It has been the year of Gabriel Medina (BRA). As the World Championship Tour (WCT) leader with both a competitive focus and an unflappability not unlike that of Kelly Slater (USA), the 20-year-old from Sandy Beach is in position to clinch the World Title at the second-to-last event and make history by becoming the first-ever World Champion from Brazil.
As the 10th stop on the elite Tour, the Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal is the first chance Medina has to potentially clinch the World Championship, and the second-to-last for the other six contenders to potentially snatch it from his grasp. If Medina wins in Portugal, he will win the World Title. If he doesn't, there are a handful of other possibilities.
In addition to the Brazilian phenom, there are six other surfers in contention: Kelly Slater (USA), Mick Fanning (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS), John John Florence (HAW), Taj Burrow (AUS) and Michel Bourez (PYF). Chances are slim for both Burrow and Bourez, as they would need to win both remaining WCT with Medina placing 13th or lower in both -- something he's done only once this season.
For the remaining four contenders to extend the Title race to the Billabong Pipe Masters, Portugal's possible scenarios are as follows:
If Medina finishes 25th/13th in Portugal: Parkinson and Florence will need a runner-up finish to remain in contention, Fanning will need a Quarterfinals finish or better.
If Medina finishes 9th: Parkinson and Florence will need to win the event, Fanning needs to either win or finish 2nd, and/or Slater finishes in 3rd.
If Medina finishes 5th: Parkinson and Florence will be out of the race. Title race would go to Pipe if Fanning wins and/or Slater finishes 2nd.
If Medina finishes 3rd: Either Fanning or Slater will need to win.
If Medina finishes runner-up: Fanning will be out of the race, Slater will need a 1st.
If Medina wins the Moche Rip Curl Pro: He will clinch the World Title in Portugal.
While Medina's campaign to become 2014 WCT Champ has been aggressive, his ascent is not guaranteed. A number of mistakes in the past two contests have suggested that even the surgical Brazilian is just human after all. Medina rode into the tail-end of the season on top, having just won the Billabong Pro Tahiti in August by a slim margin over Slater. But he faltered at Trestles and again at Hossegor, getting knocked out in the Quarterfinals at both events.
With those fifth-place finishes, Medina's now not the only one who could take the Title. He is the closest, however, and has an ability to perform under pressure, which could serve him well in the season's final two events.
Watch Medina and the rest of the Top 34 compete LIVE at the Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal October 12-23.