Sofia Mulanovich Wins Third Consecutive WCT

Saturday, May 29, 2004 (Anglet, France): Twenty year-old Peruvian surfer Sofia Mulanovich has defeated world #2 Keala Kennelly of Hawaii to win the Roxy Pro France in six-to-eight foot (2-2.5m) surf at La Madrague beach. Mulanovich’s win is her third straight World Championship Tour victory and marks her as the undisputed favorite for this year’s Association of Surfing Professionals women’s world title.

Mulanovich battled thunderous seas to defeat the big-name Hawaiian, riding only two scoring waves in 30 minutes. Giant sets washed both surfers from their positions at the beginning of the final and then prevented them from returning to the lineup until the half way mark. Mulanovich eventually secured her first ride, a washed-out lefthander that enabled her to perform a series of cutbacks, with just 11 minutes remaining.

Her second score was locked in with barely 90 seconds remaining and her combined two-wave heat total was enough to outpoint Kennelly 7.60 to 3.80. Mulanovich’s victory follows recent wins in the Roxy Pro Fiji and Billabong Pro Tahiti and rockets the diminutive natural-footer to the top of the WCT ratings.

“I am so happy, this is like a dream right now, explained Mulanovich. “I just can’t believe it. In my quarters and semis I had good surfs and really enjoyed myself but then in the final, I was looking at all these waves going, (she holds her hands up exasperated) ‘Okay, just try and kill me one more time!’ I got so many sets on the head it was ridiculous. Keala too, there was nothing we could do.

The WCT hat trick sees the 2003 world #7 join an illustrious group of former world champions. Defending ASP world champion Layne Beachley (Aus) last achieved the feat in 1998 when she won the Sunsmart Classic Bells Beach, the Diet Coke Classic Manly and the Tokushima Pro Japan to set up the first of her six consecutive world titles.

Australians Pauline Menczer (1994), Wendy Botha (1987/89) and Hawaiian Margo Oberg (1977) also achieved the feat during their world title years. Yet despite her awesome form of late, Mulanovich isn’t prepared to look too far ahead.

“I’m pretty stoked, I have some solid results, she laughed. “But I’m not going to say anything. Not until the end. I’m going to surf every contest coming up like it’s still my first.

For 25 year-old Kennelly her finals appearance today is her best result from four events thus far in 2004. Her scores in the decider, however, were in complete contrast to a day of remarkable surfing that commenced with the quarterfinals this morning.

Mulanovich, Kennelly, six-time world champion Beachley and 21 year-old defending Roxy Pro France champion Chelsea Georgeson were all standouts. Each locked in excellent scores in their respective heats, riding long overhead lefthanders in the testing beach break conditions.

“We were so amped to take it to the next level in the final, explained Kennelly. “But the ocean suddenly had other ideas. I felt like I was Eddie Aikau (a famous Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard) lost at sea. We were a pushing so hard all day, but I think in the end Sofia and I both had bad luck. There’s no tactics in that situation, you just gotta push on and that’s what I tried to do.

Beachley looked strong early on with the world #1 posting the event’s highest individual wave score of 9.65 on her opening quarterfinal wave this morning. In her semifinal versus Mulanovich she again posted an excellent opening ride before succumbing to a pattern that plagued each of her heats, the inability to find a second strong score. Ultimately it was her undoing.

With her most recent final being the Billabong Pro Maui last December where she finished second and her last WCT victory at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast in March 2003, it has now been a long time “between drinks for the 32 year-old.

“Knowing I had a really good opportunity to make my first final in over six months is bitterly disappointing, elained Beachley. “It’s been even longer since I won a contest. I was feeling really confident in all my heats here. I was getting eights and nines every time, and the fact is I didn’t back them up. There was a chance to gain some ground on the ratings too, but oh well. Third is still not a bad result.

Defending Roxy Pro France champion Chelsea Georgeson was on target for a second WCT title until meeting Kennelly in the semis. Looking extremely comfortable in the testing conditions, Georgeson consistently made late drops and drew committed turns. The world #4 fell on a critical close-out floater, however, requiring a score of 7.66. Her eventual score came up just over half a point short. Disappointed, the 21 year old made no excuses for her performance.

