Quarterfinal losses suffered today by Jeep Leader Sally Fitzgibbons and defending event champion Stephanie Gilmore have further cramped an already tight World Title race. With Caroline Marks, Lakey Peterson and Carissa Moore all progressing to the Semifinals of the Corona Open J-Bay, the Jeep Leader jersey is also now up for grabs.
Fitzgibbons was defeated by Malia Manuel. The Hawaiian's experience and attitude played crucial in her scoring a wave during the dying minutes to defeat the Australian veteran.
"I was happy with my start, but I had to be patient," said Manuel, whose two scoring waves were ridden more than 30-minutes apart. "Patience isn't just waiting, but waiting with a good attitude. I've been on Tour for eight years and haven't had a CT win, so I've learned a calm acceptance."
Despite her defeat, Fitzgibbons also showed the maturity and perspective that comes with a decade of competing at the highest level. "The Jeep Leader jersey is not something to hold on to in itself," said Fitzgibbons. "I'm more about improving myself and my surfing and pushing my own personal limits. For me it's all about that process and working with great people. There's plenty left to fight for."
Manuel, who started the year with a Final on the Gold Coast, is now just two heats a way from her first CT win. If she were to overcome Lakey Peterson in their next Semifinal, and then defeat the winner of Caroline Marks and Carissa Moore, she too would throw her name into a stacked roster of World Title contenders.
Of those contenders however it is only Carissa Moore who has the chance to grab the Jeep Leader's jersey. She would be wearing yellow at the next event, the Freshwater Pro, if she overcomes Caroline Marks in their Semifinal heat next. Marks had defeated Steph Gilmore in the first Quarterfinal and then Moore took the opportunity to apply some World Title heat of her own. The Hawaiian scored a deep tube ride on the way to posting a 17.67 heat total; the highest posted by a woman in the event so far.
"That was the first heat that I thought I was chiming with the wave and the ocean," said the 3x World Champion. "Last year I didn't do too well at this event, but I've been here three weeks now and I'm feeling good. It would be a dream come true to win at J-Bay. I grew up watching the wave and dreaming of competing here and now that's a reality."
However whether the Jeep Leader's jersey changes hands or not, Final's day is now set up enticingly. With the two Australian veterans out of the event, there now exists a small patch of real estate at the top of the Jeep Leaderboard. Whoever can win two heats and take the Corona Open J-Bay will have upped the stake in their claim for a World Title.
Notable and Quotable From Day 4 Corona Open J-Bay
- "That could be the wave that Jordy Smith looks back on and says that's where I lost the World Title," said Strider Wasilewski in the Post Show referring to the wave that Jordy Smith passed on and allowed his competitor Owen Wright to surf. Wright scored an 8.30 and not only finished Jordy Smith's 2019 J-Bay run, but dented his World Title chances as well.
"I was hoping to get a rematch with Steph in the Final, but that's not going to happen and that will be a tough one for her to overcome," Lakey Peterson said after defeating Courtney Conlogue. "It would be cool to come up against Caroline (Marks) in the Final, but I'll just focus on myself. Hopefully on Final's day we will have great waves with loads of opportunity."
- "That 9.43 was one of those waves that was going to wait and hold for me," said Filipe Toledo on his first wave against Willian Cardoso that led to him posting a 18.26 heat total, the highest of the event. "I had some time to think at the start of the wave and I went, ‘Yep, it's game on.' I tried to open up with some big carves and throw some big spray to get past Willian and that's what I did."
Watch the Corona Open J-Bay ive July 9-22 live on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.