DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Playa Venao, Panama
Much like the day before, the medal hopes of surfers and their respective teams continued to swing throughout Day 7 of competition at Playa Venao. The day began with 44 surfers contending for 12 individual medals, and with the final horn of the day, the event was down to 24 of the record-number 303 athletes who began the competition a week prior the DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong.
It was an extremely competitive environment on Saturday, with athletes and teams scratching for every possible wave and team points. Australia, Brazil, France, Hawaii and USA each have several surfers to compete on the final day, so the medal order is still far from determined.
With her team having struggled to keep its surfers in contention, USA’s Nikki Viesins sat on the cusp of being dropped to the Repechage with five minutes left in her Main Event heat. Close behind her in third was Peru’s Miluska Tello, needing only a mid-range score to move up. To protect her advancing position, Viesins got pro-active. She paddled right up to Tello and became her shadow.
“I just had to sit on her the whole heat and try to keep her off the waves the best that I could. And I managed to hold her off every wave. It was actually pretty fun,” said Viesins, who was still breathing heavy after the active finish to the heat.
Advancing in first was Hawaii’s Tatiana Weston-Webb, who, unlike her competitors, had a mostly carefree heat. She sat all alone on a peak down the beach from the American and Peruvian.
“I looked over at one point and saw them battling, and I was like ‘Oh, wow!’” said Weston-Webb, who’s been one of the most dominant surfers in the Girls division. “But it didn’t really bother me; I just wanted to keep catching waves because it was like a free-surf for me.”
Both Weston-Webb and Viesins are one heat away from the Medal round, and will have Ellie-Jean Coffey (AUS) and Mahina Maeda (HAW) to contend with in the final of the Girls Qualifying Round.
In the smaller conditions, with light offshore winds putting some texture on the wave faces, high scores weren’t as frequent as they’d been in the days prior when the waves were well-overhead. Portugal’s Vasco Ribeiro and Brazil’s Matheus Navarro were two of the exceptions. Competing on opposite sides of the Boys Under-18 draw, they both used a combination of powerful turns and aerials on right-hand breaking waves to post some of the highest individual (Ribeiro’s 9.77 and Navarro’s 9.5) and two-wave scores (Ribeiro’s 18.47 and Navarro’s 18.6) of the event.
“The waves got really fun and after I had two good waves in my scores already I went looking to do something big. A good wave came and I tried to do a big air (an air reverse), luckily I landed it,” Ribeiro said. “Knowing that I am the only Portuguese surfer left motivates me to give my best to get a good result. It would be amazing for me to win the Gold. Last year I came close, placing second, so now my goal is to win.”
The Brazilians put on an impressive display in both Boys divisions, causing some big upsets, including those over Hawaii’s Koa Smith and Ian Gentil. Team Hawaii still finds itself in control of the race for Team Gold and the IOC President’s Trophy, with the most surfers remaining in the event. Kain Daly, Josh Moniz, Kalani David, Weston-Webb, Maeda and Dax McGill are left for the Hawaiians.
Team France is one of the remaining 10 nations with surfers still competing. In the feel-good story of the day, the remaining pair of French athletes are actually cousins, and found themselves surfing against one another in Boys Under-16 Qualifying. After posting early, solid scores, Nomme Mignot and Diego Mignot didn’t even need to put to use any team tactics. They were able to cruise through the heat and enjoy competing against one another in the latter rounds of an ISA World Championship event. The heat ended with Diego in first, followed by Nomme, and they were able to celebrate at the shoreline with the French team and four family members who had made the trip to Panama.
“I was not nervous at all; we were just sharing waves out there,” said Nomme, who was in a tight, emotional heat days prior. “We’re still not done; we’re going to the final.”
Following the end of ISA World Juniors competition, the schedule shifted to the ISA Aloha Cup, a surfing team event, where 8 teams competed for the Gold Medal. Eight nations with five surfers each were split into two semifinals, with the top two teams in each heat advancing to the Final. Brazil, France, Hawaii and Peru qualified to fight for Gold. High-tide conditions presented ample opportunity for each of the athletes to shine. At the end of the hour-long heat, Brazil, France and Hawaii were all within just a few points, with one surfer remaining in the water. Brazil had an opportunity to take the lead over France, but no scoring waves came in the end for Matheus Navarro, leaving him sitting alone in the lineup. On the shore, the French contingent was ecstatic, jumping and singing the songs of their country.
“We’re really happy about this victory. We love the Aloha Cup because the team spirit comes into place in its best fashion,” said Xavier Delanne, the team manager of Team France. “Our team stuck together, chose the right waves and surfed them wisely. We’re really happy about this Gold and we’re looking forward to tomorrow and watching our two surfers left in the event.”
“The ISA Aloha Cup is a special format: fast, easy to understand for the public, and in three hours determines a champion,” said Fernando Aguerre, the President of the ISA. “Also, because of its intensity and by being a team competition, the emotions run really high and are intense. This final probably was the most exciting one that I remember.”
The ISA World Juniors will conclude tomorrow, April 22, with 12 heats remaining between the three divisions. At the end of the day three individual Gold Medals will be awarded, along with the always-important Team Gold Medal, which this year is accompanied for the first time by the IOC President’s Trophy.
The event webcast will be live beginning at 10:40am local time (8:40am PST; 3:40pm in London) at www.dakineisawjsc.com/live. The Closing Ceremony is scheduled to start at 4:00pm and will be live, as well, on the webcast.
ISA Aloha Cup Final Results:
Gold: France – 58.46
Silver: Hawaii – 57.77
Bronze: Brazil – 48.07
Copper: Peru – 37.43
ISA World Juniors Team Points – End of Day 7:
1- Hawaii. 6825
2- Australia. 5915
3- Brazil. 5520
4- USA. 4945
5- Peru. 4663
6- Japan. 4513
7- France. 4455
8- Portugal. 3623
9- South Africa. 3275
10- Costa Rica. 3160
11- New Zealand. 3090
12- Tahiti. 2473
13- Argentina. 2341
14- Great Britain. 2220
15- Venezuela. 1926
16- Barbados. 1915
17- Panama. 1856
18- Mexico. 1852
19- Germany. 1732
20- Ecuador. 1688
21- Uruguay. 1480
22- Puerto Rico. 1436
23- El Salvador. 1160
24- Spain. 1040
25- Guatemala. 952
26- Jamaica. 904
27- Italy. 720
28- Chile. 692
29- Canada. 544
30- Switzerland. 384
31- Nicaragua. 336
Main Pic: When the final horn blew, and the Gold Medal result in the ISA Aloha Cup was official, Team France embraced, began jumping and broke into song. Photo: ISA/Shawn Parkin