How rare it is, still, to see women athletes come out and say that they want to win. Those cultural pressure to be nice and smile pretty, they don’t disappear so easily.
I deserted you during Margaret River, for which I am sorry! I hate to let you all down like that.
Let’s get caught up now, shall we?
Thursday begins the waiting period for the Oi Rio Pro at Saquarema beach. The whole Oi Rio combination makes my eyes cross, but I will endeavor to persist. According to the Twitter, forecasts suggest the contest will likely start straight away — though, I do not of course know if it’ll be the seeding round for men or women who start the thing off.
Your guess is as good as mine! We shall have to enjoy the tingle of suspense together.
Did you see the letter Caroline Marks wrote to her future self over at ESPN? It’s the kind of strange magazine conceit that works sometimes. Marks comes across as so endearingly exuberant. She dreams of big-wave riding and landing air reverses consistently in heats.
“I hope you were lucky enough to surf for 20 more years, that injuries and insecurities didn’t stand in your way,” she writes to her future self. “I want to be relentless.”
Based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s no reason to expect she won’t be.
Marks is currently second in the world rankings behind Steph Gilmore. At Margaret River, Marks went down in the quarterfinals to Sally Fitzgibbons, but the beachbreak there at Saquarema beach should suit Marks to perfection. For one thing, we might actually get to see her surf frontside. Weird! But also, probably awesome!
Gilmore won Rio last year after beating Lakey Peterson in the final. No, I didn’t remember that one — I had to look it up, and it came as something of a surprise. I would not have put Gilmore as the winner in Rio. Let that be a lesson never to count out a seven-time world champion. They have a knack for winning things. Thanks to a defeat in the quarterfinals at Margaret River, Gilmore could not improve her lead over Marks. At least, not yet. She’ll be hoping to do that in Rio, natch.
“I didn’t want to lose to her again.” That was the highlight of Peterson’s post-heat interview after she beat Gilmore in the quarterfinals at Margaret River. The two women had met in seven heats previously and Gilmore had won each and every one. No more, said Peterson. We can argue about the scoring — because that’s the kind of thing we do around here — but not about the intention. Peterson came out swinging and swung her way through to winning her first event of the year.
How rare it is, still, to see women athletes come out and say that they want to win. So often it’s all wrapped up in smiles and stoked to be here. Those cultural pressure to be nice and smile pretty, they don’t disappear so easily. But there’s not an elite athlete walking the earth who doesn’t want to win all the marbles.
Refreshingly, Peterson just plain came out and said it. Currently sitting sixth, she has a tough grind to climb back up the rankings. But that victory against Gilmore — and an event win on top of it — has to feel damn good.
Carissa Moore has yet to win an event this season, but she also hasn’t finished below the quarters. She’s right there on the edge of it. A win in Rio could transform her into a world title hopeful. A low finish, well, let’s just say, that wouldn’t help. Her semifinal against Peterson at Margaret River was a close-run thing. Currently, Moore sits third in the rankings, just behind the kid-wonder Marks. A win in Rio would allow Moore to overtake her and wouldn’t that add some spice to the proceedings.
Two potential spoilers sit fourth and fifth: Sally Fitzgibbons and Courtney Conlogue. I am fan of Fitzgibbons this season. She looks stronger than in the past, and it’s done so much good for her surfing. She’s made the semi and final in the past two events. After winning Bells, Conlogue’s not made it past the quarters, but I never want to count her out. Like Peterson, Conlogue can bring the fire.
The world rankings remain close on the women’s side and different surfers have won each event. That’s a good recipe for a fun title race. After Rio comes J-Bay and by then we should see more separations begin to open up.
For now, we can pretend that the game is wide open.
Before I go, how about some Olympics: Steph Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons have a solid lead over Nikki Van Dijk for the two Australian slots. On the US side, Marks and Moore hold the top two slots with Conlogue and Peterson trailing behind them. Both Peterson and Conlogue have their work cut out for them, for sure. A big ask, but nothing’s impossible, not really.
Oh hey Rio, let’s watch some surfing.
Oi Rio Pro Women’s Seeding Round (Round 1) Matchups:
Heat 1: Caroline Marks (USA), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW), Johanne Defay (FRA), Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Taina Hinckel (BRA)
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA), Brisa Hennessy (CRI), Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA). Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 6: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Malia Manuel (HAW), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)