Tyler’s world title defence back on track

BACK-TO-BACK: Tyler Wright won the Oi Rio Women’s Pro for the second straight year, which sees her move back to the top of the world standings. Photo: WSL/POULLENOT

BACK-TO-BACK: Tyler Wright won the Oi Rio Women’s Pro for the second straight year, which sees her move back to the top of the world standings. Photo: WSL/POULLENOT

CULBURRA Beach’s Tyler Wright claimed victory at the Oi Rio Women’s Pro, the fourth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), after defeating France’s Johanne Defay in an intense final at the celebrated Praia de Itaúna in Saquarema.

Wright’s victory at the weekend is her first of the 2017 season and third in Rio de Janeiro (2013, 2016, 2017) - which earns her a place in the record books alongside Australian legend Pauline Menczer for tied wins at this event.

In addition, the feat boosts Wright to the top of the Jeep Leaderboard –  the reigning WSL champion will now share the coveted Jeep Leader Jersey with six-time WSL champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) heading into the OK Fiji Pro.

“It is sick to be sharing the Jeep Leader Jersey with Steph [Gilmore],” Wright said. “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.

“Thanks to everybody –  I also want to wish my mom a Happy Mother’s Day.”

Wright surfed through every heat of the Oi Rio Women’s Pro to defend her event title against a tough field of competitors, including 2017 world title contender Sally Fitzgibbons, from Gerroa, in the semi-finals and Defay in the final.

“This has been a good week,” Wright said.

“The crew is absolutely amazing here at the moment – I have my brother Owen [Wright], Matt [Wilkinson], Laura [Enever], Fletchy [Ryan Fletcher] and Mick [Fanning].

“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.”

The final witnessed the 10th head-to-head matchup between Wright and Defay.

Wright came charging out the gates with a 7.50 (out of a possible 10) on her opening exchange and quickly locked in a near-perfect 9.67 to put the pressure on the Frenchwoman.

Defay fought back with a 7.43 to escape the combination, but was not able to find the 9.74 required to win.

En route to her win, Wright knocked out Fitzgibbons in the second semi-final.

This is the second third place result for Fitzgibbons this year, in addition to her first at Margaret River and fiftth at Bells Beach. Fitzgibbons now sits in third on the Jeep Leaderboard.