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SA’s Smith bounces back from back injury to place second at Bells Beach
- Updated: April 4, 2016
South Africa’s Jordy Smith posted his best result at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach when he finished runner-up to Australian Matt Wilkinson in pumping 2-3 metre waves at the iconic venue in the Australian State of Victoria on Sunday.
The second stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is the longest-running annual surf event in the world and today proved nothing short of historic with Wilkinson’s victory being the first for a goofy-footer at Bells Beach in 17 years (last won by Mark Occhilupo in 1998).
The final showcased Wilkinson and Smith exchanging huge scores as each battled to hold the lead. Wilkinson unleashed his strong backhand to deliver vertical snaps, earning him a 9.20 and an 8.17, challenging Smith to find two new scores at the halfway point. Smith finished with a 14.16 two-wave combined score, but it was not enough to beat Wilkinson’s total of 17.37.
After suffering a string of injuries in 2015, Smith’s performance at Bells puts his WSL Title campaign back on track. Although he experienced an early Round 2 loss at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast last month, he made a major comeback by defeating Australians Adam Melling and Kai Otten, Caio Ibelli (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF) and posting a first victory at Bells over three-time WSL Champion and four-time event winner Mick Fanning (AUS) on his way to the Final.
‘Last year I had a back injury and struggled through it, but I am glad to make the Final here today,’ Smith said. ‘This year was a little different for me at Bells. I did not have my expectations so high, and I wanted to put on a good performance and surf my best. I am just trying to put my head down and do the best surfing I can and work as hard as I can.’
The result sees Smith vault to No3 on the Jeep rankings heading into the third stop on the Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour – the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro – which starts in Western Australia on Friday.
Following a win at the opening stop of the season on the Gold Coast, Wilkinson has gone back-to-back to start the year with this emphatic victory and now holds a points total that is more than double his nearest challenger.
Courtney Conlogue (USA) won the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach on Friday, defeating two-former event winner Sally Fitzgibbons in the Final and taking over the Jeep ranking’s leader’s yellow jersey heading into Margaret River.
Smith’s fellow South African, Bianca Buitendag, caused an upset by relegating six-time WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia to Round 2 in the opening round encounter.
But the 22 year-old from Victoria Bay was narrowly outpointed by Alessa Quizon in Round 4 and ended her Bells Beach campaign in ninth place overall, slipping to No11 in the rankings.