Tyler Wright has taken out the Rio Pro to surge to the top of the World Surf League rankings, the Aussie stepping up her world title bid with her third win from the opening four events.
Having won on the Gold Coast and Margaret River during the Australian leg of the tour, Wright held on to defeat Sally Fitzgibbons by 2.76 points in an all-Australian final in Rio.
Wright set up the victory with her opening ride, a combination of major turns producing a score of 8.67 to establish a lead she never relinquished.
She added 4.43-point ride to her combination to deny Fitzgibbons what would have been her third victory in Rio, with Wright now enjoying a 3000-point lead in the rankings ahead of American Courtney Conlogue.
“I think it’s just the best I’ve ever felt full stop,” Wright said. “Over the past six months so many different things have happened and it’s kind of given me a bit of perspective and the way I want to run my career and surf my heats.”
Fitzgibbons, who defeated Hawaii’s world champion Carissa Moore in the semis to book her fifth finals appearance in Brazil, made a late charge with a 7.17-point ride with 10 minutes left in the final.
But she couldn’t land a knockout punch to steal victory.
“That was one almighty challenge that final,” Fitzgibbons said.
“I think I’ve got so much sand in my ears and my nose and water but it was a great effort by Tyler and a huge congratulations.
“I was hoping for one more at the end, I could really feel that win. I put myself back in contention and I really loved the challenged today, but it’s Tyler’s day, so good on her.”
Fitzgibbons, who also finished as a runner-up at Bells Beach, leapfrogged fellow Aussie Steph Gilmore into fifth-place in the rankings, with the six-time world champion registering her fourth straight quarter-final finish after being eliminated by Moore.