FCS athletes, Filipe Toledo and Sally Fitzgibbons, have taken out the 2019 Oi Rio Pro, Stop No. 5 on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT).
Toledo Defends Event Title in Home Country
Toledo successfully repeated last year’s victory at Barrinha with dominant performances against Jordy Smith (ZAF) in the Final, Frederico Morais (PRT) in the Semifinals, and Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) in the Quarterfinals. This is Toledo’s third win in Brasil (2015, 2018, 2019) and the eighth of his career.
“Once I get into the Quarters and Semis, it’s like something clicks in my head, especially here in Brasil," said Toledo. "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. With Jordy (Smith) you never know. I had eighteen points, but he could’ve easily gotten two nines as well. I was tense until the last thirty seconds, but that first wave got me feeling pretty confident and I was stoked to get that one.”
Later on, at the awards podium, Toledo opened up and revealed that he was going through some personal issues throughout the year, but that the energetic Brasilian crowd provided the extra fuel he needed to push through.
“It can be really difficult if you don’t surround yourself with a good support crew and prepare yourself psychologically,” continued Toledo. “If you’re not prepared, the pressure can really get to you. What I really enjoy is the emotion and energy from the fans in Brasil. This gives me energy, focus, and motivation. I’ve been sick all week and feeling really weak and tired. But every time I ran down the corridor to the water, the energy from the crowd would give me a boost. 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.”
California’s Kolohe Andino (USA) lost to Smith in the second Semifinal but still holds his position as No. 2 on the world rankings behind John John Florence (HAW). Andino is gunning for his maiden World Title and his first CT event win in 2019 and shows no sign of slowing down. He came incredibly close in two Finals already this year (Gold Coast, Margaret River) and continued his form in Brasil.
Fitzgibbons Captures Jeep Leader Jersey and Third CT Win in Brasil
Fitzgibbons’ win today is her first CT victory since 2017 and her third in Brasil (2012, 2014, 2019). This season the Australian superstar has secured consistent results with four Final Series appearances, including two Finals. Fitzgibbon’s win vaults her to No. 1 in the world, surpassing Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and Carissa Moore (HAW) on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“It’s definitely one of those feelings where you feel so alive,” said Fitzgibbons. “The whole process of running down through the crowd cheering and paddling out is pretty sick when it all comes together. After all these years it’s still special and to be in the Final with a friend like Carissa (Moore) is pretty amazing. It could’ve gone either way and it just went my way today, it was unbelievable, this is insane. I knew I needed something special at the end when that set wave came through. When I paddled in, I knew there was some opportunity and I just gave it everything. I just wanted to commit and everything just came together.”
En route to her 11th CT win, Fitzgibbons eliminated Moore in the Final, good friend Keely Andrew (AUS) in the Semifinals, and Lakey Peterson (USA) in the Quarterfinals. The CT veteran has come runner-up to the World Title three times, and this could be a breakthrough year after her success leading up to the season’s halfway mark.
Photo © WSL / Poullenot