Today's shock defeat of current World Champion and World No. 1 John John Florence to local wildcard Yago Dora presented a huge opportunity for the chasing pack. It was a gift that both Jordy Smith and Owen Wright gratefully accepted with both hands. The two, currently both sitting on 19,200 points on the Jeep Leaderboard, could each now grab the Jeep Leader's yellow jersey with a Semifinal finish.
Jordy Smith was the immediate recipient. He surfed the heat after John John's, against Brazilian Jadson Andre, and would have needed to have done his warm-up a good five miles away not to be aware of the Florence's loss, such was the noise being generated by the huge crowds.
"They were going ballistic and I knew Jadson would feed off the the vibe generated by Yago, but I just had to do my thing and act as if nobody is there," Smith said after he defeated the Brazilian. Smith was controlled and composed among the mayhem and looks more like a legitimate World Title contender now than at any stage in his career. There was no mention by Smith of John John's loss, or the Jeep Leader's jersey chase. Just a clear commitment to stick to the plans formulated by him and his coach, Chris Gallagher.
"You have to have a heat strategy and back-up plans that play to your strengths and then stay focused and pick the right waves," he said. "However even when you are on the good waves, you have to pay so close attention because of the bump and backwash. Concentration is crucial."
Owen Wright, the surfer who relinquished the yellow jersey to Florence after the Margaret River event, also used composure and due process to make sure he is in a position to capitalize on the Hawaiian resident's loss. While pushed all the way by a resurgent Nat Young, the Australian used his forehand for the first time this year to control the heat and post the highest heat total of the day.
The other major beneficiary of the Florence's departure, as well as the early round losses of Kolohe Andino and Filipe Toledo, was Adriano de Souza. While the Jeep Leader's yellow jersey might be a difficult task for the Brazilian to attain at this event, the local favorite will surf next in Round Four. He now has even more incentive to win the event title in front of his thousands of disciples.
While many fans will lament the Oi Rio Pro losing one of its biggest stars today, the flip side is that Florence's exit means the World Title race should become a whole lot tighter. If Smith, Wright and De Souza can carry the form they showed in Round Three, there is a good chance we'll have a new World No. 1 by the end of the week.