OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE – This wasn't your typical day before finals. The Aussies sit in an unlikely fourth place approaching the final day at Worlds. Meanwhile, Brazil – ranked a bizarre seventh – had surfers post two of the highest scores of the entire event despite their best female not even catching a wave. The local French squad is surely in the hunt. And the Stars and Stripes are poised in third, while the Hawaii team leads the ratings even though they have the same passports as the USA.
"We're going to put the gloves back on tomorrow and give it our all," exclaimed USA head coach Joey Buran to his squad of five remaining athletes. "This isn't NSSA Nationals. This isn't even a North America WQS. This is the World Championships. There will be true moments of greatness achieved tomorrow and you will be remembered for them."
Courtney Conlogue and Sage Erickson remain for the American girls, while Dillon Perillo, Nat Young and Conner Coffin are holding it down on the boys' side.
Team Australia, who had the team gold medal wrapped up by this point during the past two years, has two front-runners still turning heads as well as high scores. Once again Owen Wright continued his undefeated streak by besting Hawaiians Tyler Newton and Granger Larson. Both Larson and Newton still remain alive as things enter the final day.
"Bra, I think it's going to either be Hawaii or USA that takes this thing," Keanu Asing told me as Hawaii's Coco Ho suited up to take on USA's Courtney Conlogue and New Zealand's Arini Mason in the final qualifying heat of the day. Mason ended up winning the heat in the last second but Conlogue also advanced and now sits just one heat away from an Olympic-recognized medal.
Before her heat, Buran told Conlogue to "drop the hammer." As she ran towards the water, Conlogue turned back and said, "I'm not only going to drop the hammer. I'm going to put the nail in the coffin." She threw down a few huge hacks to send Ho to the repercharge round where she'll join a pair of her Hawaii teammates in the do-or-die elimination heats leading up to the grand final.
ISA contests always hold some special aura about them. Today it was ying and yang for team Brazil. Their top seeded girl, Diana DeSouza made a crucial error in her attempt to paddle out in the pulsing, overhead surf. DeSouza spent fifteen minutes paddling out in the wrong spot and then missed a set and took the rest on the heat. She ended up with no rides at all.
The ocean must have felt it owed the Brazilians one because the best line of the entire event graced the double area contest site and the Brazo boys were all over it. Gabriel Medina grabbed a solid left wall and tore it to shreds before getting a tube through the inside and popping a little air to the tune of 9.7, eliminating USA's Kolohe Andino in the process. Meanwhile, in the north area Peterson Cristanto grabbed a right and carved it all the way through to the south area garnering the event's only ten-point ride.
"Both our guys caught the same wave in separate areas," said Brazil coach 'Tony' in broken English. "It must have been sent from God."
And with less than four hundred points separating first through fifth, Saturday's finals are too close for any mortal man to predict.