Stephanie Gilmore determined to return
SIX-times world professional champion Stephanie Gilmore vows to return to the WSL women's world tour and chase the 2015 world title despite being sidelined from the past three events after an injury free-surfing in Western Australia.
Gilmore fractured her left knee, which is her back leg in surfing stance, the one you put all the weight on when you plant your back foot over the fins to do the biggest turns possible with buckets of spray to impress the judges.
"It's been a bummer to miss the last three events but I don't think it's impossible to win a world title," said the ever-happy Gilmore, putting on a brave face for a live webcast interview during the Fijian event number five on the WSL tour.
Gilmore has missed Brazil and Fiji and has accepted that those two events will be her throwaways, not counted towards her best eight results from 10 events total.
"It will be hard to chase the girls and I need to go better than the quarter-finals in the remaining events to catch up," said Gilmore.
She started the year with two runner-up positions behind two-times Hawaiian world champion Carissa Moore but now finds herself in eighth position on the rankings and 15,000 points behind Moore, the ratings leader.
"It's a challenge," said a determined Steph. "I like a challenge and I will definitely be back for the US Open at Huntington Beach, California, in July and Trestles in September."
Gilmore has not stood up on her board since the injury in April and has been trying to rest her leg, but that's not in the makeup of one of the greatest world women's champions ever.
"It's been hard to stay off my leg and rest, but I have been enjoying my time at home, working on trying to get full range of movement and eating good foods," said the smiling champ who quipped she's been getting some funny looks surfing on a bodyboard.
Meanwhile, a busted eardrum and a heavily bandaged head did not stop defending Fiji champion Sally Fitzgibbons from taking her first win of the year at Cloudbreak, Tavarua.
"All those years of training and that mental strength really helped me, just knowing that you've got it in you," Fitzgibbons said. "I really like connecting with the ocean out in Fiji.
"It's got so much power and it's the biggest challenge.
"It threw me around a couple of times but I just told myself to relax, you only need one ear, so it's okay!"
The WSL women's tour is at the halfway mark and Gilmore concedes that the girls have a huge head-start on her. But I reckon the 2014 world champ will be itching to get back into the swing of things. Once Steph returns there will be fireworks.
"Prior to the injury I felt I was surfing at a whole new level compared to last year. I feel strong and fit and it's not impossible to come back," she said.
And while Hawaii's Moore was dominating the first four events so far this year to set up a runaway lead, like last year she suffered her worst result at Fiji, an equal ninth, to have her lead pegged back by California's Courtney Conlogue, who like the Hawaiian has had back-to-back wins this year but dropped the ball in the Fiji quarters.
Only 900 points separate the two frontrunners, leaving the door slightly ajar for Sally in third and the other challengers like Steph.