It's been a crazy week for Yago Dora, the Brazilian wildcard who is currently No. 3 on the Qualifying Series. After gaining entry into the Oi Rio Pro by winning the highly competitive trials, the 20-year-old goofyfooter made his first appearance in the bright lights of the Championship Tour stage, and without a hint of remorse, he set it on fire.
Of course the goal of every wildcard is to send a message. Often times that's done quite effectively with a solid heat win or two, or even merely making the top seeds sweat during their opening round, which is exactly what Dora did against John John Florence in Round One. He pulled a huge backside rotation at the end of the heat that almost turned it in his favor. In fact, two of three judges felt it did.
And while Florence escaped that round Yago would get his chance for redemption, that is, after he disposed of World No. 4 Kolohe Andino in Round Two. At that moment Dora took over the headlines in Rio, and for good reason. His explosive aerial attack was thrilling the crowd...but he wasn't done. While he didn't win all his heats, he kept winning the ones that counted, earning hero status as he took down three World Champs in a row during elimination heats.
John John Florence, Gabriel Medina, and Mick Fanning all fell victim to the high flying wildcard. Without question, the highlight of his run came during his Round Five heat with Medina, which went down to the wire, and had the huge Brazilian crowd on their feet cheering.
The only question now is how long will it be before he's battling full time on the CT stage. And by the looks of today's QS rankings, it could be next year. His No. 3 spot is a very good sign. But -- and this is a big one -- there's a very long way to go in 2017, with all five of the heavily weighted QS 10,000 events to go, which means that No. 3 spot of his is far from safe. Regardless, a star was born this week in Rio, and we'll all be watching him closely from here on out.