STEPHANIE Gilmore (AUS), 22, reigning and three-time ASP Women's World Champion, remains on track for her fourth consecutive ASP Women's World Title after defeating world no.2 Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 19, to triumph in the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic in Sydney, Australia today, April 26 2010.
In a thrilling climax to event number four of the 2010 ASP Women's World Tour, Gilmore came from behind to win, showing experience and patience in building 4-6ft (1.5-metre waves) at the host venue of Dee Why.
Following four consecutive lay days, the world-class Dee Why point break delivered the ultimate finale, churning out high-scoring, quality waves and a massive 2000-plus crowd for the world's top female surfers.
Gilmore has now won three of the four events she has contested this year after taking victory on the Gold Coast in early March before winning at Bells Beach in the same month.
"It's incredible how good this feels," said Gilmore. "Competing in Australia is one of my favourite things to do. I feel comfortable in these waters and have won this event a few times. I guess I'm on a roll and I'm feeling good."
Queen Gilmore made a perfect start to the 35-minute decider, showing plenty of speed, power and flow to net a 7.00 before Fitzgibbons hit back to take the lead for the majority of the final.
With just under five minutes remaining and holding wave priority, Gilmore jagged a set wave, throwing out a mix of powerful, top-to-bottom manoeuvres with seamless transitions to take the win with a 7.20 and claim her third Beachley Classic title.
"The conditions were really deteriorating throughout the day so I'm glad we got the final finished relatively early," said Gilmore. "I was pretty nervous throughout the final. Sally (Fitzgibbons) has been on fire all week and she really has a good local support base in Sydney. She's so hungry for a win. But it was all about patience and I just had to sit there and wait for a wave of consequence."
Gilmore, who won the Beachley Classic as a wildcard four years ago and then as a world tour rookie a year later, finished with a two-wave combined total of 14.20 (out of a possible 20) to Fitzgibbon's 12.40 total.
Gilmore claimed 1200 ratings points and the richest prize cheque of the ASP Women's World Tour - US$20,000, as well as ensuring she maintains her stranglehold on the world no.1 ranking heading into the fifth event of the ASP Women's World Tour season, which kicks off at Lobitos, Peru on June 5.
Fitzgibbon picked up 972 ratings points and US$10,000 for second place, her second runner-up finish in the past two events.
Fitzgibbon has also cemented herself in no.2 on the ratings after a solid start to the 2010 season, building on an equal 5th on Gold Coast in March, and an equal third at Bells Beach before a runner-up finish in New Zealand a fortnight ago.
"It's a little frustrating to get back-to-back seconds," said Fitzgibbons. "But I'm so happy to be in the situation to reach the final and eventually go down to Steph (Gilmore). I'm happy with the result, but am looking forward to the next event."
Despite a runner-up finish, Fitzgibbons remains upbeat with her ASP world no.2 status.
"Being world no.2 is a great place to be at this stage of the year," said Fitzgibbons. "I haven't been this high on the rankings before, but I'm definitely closer to where I want to be."
Defending Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic champion Silvana Lima (BRA), 25, finished with an equal third-place finish after falling to Gilmore 11.23 to 16.84 in the opening semi-final.
Lima said she was happy to post her best result of the season, despite losing to Gilmore in a repeat of last year's Beachley Classic final.
"I didn't get any good waves, but I'm still so happy," said Lima, who collected US$7,500 and 756 ratings points for her equal third-place finish. "I've finished equal 5th in the first three events, so it's a good result for me. I want to build on this in the next tournament."
Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 26, 2004 ASP Women's World Champion, was the other third-place finisher after she was pipped in the last minute in the second semi-final 10.17 to Fitzgibbon's 11.97.
Mulanovich held the lead for the majority of the low-scoring semi-final, before Fitzgibbons netted a set wave in the last minute to post a semi-winning 7.00.
"It's always good to make the semi-finals," said Mulanovich. "I'm just stoked to be on the Northern Beaches, I've always loved Sydney. I would have loved to make the final, but that's how it goes sometimes."
Post semi-final, Mulanovich said she's now focusing on the next stop of the ASP Women's Women's World Tour event in Peru.
"I love surfing at home, it's my favourite place in the world, said Mulanovich. "I kind of want to go backside again. I can't wait to get home."
The Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic is the richest women's prize purse of $118,000, making it the most lucrative of the eight stops of the 2010 ASP Women's World Tour.
The Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic will run from April 21 through 26, 2010 and will be webcast LIVE via www.beachleyclassic.com
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com