- WSL / sherm
- WSL / sherm

When Jordy Smith out-surfed the field in Rio de Janeiro four years ago, more or less inventing the genre of geographical landmark claims in the process (imitating the iconic Cristo Redentor statue), it didn't require a giant leap of faith to back the big South African for a World Title in the near future.

Jordy's Deep Cuts

Three Top 5 finishes on the Jeep Leaderboard have since followed, including a runner-up finish last year (to back his other one in 2010). Yet, the Brazilian Storm, the rise of the John John Florence machine, and a flurry of injuries have left a big gap on Smith's mantle, right where a World Title trophy would go.

But an emphatic win at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells, as well as scintillating freesurf form (as evidenced in the recent 19-minute epic action movie Just Now,) means that 2017 could be Jordy's year.

Smith surfed his way to his first-ever win at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. The Smith power brand served him to deadly effect at Bells. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

And this year's Oi Rio Pro could be the very event to further bolster Jordy's effort to win professional wave-riding's ultimate prize.

Sure, it takes some self-assurance to imitate a 98-foot soapstone likeness of Jesus in the world's biggest Catholic country. And sure, it's going to take a surfer of phenomenal natural ability to dethrone reigning World Champ John Florence, but those are two of Jordy's standard operational procedures.

Jordy Smith at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Jordy Smith's return to form has resulted in a lot more smiling at events. - WSL / sherm

While the South African's ascendance has hardly gone under the radar, in Rio terms, relatively speaking, he's just that.

We've seen the Florence camp held under a round-the-clock fan siege in #Tournotes? And we can all assume that the media spotlight on De Souza, Medina and Toledo is going to be both glaring and weighty.

Throw in Fanning fanfare and a suite of other sub-plots, and Jordy's Saquarema campaign could be waged in relative tranquility.

Jordy Smith during Round One. While known and revered for his forehand rail line, Smith's no slouch heelside, an asset that will serve him well in Saquarema. - WSL / Daniel Smorigo

What happens in the water between the heat horns will always be paramount, but what's going on between the ears throughout is also key. In that regard, Smith seems more likely than other top contenders to be allowed to focus on the job at hand, in a city where partisanship can approach pandemonium.

Unedifying things have been said about finishing in second place, from No Fear t-shirts to references of unmarried female members of wedding parties. But no such talk is likely to perturb the ever-confident current World No.2.

True, Jordy Smith -- to date -- has never worn the coveted maillot jaune.

But to borrow further from the road cycling convention, he finds himself in an enviable position. Returning to a city where he's known previous triumph, and coming off the back of a victory at one of surfing's most hallowed of grounds, the Oi Rio Pro could well be his coming out of the slipstream moment.

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