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Medina Wins, Makes His Move

With a statement-making performance, Gabriel Medina edged out Owen Wright to capture his second Tahiti Pro title and his first Championship Tour victory of 2018.

For the effort, Medina slides into second on the Jeep Leaderboard, while Filipe Toledo, who's dream run came to a close in the Semifinals, holds on to the Jeep Leader jersey.

In clean, head high surf, Medina and Wright, the two goofy-footers, went toe-to-toe in a final that saw the lead trade four times before a buzzer-beating exchange in the waning moments.

Gabriel Medina (BRA) Winner of the Tahiti Pro 2018 ,Teahupoo, French Polynesia Gabriel Medina and Owen Wright enjoying the moment onstage in Tahiti. WSL / Damien Poullenot

Forty minutes is a long time to surf a heat, but in the end it boiled down to a two-wave set with almost no time left on the clock to decide the Final.

As the seconds ticked away, the set swung in and Wright -- holding the lead and priority -- took the first wave. He performed a succession of turns on the open face and all the way into the shallows. He improved his score by over a point, but it would hardly matter.

Medina, in perfect position, nabbed the second wave of the set. He presented a deep barrel-to-turn combo that resulted in the highest-scoring wave of the Final and gave him the win. Wright could only watch from the dry reef.

"I was just praying, please god give me one more, give me one more," said Medina from the channel after his win. "I don't know, I think god gave me that last one."

"It's nice to be back in a Final with Gabby," said Wright, who's now cracked the Top 10 on the Jeep Leader Board. "It all came down to the last two waves, I made the wrong decision obviously, but absolutely no complaining. It's a beautiful life."

Gabriel Medina (BRA) Winner of the Tahiti Pro 2018 ,Teahupoo, French Polynesia Gabriel Medina (BRA) Winner of the Tahiti Pro 2018 ,Teahupoo, French Polynesia. Above the lip, board on lock. WSL / Damien Poullenot

For Medina, who now owns two Tahiti Pro titles and has finished up runner-up twice, it was an opportunity for redemption.

Last year, in the last minutes of his final against Julian Wilson, somehow Wilson dug deep and was able to find two scores to steal the win away from Medina. This year it was Medina's turn.

"Last year was horrible for me, but it's competition, it's why we love it," said a smiling Medina.

In terms of world title ramifications, Medina now sits in second about 7,000 points behind Toledo. Over the course of his career, Medina's been remarkably consistent in the back half of the season, thriving on the pressure of the world title race.

"Now I can get start thinking about the title," said Medina. "I think anything is possible. I just want to keep the ball rolling. It's step by step, stay positive, and hopefully everything works out."

Gabriel Medina's Semifinal Combination for 8.07
1:14
The Brazilian earns an 8.07 to eliminate Jeremy Flores in the Semifinals of the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o.

One of the in-form surfers of the Tahiti Pro, enroute to the final Wright came up against Toledo in the Semifinals. Changing up his strategy of waiting for the best waves of the heat, Wright got busy early, catching waves under Toledo's priority.

Building momentum and applying pressure while Toledo sat and watched, when a two-wave set came through, Toledo struck first but couldn't find the exit on a running barrel. Wright responded with a tube followed by a series of strong turns to win advance.

"I feel like I've definitely had momentum throughout the event," said Wright after the semifinals.

"I'm really happy and proud of myself," said Toledo from the boat. "This year's been one of those years where everything is clicking and everything is happening. I'm trying not to worry about the outside world."

In the second Semifinal, featuring Medina vs. Flores, the waves were a bit on the inconsistent side.

Medina got creative and took to the air, earning an 8-point and 7-point ride, he took a firm command of the heat. Meanwhile, Flores sat and waited, not catching his first wave until there were less than 12 minutes left on the clock.

High Score: Owen Wright Advances to Semis in Tahiti with 9.17
1:19
The Australian gets deep cover and earns the top score of the day to advance over Wade Carmichael in the Quarterfinals of the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o.

The quarterfinals were equally action packed. In the first heat of the day, Toledo patiently waited for a wave that would give him a score, while Michael February appeared to be searching for rhythm in his first-ever CT quarterfinal.

"All that hard work that I've been putting in out here, it's really paying off," said a relieved Toledo, who survived a last-minute priority mistake to take the win.

In the following heat, Wright made short work of rookie Wade Carmichael, posting a 9.17 for the highest wave score of the day and the second highest heat score of the event.

"It's an awesome gift, especially under priority," said Wright, who's been one of the most in-form competitors at the Tahiti Pro this year.

Medina Wins Final in Tahiti, Advances to World No.2
0:54
The Brazilian earns a 7.33 to take a Final win over Owen Wright on the last day of the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o.

The Medina and Italo Ferreira pairing was the marquee match-up of the morning. A heat with world title race implications, up until this point Ferreira held an undefeated record against Medina on the CT.

But it only took Medina two waves early in the heat to put Ferreira in a combination situation. Both surfers took to the air as barrels were harder to come by, Ferreira was unable to stage a comeback.

"It's always hard to get him, but finally I got him," said Medina.

The Championship Tour now turns its attention inland to the upcoming Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, California, on September 5-9, 2018. With the world title race heating up and perfection on tap, there will be no shortage of intrigue at the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch.

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