World Champ Gilmore takes out Midori Pro at Merewether Beach
MEREWETHER BEACH, Australia (Saturday, April 5, 2008) - REIGNING world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore has taken out the 6-star World Qualifying Series (WQS) Midori Pro at Newcastle’s Merewether Beach.
In a dream final match up for contest organisers, the 20-year-old from Tweed Heads defeated the reigning world junior champion Sally Fitzgibbons to take out 2008’s biggest WQS event for women in Australia and pocket $US4500.
Small right-handers up to a metre in height were affected by a light onshore wind, but Gilmore still found plenty of wave faces to perform some big maneuvers that were cheered by thousands of spectators and rewarded by the judges.
Gilmore, who came into the Midori Pro as the number one seed in the round of 48, won each of the five heats she contested before assuring herself victory half-way through the thirty minute final when she had a 7.83 and 8.83 on the score sheet while Fitzgibbons had only managed a 6.17.
"I was a little bit nervous out there in the earlier heats because I am pretty used to surfing in the man-o-man heats of the top tour," Gilmore said.
"I am absolutely wrapped. Sally was surfing really well here and did great in the semi – I knew it was going to be hard to beat her," she said.
"I’ll slip this one under my belt –it’s another feather in my cap," she said.
The Midori Pro winner paid her respect to Fitzgibbons and said she expects to be meeting her at the top-level events in 2009.
"Sally really is going to be one to watch. There’s no doubt she has a great future," Gilmore said.
The world champ said she was going to take some time off from the grind of the tour and will not be competing at next week’s Margaret River event.
"I haven’t been home since Bells and it is good to go into a break with a couple of wins.
"I just want to spend some time with my family and friends –home is just so good.
"I will then go to Bali for a couple of trips and the next contest I’ll surf will be the Billabong Pro in Brazil," she said.
Earlier in the quarter-finals, Gilmore accounted for three-time winner at this event and current world number six Rebecca Woods from Copacabana on the New South Wales Central Coast.
In the semi-final, Gilmore easily accounted for South Africa’s Rosanne Hodge on the right-handers off Merewether reef.
Fitzgibbons, who hails from Gerroa on the New South Wales South Coast, has made three finals in three WQS events on the Australian leg of the Qualifying Series tour.
She won at both Phillip Island and at the Central Coast - and after her second placing today today she is likely to have already racked up enough points to ensure a berth on the elite tour in 2009.
Fitzgibbons made it to today’s final by defeating fellow Aussie Jessi Miley-Dyer from Coogee in Sydney and then defeated Hawaiian Alana Blanchard in the semi-final.
Fitzgibbons said she was happy to have made her third final on the Australian leg of the WQS in 2008.
"Steph is the current world champion and is doing extremely well so it was a privilege and honor to be in the same heat and pick up some tips at the same time.
"Just watching the way she surfs is awesome – there’s always something to learn from the world’s best.
"It’s a dream of mine to be on the world tour like her," Fitzgibbons said.
"Steph got two good waves early on and I knew I had to do something big but I couldn’t get the waves so unfortunately she got me.
"I am going over to Margaret River and it is going to be my first time competing in WA so it’ll be great to get the experience and have some fun as well," she said.