“You don’t get through heats or win contests by falling off, Georgeson said.

Jacqueline Silva (Florianopolis, Bra), Trudy Todd (Coolangatta, Aus), Heather Clark (Port Shepstone, ZAF) and local wildcard Caroline Sarran finished equal 5th today.

For Silva, winner of the first event of the 2004 WCT (Roxy Pro Gold Coast) her equal 5th placing in the Roxy Pro France matches her best effort from four attempts.

Sarran meanwhile distinguished herself on day two of competition by eliminating world ratings leader Rochelle Ballard of Hawaii.

The next women’s WCT event is scheduled for Florianopolis, Brazil in September.

Evian’s shortboard Expression Session was held prior to the final. Melanie Bartels (Haw) placed 1st ahead of Melanie Redman-Carr (Dunsborough, Aus) and Beachley respectively.

The Roxy Pro France has been just one highlight of the Roxy Jam Presented by Samsung, incorporating eight days of non-stop action in Anglet. Nightly concerts, DJ sets, fashion parades, Evian’s expression sessions, Roxy’s ‘Learn to Surf Now coaching clinics and the presence of Roxy’s elite international team has made for an awesome week of festivities.

Modart’s on-site “Keep a Breast art exhibition also helped raise money and awareness for the fight against women’s breast cancer. WCT competitors and Roxy’s models were given the opportunity to loan their busts for the creation of individual plaster cast moldings that were then painted by a recognized artist and auctioned.

The cast of former four-time world champion Lisa Andersen painted by Lucy McLaughlan set a new Modart record — obtaining a final bid of EUR$4,000 (approx. USD$4,900). The stunning mother of two said she was so nervous during the bidding war she felt the need to sit down.

“I was blushing so much may face turned bright red, explained Andersen. “But it feels good to know they raised so much money.

Model Veronica Kay (Cal, USA) and world #6 WCT competitor Trudy Todd also sat for the charity campaign and their casts were painted by artists “Emma and Herve’ Le Houx. A grand total of EUR$25,000 was raised.

Modart brings together artists from the surf/skate/snow and urban art communities. More than USD$100,000 has been raised over the past four years via similar exhibits. The single highest price paid for a bust prior to The Roxy Jam was USD$1,200.

Daily releases and updates also available on www.roxy.com

Roxy Pro France Final
1st Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) 7.60 — 1,200 pts, USD$10,000
2nd Keala Kennelly (Haw) 3.80 — 972 pts USD$6,000

Results Roxy Pro France Semi finals (1st>final, 2nd=3rd) 756 pts, USD$4,000
SF1: Keala Kennelly (Haw) 14.90 def. Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 14.25
SF2: Sofia Mulanovich (Per) 15.65 def. Layne Beachley (Aus) 10.75

Results Roxy Pro France Quarter finals (1st>semis, 2nd=5th) 552 pts, USD$3,000
QF1: Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 15.75 def. Jacqueline Silva (Bra) 9.00
QF2: Keala Kennelly (Haw) 13.75 def. Caroline Sarran (Fra) 10.60
QF3: Sofia Mulanovich (Per) 18.85 def. Trudy Todd (Aus) 11.75
QF4: Layne Beachley (Aus) 11.65 def. Heather Clark (ZAF) 8.40

Official ASP women’s Top-10 after WCT #4 The Roxy Pro France
1. Sofia Mulanovich (Per) 3960
2. Rochelle Ballard (Haw) 3276
3. Jacqueline Silva (Bra) 2856
4. Layne Beachley (Aus) 2616
4. Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 2616
6. Laurina McGrath (Aus) 2424
7. Keala Kennelly (Haw) 2244
8. Maria Tita Tavares (Bra) 2220
9. Trudy Todd (Aus) 1824
10. Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus) 1656
SP women’s Top-10 after WCT #4 The Roxy Pro France
1. Sofia Mulanovich (Per) 3960
2. Rochelle Ballard (Haw) 3276
3. Jacqueline Silva (Bra) 2856
4. Layne Beachley (Aus) 2616
4. Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 2616
6. Laurina McGrath (Aus) 2424
7. Keala Kennelly (Haw) 2244
8. Maria Tita Tavares (Bra) 2220
9. Trudy Todd (Aus) 1824
10. Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus) 1656