(ATR) French surfers Pauline Ado and Johanne Defay thrilled the Biarritz surfing community winning gold and silver medals in the women’s competition at the World Surfing Games.
Ado’s two best wave scores totaled 12.17 ahead of Defay’s 10.43. Four ladies took turns riding their shortboards in the 25-minute final on a pleasant morning at Grande Plage.
The 26-year-old French surfer from nearby Hendaye cruised to her first World Surfing Games title in her fourth appearance at the signature event.
"I’m super happy, I’ve been targeting this title for a lot of years," Ado said shortly after her victory, while being swarmed by French media.
"To see all those familiar faces, there was a bit of pressure, but I could feel the rhythm and with all the crowd it was more like extra energy, than pressure in the end," Ado said.
Ado said she is greatly anticipating surfing making its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020.
"Obviously, I’m hoping to make the team for Tokyo, but three years is still a long time ahead," said the French surfing champion. "It’s a dream to be in the Olympics.
"It’s an exciting time for the sport," she added. "Even here, there are new surfing countries in the event. It’s growing all over the world and it’s amazing to see."
Two-hundred and forty-five male and female surfers from 47 countries are competing in Biarritz, which has been called Europe’s "California of surfing."
France, Brazil and many non-traditional surfing countries were represented by their top surfers but pros from other premier surfing nations skipped the event opting for a World Surfing League qualifier in Japan.
As opposed to the jam-packed Grand Plage for the opening weekend preliminary rounds, crowds were relatively sparse for the Monday morning final, which started at 9 a.m. However, French surfers, team staff, friends and family enthusiastically cheered on Ado and Defay, waving French flags in the Biarritz breeze.
Leilani McGonacle of Costa Rica captured the bronze medal, while South African veteran Bianca Buitendag was fourth.
Buitendag said she is ecstatic that surfing has gone Olympic, but it’s still a long time away.
"I don’t think people realize how huge this is for us," Buitendag said, while on the beach shortly after the competition. "The announcement last year made the whole [of] surfing celebrate together.
"I just hope that the qualification works out that the best surfers are there.
"We’ve never had the Olympic experience before, so we don’t necessarily know how to prepare because it’s such a long term goal.
"When 2020 comes, I think we’ll be ready."
Written and reported in Biarritz by Brian Pinelli
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