Opportunities are what one makes of them, and nobody took more advantage of the opportunities they were given at the Oi Rio Pro than back-to-back champ Filipe Toledo and newly elevated women's World Number 1 Sally Fitzgibbons.
Before the start of the contest, both Toledo and Fitzgibbons ranked among the most dangerous surfers in the draw with a pair of wins apiece -- and in the end, they fully lived up to their expectations.
Toledo came into Rio looking for a statement-making result for his 2019 campaign. The defending Oi Rio Pro champ, he gutted his way through a fierce Quarterfinal battle with Kelly Slater, then put in a stellar show against Frederico Morais in the Semis, followed by a command performance against Jordy Smith during a one-side victory in the Final -- in which Toledo went ham, tallying an 18.04 heat total.
"Once I get into the Quarters and Semis, it's like something clicks in my head, especially here in Brasil," said Toledo, who now holds three Rio Pro titles. "The crowd just gets me pumped and I just want to do my best. But it's so hard, surfing can be anybody's game."
For the effort, Toledo marches his way up to 3rd on the Jeep Leaderboard, now just 4,965 out of the poll position.
"A lot of people don't know, but I've been going through a very difficult year personally. It's been tough to concentrate on doing what I love most, but the crowd is what pulled me through and I'm eternally grateful. Now let's head to another of my favorite waves at J-Bay," continued Toledo.
For Fitzgibbons, her victory over longtime rival Carissa Moore in the Final cemented her position as the winningest woman in the history of the CT contest in Rio. It was the third victory of her career in Brazil, but more importantly, she's now taken over the Jeep Leader jersey and currently sits at Number 1 in the world.
"It could've gone either way and it just went my way today, it was unbelievable, this is insane," Fitzgibbons said afterwards.
The women's World Title race has tighten considerably after Rio, with Moore in second on the Jeep Leaderboard, just 1,405 points behind, and Stephanie Gilmore, who held the Jeep Leader jersey before the start of the event, has slipped down into 3rd, 2,260 points off the pace.
"I'm happy for Sally and I'm feeling good overall," Moore concluded. "Like I mentioned after my first round, I would've been happy just making it to the Semis, so second place is great."
There's a lot to process after Rio. Nearing the halfway mark of the season, both the men's and women's World Title races remain extremely close. The injury to men's World Number 1 John John Florence is going to be an ongoing source of concern until a clear diagnosis of the condition of his knee is made. And on the Women's side, with Gilmore dropping to third and Fitzgibbons and Moore moving ahead of her, how all of the ladies perform in the back half of the year is going to be interesting. None of them appear ready to let off the gas.
Up next, the Championship Tour heads to J-Bay, and as we've come to expect from the South African stop, the cream always rises to the top there.