Friday, April 23, 2004 (Tavarua & Namotu Islands, Fiji) Peruvian Sofia Mulanovich today won the fourth annual Roxy Pro in perfect conditions. The richest ever (US$73,300) women’s World Championship Tournament (WCT) resumed with quarterfinals this morning and ran through until the 2004 champion was crowned.
Perfect 4-5 ft (1.5m) waves were on offer for the final day at Cloudbreak. The new swell, which was generated from a storm 10-days ago some 9,000kms away, arrived on cue for an ideal event climax.
The 35-minute final against Hawaiian Rochelle Ballard proved the best heat of the entire tournament, as both contestants posted huge scores with incredible surfing. Mulanovich’s opening ride secured her piece of history though, as the diminutive natural footer waited for one of the larger set waves and unleashed an inspired backhand attack for the Roxy Pro’s only perfect 10-point score.
Riding the success of her recent ISA world title in Ecuador just two weeks ago, the 20-year-old then locked in another 7.75 to create a commanding lead. Having previously finished runner-up in the 2002 Roxy Pro France – as an event wildcard, today’s result marks her first WCT win and moved her into third position on the current ASP ratings.
“I’m in the clouds right now, began Mulanovich, after being congratulated by fellow competitors and friends in the lineup. “Everything here is so beautiful and perfect, and I can’t imagine being happier.
“It was great surfing against ‘Roachie’, she added, of her roommate on Tavarua. “We’ve been talking about how it would be if we both made the final, and it happened. I knew my first wave was a good one, but I had to do everything I could to win the final. It felt really good when they said it was a 10-point ride, but I was still really nervous, as I knew she could get one also. I just had to take advantage of the situation, and thank God another wave came for me.
“I was stoked to make a final in France as wildcard, but I really wanted to win, she continued, of the result in France. “Then after watching most of my friends like Chelsea (Georgeson) and Sam (Cornish) get wins, I was so determined. Finally I got it and it feels insane.
Ballard, who posted a near-perfect 9.75 backhand tube ride this morning, as well as the highest combined tally of the tournament for 18.5-points, was clearly in form. The 33-year-old commenced her final campaign strongly and emerged from another deep barrel for an 8.75, yet still required another worth 9.01-points at completion. By reaching her second consecutive final of the year though, she had already amassed enough points to take the ratings lead.
“I’m really excited, said Ballard, of the ratings. “It feels weird to be in the first two finals in a row and not win, but it’s actually just making me hungrier. Every competitor on the WCT this year is really insane, and I look up to all of the girls, so it’s never a walk in the park.
“I’m really stoked for her, she added, in praise of Mulanovich. “That first win is so insane. Actually, next time I win is going to be like the first time since it’s been so long (laughs). Roxy put on a great event and I’m just proud to be on tour still, going strong.
Equal third were Maria ‘Tita’ Tavares (BRA) and Laurina McGrath (Byron Bay, AUS). Tavares, who made a comeback to the WCT ranks in 2004, posted a great win over fellow Brazilian and ratings leader Jacqueline Silva this morning, but was unable to match the scores of Mulanovich. Nonetheless, the result marks her best ever on the WCT.
“I’m so happy to make the semifinals, said Tavares. “This is my first time, and I love the waves at Cloudbreak so much. Sofia surfed very well. I’m looking forward to all the events this year.
McGrath – who received an ASP wildcard position for the year, following an injury late last season that hindered her qualifying chances – again proved her place is among the elite. The 21-year-old reached the quarterfinals of the opening Roxy Pro on Australia’s Gold Coast this past March, and today went one better. Following a massive win over six-time world champion Layne Beachley in the quarters, she surfed a confident semi against Ballard, but ultimately required another wave worth 7.51-points. Her combined results have already pushed her into fourth position on the current ratings.
“I’m happy with the way I went, even though I didn’t quite make the final, said McGrath. “To get past Layne in the quarters… I was really happy. I’m just taking this year one heat at a time. All the girls are surfing so well, so every heat I make is a bonus and I’m really happy with the way I’ve started.
Finishing equal fifth in the Roxy Pro were Australians Chelsea Georgeson (Gold Coast), Layne Beachley (Manly) and Trudy Todd (Gold Coast), together with Brazilian Jacqueline Silva (Florianopolis).
Silva, winner of the opening Roxy Pro on Australia’s Gold Coast earlier this year, lost a close battle with Tavares, while Beachley had her quest for a Roxy Pro title stopped by rising star McGrath’s final 9-point ride. The Australian has an amazing track record all over the globe, but is yet to advance past the quarterfinals here in Fiji.
Two Roxy expression sessions were also held today, one prior to and then another following the final. Chelsea Georgeson collected the best ride in the opening session, while Keala Kennelly was awarded the best maneuver. Then in the second, Laurina McGrath and Heather Clark (ZAF) did likewise.
With competition responsibilities now out of the way, the world’s best women are partying like there’s no tomorrow on Tavarua Island. DJ KK (world #2 Keala Kennelly) has the dance floor packed and festivities are sure to continue long after another majestic sunset has highlighted the day’s end here in paradise.
Official Roxy Pro Results
1st Sofia Mulanovich (PERU) 17.75 — US$10,600
2nd Rochelle Ballard (HAW) 15.5 — US$6,600
Semifinals (1st>Final; 2nd=3rd receives US$4,600)
SF1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 17.25 def. Maria Tavares (BRA) 7.75
SF2: Rochelle Ballard (HAW) 14.75 def. Laurina McGrath (AUS) 14.25
Quarterfinals (1st>Semifinals; 2nd=5th receives US$)
QF1: Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 14.4 def. Chelsea Georgeson (AUS) 9.6
QF2: Maria Tavares (BRA) 12.9 def. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 12.75
QF3: Laurina McGrath (AUS) 15.0 def. Layne Beachley (AUS) 12.0
QF4: Rochelle Ballard (HAW) 18.25 def. Trudy Todd (AUS) 13.5
Official ASP women’s Top 10 ratings after WCT#2
1. Rochelle Ballard (HAW) 1,944-points
2. Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 1,752
3. Sofia Mulanovich (PERU) 1,560
=4. Chelsea Georgeson (AUS), Maria Tavares (BRA), Laurina McGrath (AUS)
7. Melanie Redman-Carr (AUS)
8. Layne Beachley (AUS) 1,104
=9. Samantha Cornish (AUS), Trudy Todd (AUS) 912