. The victory officially lifted Florence into the top spot on the Jeep Leaderboard.
But he wasn't done.
In his Quarterfinal match against Julian Wilson he pulled another comeback win. Granted, he had the lead for most of the heat, until Julian scored a 10 in the closing moments, forcing John to respond.
And then came his high stakes match against Gabriel Medina, who based on stats alone, is John John's greatest obstacle at this point. Sure Wilko remains a huge threat, but Medina has proven to be far more dangerous if you're John John. Heading into their Semifinal match on Tuesday, Florence and Medina had clashed 13 times in four years, with Medina taking a commanding 10-3 lead, including a 2-1 advantage at Teahupo'o.
There was plenty at stake this year. Had Gabe won, the title race would be a dead heat. Instead, John John secured a 4000 point pad over Gabe and Wilko with the win.
Still, Gabe's now 10-4 record against John John indicates things will get interesting from here. For the record, that's 71%. Medina is enjoying 2-0 advantages in Tavarua, Margaret River and France. While they're now locked 2-2 at Teahupo'o, Florence's only other wins against Gabe have come at Bells and Pipeline. While many would assume Florence has the edge in his Pipeline backyard, Gabe's made back-to-back Final appearances there as well.
The gist is this: John John has good reason to celebrate his ascension to the top. It's been a long hard road to get there. But staying there is an entirely different challenge, and he's sure to be tested.