Garica Puts Injury Aside To Defeat Slater
Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia (Wednesday, April 11, 2001). Current worldand defending three-time Rip Curl Pro champion Sunny Garcia (Haw) today putaside a recurring knee injury to dominate six-time world champion KellySlater (USA) in their first round encounter. Clean 4-foot (1.3m) wavesgraced the Bells Beach lineup early this morning, but deterioratingconditions and gale force winds caused organizers to postpone the eventafter only three heats were completed.
Garcia, 31, put on an inspired performance against Slater and Luke Hitchings(Aus), showing no signs of the torn medial ligament that has kept him out ofthe water for the past 10-days. Though initially advised his right kneewould leave him out of the water for 8-weeks, the Hawaiian defied doctor’sorders by surfing with an all-out powerful approach to advance straight intothe third round and leave Slater needing a total of 9.56-points.
“That heat went good considering 10-days ago the doctor told me I wouldn’tbe in the water for eight weeks,” explained Garcia. “Luckily I flew up toQueensland (Aus) and had some therapy done on my knee and they were able toget the tenderness out. It’s still a little loose and a little wobbly, butwith a whole lot of tape and a knee brace, it feels pretty good. I waspumped to surf against Kelly, a six-time world champ. To me it seems like hewants to come back and steal some of the limelight. I’m always up to thechallenge and it feels good to surf against Kelly, but it’s even better whenyou beat him.
“Just knowing that I had Kelly in my heat…” continued the current worldchamp. “Last night I didn’t sleep that well. I’ve been amping to surfagainst him. I think the adrenaline rush I had during the heat helped putthe psych in my mind and the hurt in my knee to rest. Everything is feelinggood. Hopefully if I do have him in the next round (the third), I can beathim again. We’ll have to see, but right now I’m feeling pretty good about myknee.
“Bells has always been a very special event,” Garcia added. “To win it threetimes has been incredible. It was a childhood dream just to win one. Thepossibilities of having four and to tie MR (Australia’s four-time worldchampion Mark Richards) would be insane.”
1999 world and 1998 Rip Curl Pro champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) also put on afantastic display this morning to easily progress past World ChampionshipTour (WCT) rookie Rodrigo Dornelles (Brz) and 1999 event winner Shane Dorian(Haw).
Occhilupo, 34, started his first heat of the season with a great wave toscore 8.50 out-of-a possible 10-points, and then picked off another two goodrides before either of his opponents had caught a thing. By the end of the30-minutes, the Australian had left Dornelles and Dorian in his wake, bothneeding two good rides to catch him.
“It did work out pretty well for me, I got the first wave before it went alittle bit inconsistent,” said Occhilupo afterward. “I just got a secondwave before they could get one and then all of a sudden I had three.
“I finished 20th last year and missed two events and was injured in anothertwo,” he explained of the substantial drop down the ratings he experiencedin 2000. “I definitely feel really confident and I’m excited about thisyear. I felt good in that heat, and obviously I love Bells. I’m excited andquietly confident about this year. It’s a shorter circuit and a good one,and that’s why I came back to have another go. I wouldn’t be here if Iwasn’t (after another world title). I’d love to have two, and that’s whatI’m going for. We’ll see how it goes.
“Bells Beach just really suits my style (of surfing). I love coming toBells. Some people really knock the wave saying they find it hard to surf,but for me it’s easier than a lot of other waves. It really agrees with me.”
Current world number-two Luke Egan (Aus) was the other winner today,delegating Peterson Rosa (Brz) and event wildcard Zane Harrison (Aus) to thecut-throat second round. Egan, 31, made the most of the windy conditions tosecure his spot in round three, acknowledging afterward his intentions foran elusive world title of his own.
“That heat then was very nerve-racking cause the wind came up onshore and Ididn’t want to get Kelly Slater in the first heat of the second round, asthat could be pretty deadly,” said Egan. “I’m not really warmed up yet; Ididn’t feel that good in that heat then. I’m stoked I got through.
“I’ve definitely been getting a lot of wraps for this year and I’ve trainedpretty hard,” he admitted in regard to his 2000 runner-up finish. “But Ijust have to put all that aside. If I want to be world champion there’s alot of hard work ahead of me and there’s no denying that, or getting aroundit. I’m just out there to surf every heat as it comes and there are a lot ofthem this year. Hopefully I’m fit enough, and I think I am, to go throughand surf all of those heats.
“Whoever starts off with a win here at Bells is going to be the firstcontender of all of us, and I’d love to do that. I’ve always had a bit oftrouble making the quarter-finals here, so if I can make the quarters orbetter I’ve done what I tried to achieve this week, to stay up in thefront-runners for the start of the year.”
Official results of the Rip Curl Pro Day 2; Round One
H7: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 23.40; Rodrigo Dornelles (Brz) 12.75; Shane Dorian(Haw) 11.60
H8: Sunny Garcia (Haw) 24.00; Kelly Slater (USA) 20.30; Luke Hitchings (Aus)14.90
H9: Luke Egan (Aus) 15.60; Peterson Rosa (Brz) 13.75; Zane Harrison (Aus)9.15
* All heat scores are always available on www.aspworldtour.com