13 May 2013
South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag achieved the best result of her fledgling professional surfing career when she placed third in the Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro at Barra da Tijuca Beach in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, the fifth stop on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT).
The 19-year-old rookie from George in the Southern Cape, competing in just her fifth event at the highest level of women’s pro surfing, overcame a string of the world’s best female surfers to reach the semi-finals before bowing out to eventual event winner, Tyler Wright of Australia.
“I think it’s the best result of my professional career,” Buitendag said. “I’m really happy with my result and happy to be here in Brazil. It’s good to get my head above water for a change.
‘Tough mental space’
“I’d been in a tough mental space over the last few events and kind of putting myself down and this allowed me to think and surf smarter. Now that this event is over I’ll be able to go back and analyse my performance.”
Buitendag won US $8 000 (approx. R72 000) and an invaluable 6 600 points that saw her move up one place to eighth on the ASP Women’s WCT leaderboard. With two events left in the 2013 season, she is now a significant 3 550 points ahead of Malia Manuel in the 10th and final spot for automatic requalification for next year’s elite WCT.
Buitendag started her Rio campaign with a third-place finish in round one before bouncing back to defeat Philippa Anderson of Australia in round two. After repeating her third place in round three, the South Africa overcame the challenge of ASP No. 13 Pauline Ado (Fra) before holding on to defeat the third-seed, Courtney Conlogue (USA), in their quarter-final match-up.
Tyler Wright defeated fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons, 22, in a high-scoring final (17.80 to 15.67) to win the event in peaky two-to-three foot waves and take the lead on the 2013 ASP Women’s WCT rankings.
Wright dominated the Barra da Tijuca line-up from start to finish, posting the high scores of each round with progressive combinations including the final where she unloaded committed forehand combinations and was rewarded a 9.33 and 8.50 to secure the win.
“This feels pretty good,” Wright said. “This whole event has been stepping stones for me. I started off a bit shaky and this is my first event where my family is not here with me. Brooke Farris was here looking after me and thanks to everyone for all of their support.”
Wright’s victory in Rio marks her second of the season following a win on the Gold Coast and the two victories combined with two additional runner-up finishes have launched Wright to the number one position over Hawaii’s Carissa Moore.
“It’s awesome to move to the top of the rankings, but I’m honestly not thinking about the world title,” Wright said. “I’m just having fun surfing and enjoying each event and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”
Sally Fitzgibbons, the defending champion, put in an amazing effort in an attempt to retain the title, ousting Carissa Moore in their semi-final clash, but was unable to put a stop to Wright’s momentum in the final to finish runner-up overall.
“I’m happy to progress through to the final,” Fitzgibbons said. “It’s always exciting to come in to a final against Tyler and I knew she’d be tough to beat out there. I love coming to Rio and I always get good results here. Unfortunately I fell at the last hurdle, but I’ll come back bigger and better next year.”
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