Reigning Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) has defeated Sofia Mulanovich (PER) to claim the 2008 Rip Curl Women’s Pro in classic 4-6 ft (2m) surf at Bells Beach today.
The Rip Curl Women’s Pro final was a repeat showdown of last year’s event, where Gilmore and Mulanovich squared off for the first time at Bells Beach. Today’s victory marks the second consecutive Rip Curl Women’s Pro win for Gilmore, who jumps from equal 9th to No. 2 on the ratings.
“I’d like to admit that that is probably the best performance I’ve ever put on in my career,” Gilmore said. “It feels absolutely amazing to ring the bell for a second time in a row. I really tried to brush off the first event and come down to Bells with a fresh head. We’ve had classic Bells conditions all morning, to be able to showcase your talent out in such good waves with just one other girl is an incredible thing.”
Although Mulanovich held the lead for the majority of the final, Gilmore stroked into a solid Bells righthander with five minutes remaining, stylishly weaving through floaters and top turns to scalp the day’s high single-wave score of a 9.33 out of a possible 10. Gilmore took the lead and Mulanovich could not keep the Australian from claiming her second consecutive Rip Curl Women’s Pro title.
“I don’t know how I did that on that wave,” Gilmore said. “Sofia (Mulanovich) had been surfing so well all day and to come back from such big scores, it just feels amazing. I was feeling a bit nervous and I knew I needed a big score. My boards have been feeling good all week, so I just put everything I had into it, and it paid off.”
Mulanovich, who took out the season-opener on the Gold Coast of Australia, saw her ratings lead on the 2008 ASP Women’s World Tour strengthen today with her impressive Runner-Up finish at the Rip Curl Women’s Pro.
“I’m feeling really good, and to lose to Steph (Gilmore) like that isn’t a bad thing,” Mulanovich said. “She was ripping, and yeah, a first and second to start the year out is what you need to do to win world titles. I’m just happy that I’ve had a strong start to the season and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.”
Finishing runner-up to Gilmore in last season’s Rip Curl Women’s Pro as well as the 2007 ASP Women’s World Title race, Mulanovich has set herself apart as the No. 1 challenger to Gilmore’s current crown.
“Steph and I seem to be making lots of finals together, so it is exciting,” Mulanovich said. “She’s a really great champion and I think it’s good for women’s surfing that we can have these kinds of competitive rivalries."
Layne Beachley (AUS) looked solid in her Quarterfinal victory over Samantha Cornish (AUS) this morning, but a crucial priority mistake in their Semifinal bout saw the legendary Australian fall to eventual champ Gilmore.
“I’m really pissed off right now,” Beachley said. “I had priority on that one set, and then I second-guessed myself and Steph (Gilmore) got it, and that was my undoing. Then I had the wave at the end and I normally thrive under pressure, but for some reason, my foot slipped off and that was it.”
Amee Donohoe (AUS), who posted a sensational last-minute Quarterfinal win over Claire Bevilacqua (AUS) earlier in the day, was unable to find her rhythm against Mulanovich in their Semifinal clash and collects her second equal 3rd place finish of 2008.
“It’s good to get another 3rd, but a bit frustrating that I couldn’t crack a final,” Donohoe said. “Everyone wants to do well here as Bells Beach is such an amphitheatre and we all want to perform. There’s always next year though, and I’ll just focus on the next event from here out.”
There will be a call made tomorrow morning at 7am for a 7.30am start of Round 4 of the Rip Curl Pro.
Check out the live webcast on the Rip Curl website.