What: Midori Pro, Women's 6 Star WQS Event #4 Where: Merewether Newcastle, NSW When: 26 March - 6 April 2008
Reigning world surfing champion Steph Gilmore has taken out the 6-star World Qualifying Series (WQS) Midori Pro at Newcastle's Merewether Beach. The 20-year-old Aussie defeated the reigning world junior champion Sally Fitzgibbons to take the top podium spot and pocket $4,500.
Small right-handers up to a metre in height were affected by a light onshore wind, but Gilmore still found plenty of wave faces to perform some big crowd-pleasing manoeuvres that were rewarded by the judges.
Number one seeded Gilmore won each of her five heats before snagging victory half-way through the 30-minute final when she posted a 7.83 and 8.83 on the score sheet. "I was a little bit nervous out there in the earlier heats because I am pretty used to surfing in the man-o-man heats of the top tour," Gilmore said. "I am absolutely wrapped. Sally was surfing really well here and did great in the semi – I knew it was going to be hard to beat her."
The Midori Pro winner paid her respect to Fitzgibbons and said she expects to be meeting her at the top-level events in 2009. "Sally really is going to be one to watch. There's no doubt she has a great future," Gilmore said.
The world champ said she was going to take some time off from the grind of the tour and will not be competing at next week's Margaret River event. "I haven't been home since Bells and it is good to go into a break with a couple of wins. I just want to spend some time with my family and friends – home is just so good. I'll then go to Bali for a couple of trips and the next contest I'll surf will be the Billabong Pro in Brazil," said Gilmore.
Fitzgibbons made it to the final by defeating fellow Aussie Jessi Miley-Dyer and then defeated Hawaiian Alana Blanchard in the semi-final. Fitzgibbons said she was happy to have made her third final on the Australian leg of the WQS in 2008.
"Steph is the current world champion and is doing extremely well so it was a privilege and honor to be in the same heat and pick up some tips at the same time. "Just watching the way she surfs is awesome – there's always something to learn from the world's best... It's a dream of mine to be on the world tour like her," Fitzgibbons said. "Steph got two good waves early on and I knew I had to do something big but I couldn't get the waves so unfortunately she got me... I am going over to Margaret River and it is going to be my first time competing in WA so it'll be great to get the experience and have some fun as well."
FINAL 1st: Stephanie Gilmore, AUS 2nd: Sally Fitzgibbons, AUS
SEMI 1 1st: Stephanie Gilmore, AUS 2nd: Rosanne Hodge, ZAF
SEMI 2 1st: Sally Fitzgibbons, AUS 2nd: Alana Blanchard, HAW
QUARTER 1 1st: Stephanie Gilmore, AUS 2nd: Rebecca Woods, AUS
QUARTER 2 1st: Rosanne Hodge, ZAF 2nd: Megan Abubo, HAW
QUARTER 3 1st: Alana Blanchard, HAW 2nd: Bruna Schmitz, BRA
QUARTER 4 1st: Sally Fitzgibbons, AUS 2nd: Jessi Miley-Dyer, AUS