"I was thinking I was out of the race fore sure," said Gabriel Medina, talking about how he felt during his trip back to Brazil in September. "I'd just lost at Trestles, but I kept training, like I had been all year long to get ready for France...I don't know, I just had ambition."
That ambition brought Medina back-to-back wins in Europe, thrusting him all the way back into the No. 2 spot on the Jeep Leaderboard just in time for a World Title showdown at the Billabong Pipe Masters on Oahu's North Shore, which is set to get underway December 8.
Medina and Florence, who both joined the Championship Tour in 2011, now have one World Title each. As they chase the next one their rivalry is heating up. Medina joked that he wants three titles before he's all done. "Hopefully this one will be the second."
Medina's record is 11-4 against Florence, though a lot of those are in non-elimination rounds. But even during do-or-die heats he owns a 5-3 advantage. Their latest match came during the Semifinals of the Quiksilver Pro France, where Medina utilized his entire bag of tricks to take the win.
"I like the chase," said Medina, who believes the weight of the Jeep Leaders' jersey and competing in front of a home crowd actually adds to the pressure being put on current No. 1 John John Florence.
"I competed at a Qualifying Series (QS) event at home, and it's not good," he laughed, recalling the pressure. With much higher stakes on tap at Pipeline, Florence's own backyard, Medina believes there's much more pressure on John. "That yellow jersey is really heavy," he added.
"I'm excited though. I think it's going to be a good battle. He knows this wave better than anyone. I just want to make heats. Heat by heat. Step by step. I know if I get in the Final I have a good chance, so I just want to get to the Final...I don't like losing."