RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Wednesday, September 3, 2008) - The ASP Top 17 will return to Brazil this coming week to prepare for the Billabong Girls Pro Rio, event No 4 of 8 on the 2008 ASP Women's World Tour, and with the race for the ASP Women's World Title in full swing, the performance levels are sure to be heightened in the playful beachbreaks of Barra de Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 20, reigning ASP Women's World Champion and current ratings leader on the 2008 ASP Women's World Tour, is back on top following last week's victory in France and is eager to keep the momentum going at the Billabong Girls Pro Rio.
"I had a bit of a stumble at the start of the season at home but I've come good the last two events and I'm looking forward to next week's event in Brazil," Gilmore said. "I've never been to Rio before so I'm excited to see what the city is like and I've heard they have some pretty good sandbanks there so hopefully we get some swell and have a good event."
Gilmore, who made ASP History last season as the youngest-ever and only rookie to ever claim an ASP World Title, is keen to defend her crown in 2008, but the prodigious natural-footer is focusing on the competition in Brazil before worrying about the title.
"I'm not really thinking too far ahead of myself at the moment but rather taking it heat by heat and event by event," Gilmore said. "All the girls on tour surf well and anyone can be a threat. I think Sofia (Mulanovich) will be out for a bit of redemption in Brazil and Layne (Beachley) is hungry for a win and I know Silvana (Lima) will have the hometown support so it's really anyone's game."
Gilmore will battle lethal Hawaiian Melanie Bartels, 26, and the winner of this week's ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) 4-Star event in Rio this week in the opening round when competition commences.
Layne Beachley (AUS), 36, has enjoyed improving results all season, beginning with a 5th on the Gold Coast followed by a 3rd at Bells before securing a runner-up finish in France to rocket up to her current position at ASP Women's World No. 3.
"I'm looking forward to fulfilling the natural progression of things and reaching the winner's podium in Brazil," Beachley said. "I can think of no better place to do this as my last professional victory was in Brazil in 2006. I'm very excited to get back to Rio as I think I'm the only girl on tour who has ever competed there."
Beachley will face veteran Hawaiian Megan Abubo (HAW), 30, and 2008 Dream Tour rookie Karina Petroni (USA), 20, in Round 1 of the Billabong Girls Pro Rio.
The waiting period for the 2008 Billabong Girls Pro Rio runs from September 10 - 18, 2008.
The Billabong Girls Pro Rio will be webcast LIVE via www.billabongpro.com/rio08
Current ASP Women's World Tour Ratings:
1 - Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 2760 points
2 - Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 2532 points
3 - Layne Beachley (AUS) 2280 points
4 - Samantha Cornish (AUS) 2076 points
5 - Amee Donohoe (AUS) 2064 points
6 - Silvana Lima (BRA) 1476 points
7 - Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS) 1284 points
8 - Rebecca Woods (AUS) 1272 points
8 - Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 1272 points
10 - Megan Abubo (HAW) 1092 points
10 - Julia De La Rosa Toro (PER) 1092
12 - Rosanne Hodge (ZAF) 1080 points
12 - Nicola Atherton (AUS) 1080 points
14 - Melanie Bartels (HAW) 912 points
14 - Claire Bevilacqua (AUS) 912 points *
16 - Melanie Redman-Carr (AUS) 900
16 - Karina Petroni (USA) 900 points
16 - Serena Brooke (AUS) 900 points
* First replacement on ASP Women's World Tour.