De Souza, Wright win 2017 WSL Oi Rio Pro
Making a charge in Rio
The WSL Championship Tour season is heating up and the world title race is starting to get very interesting. In the fourth contest of the 2017 season, the Oi Rio Pro in Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Adriano De Souza and Tyler Wright stormed the podium, taking first in the men's and women's divisions, respectfully. Both are now well positioned to make a charge at the title going into the second half of the season.
Back in the game
"It has been a while since I have stepped onto the podium," said De Souza, who won the world title in 2015. "But, I have been working for so long to be here. I am so grateful for all the support, especially all the fans here in Brazil. You can count on me because I am back in the game."
For the women, Tyler Wright continues to set a brutal pace. Winning the Rio Pro, she's now tied with rival and former six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore. "It is sick to be sharing the Jeep Leader Jersey with Steph," said Wright after the final. "It is going to be a good year. It has always been a part of my plan after the Australian leg to be in this position. I am feeling really good. It is cool to be working on stuff over the last year and put it into action."
The one to beat
Blitzing by France's Johanne Defay in the final, Wright has established herself as the one to beat going into the back half of the WSL season. "This has been a good week," said Wright. "I've put in a massive block of work before I came over, making sure that my backhand was where it needed to be. It is cool to be able to focus on performance and what I've actually got to do. I am psyched on that."
"I've really enjoyed myself here in Saquarema," said Ace Buchan, who finished runner-up to De Souza for his best result of the year. "I think the surfing we've seen in the last ten days has been incredible and has shown the world that Brazil has great waves and incredible surfers. Brazilians do beach culture better than everyone else. I am looking forward to coming back next year. It was really special to have a Final with Adriano. He is an amazing role model for all the young Brazilian surfers and I just want to say a huge congratulations to him."
Excited for Fiji
"The waves have been so much fun and I think everyone enjoyed being here. It was so good and I am happy with my performance," said a gracious Defay. "Thank you to everyone for all of your support. I am excited for Fiji."
Brazilian wildcard Yago Dora blew minds in Rio this year. With a lethal combination of turns and airs, he made it all the way to the semifinals before his run came to an end. "I want to get on tour next year," Dora said. "I am learning a lot at this event and it is helping my confidence. I feel like I am more ready with every heat. Both Gabriel Medina and Mick Fanning are my idols and to beat them is amazing."
A real contender
South Africa's Jordy Smith continues to make his presence felt on tour. Sitting less than 400 points behind John John Florence for the ratings lead, this could very well be the year that he puts it all together and wins his world title. There's still a long way to go, but more and more he's looking like a real contender.
Relative unknown emerges
Australia's Nikki Van Dijk has gone from relative unknown to sitting sixth in the world. If she can capitalize on her third place finish in Rio, she's looking like a long-shot dark horse to throw the world title race into flux.
Great surprises in store
After a second place finish on the Gold Coast to start the year, Matty Wilkinson stumbled through the rest of the Australian leg. Hitting reset in Rio, he made the semifinals to slingshot himself into the Top 5. The back half of the season has historically given him trouble, but as he proved last year, he's capable of a great many surprises.