The Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships hit crunch-time today with the top-rated USA being knocked out of world teams title contention when they lost two Under 16 surfers, Kris Wiernicki and Andrew Doheny, in sudden-death repechage heats.
Defending world champions Hawaii still have all their 12 surfers in the event, along with hosts Brazil, Australia and France. Even though South Africa and New Zealand have lost one surfer each, they can still vie for the overall title with the best three results counting in each division of Under 18 and 16 Boys and Under 18 Girls.
Event director Marcos Bukao said that France has been the big surprise in this year’s event, which is at the half-way mark: “We are heading towards the finals on Sunday and France hasn’t lost a surfer, which is great for their chance to win medals.
The surf continued to pump consistently at four-to-five feet (1.5 metres) as if it was coming from a machine in the Atlantic Ocean – and the forecast is for the swell to increase.
On a day of high performances, Australia’s Owen Wright was a standout, setting a new heat total record of 17.17 (out of 20 points).
Wright, 16, of Culburra, NSW, was in blistering form to defeat France’s Pierre Laborde, fellow Australian Christopher Friend and New Zealand’s Paco Divers in an Under 16 round three qualifying heat. Friend and Divers now have to contest the repechages to stay alive in the event.
“Every time I paddled out a good wave would come through so I got lucky I guess, Wright said modestly. “Everyone is starting to step up and I expect there will be more big scores in the next few rounds. I’m always looking to better my performance so I’ll see how it goes.
France’s Marc Lacomare (15.94) and Germany’s Nicolas Von Rupp (15.26) also put up big scores in winning their heats to continue their threat for the Under 16 title.
In the blue ribbon Under 18 Boys division, France’s Jeremy Flores continued his brilliant form on a borrowed surfboard, and he again posted the round’s highest score, 15.67. Flores defeated Tahiti’s Heifara Tahutin (13.00), with USA’s Eric Geiselmann (10.77) third and Uruguay’s Marco Giorgi (7.04) fourth.
Other top performers in the Under 18 Boys included Australia’s Julian Wilson (15.5) and USA’s Cory Arrambide (14.23).
Flores’s French team-mates Pauline Ado (15.10) and Lee-Ann Curren (14.17) also had strong victories in the Under 18 Girls round three qualifying heats.
Flores, originally from Reunion Island but now based in New Caledonia, said he was still unsure about the board, which he borrowed from Brazilian friend and competitor, Wiggolly Dantas, who also won his heat today.
“I don’t know it (the board) very well so I really have to get the best waves to make the difference, Flores said.
Flores said the French team was doing very well and, referring to Curren, he said: “She always gets the best waves, she probably has it in her genes. She’s really fit too so I think she’s confident.
Australia’s Jessica Hickson posted the highest heat score, 15.17, of the Under 18 Girls round three qualifying today.
Hickson, 18, from Boomerang Beach, NSW, said the score was a confidence booster going into the next round. “There is a lot of good competition so it’s definitely getting harder as we progress through the event, Hickson said. “The team is really supportive — managers, coaches, parents and peers — so that’s a big help.
Tomorrow’s schedule (Thursday 11 May, 2006) is:
Main Podium (Live webcast on www.quiksilver.com/isa):
8:30am 3 Heats Qualifying 4 Under 18 Boys
9:30am 3 Heats Qual 4 Under 16 Boys
10:30am 3 Heats Qual 4 Under 18 Girls
11:30am 6 Heats Repechage 4 Under 16 Boys
1:30pm 2 Heats Qual 5 Under 18 Boys
2:10pm 2 Heats Qual 5 Boys Under 16
2:50pm 2 Heats Qual 5 Under 18 Girls
Second Podium (Not webcast)
8:30am 6 Heats Rep 3 Under 18 Boys
10:30am 6 Heats Rep 3 Under 18 Girls
12:30pm 6 Heats Rep 44 Boys Under 18
Competition starts at 8.30am Brazil time and the main podium will be webcast live on www.quiksilver.com/isa
The eight-day competition continues until Sunday 14 May when gold medals will be decided in three divisions — Under 18 and 16 Boys, and Under 18 Girls.
The scores of the top three athletes per division are added to reach the final ranking to decide the World Junior Surfing Champion Team, a title currently held by Hawaii.
The 27 countries competing in the event (in order of their placing in last year’s contest) are: Hawaii, Brazil, USA, Australia, South Africa, France, New Zealand, Tahiti, United Kingdom, Peru, Portugal, Japan, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Barbados, Jamaica, Chile, Canada, Italy, Germany, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.