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Surf: Courtney Conlogue claims maiden WCT victory over Malia Manuel

Winning events is nothing new for 19-year-old California native Courtney Conlogue. But her first-ever WCT victory won’t ever be forgotten.

“I’m speechless right now!” Conlogue said. “It’s been two years on Tour where I kept losing in the quarterfinals. Then today after winning my quarterfinal I just tried to go and win the thing. Malia was surfing great in the final, even though the waves were tricky. I’m really stoked to have won this event! I love Steph and Sally and to have them chair me up the beach was absolutely amazing!”

Conlogue has won multiple ASP 6-Star events but her feat at Syndey’s Dee Why sees her jump to 4th on the ratings. Conlogue and Manuel battled through the stacked field of competitors to reach the final. The dying swell made conditions difficult, but Conlogue found the best waves that allowed her to execute multiple powerful turns.

Manuel’s run to the final wasn’t easy, defeating Gilmore and Tyler Wright in the morning’s quarterfinal and semifinal. Manuel’s smooth style and tail-drifting turns saw her earn big scores and new fans all event. Her red-hot run was only ended by Conlogue’s superior wave selection. Manuel is now rated equal-6th and she is now the highest ranked 2012 rookie.

“I’m really relieved to get a good result here at Dee Why,” Manuel said. “I’m happy to move up the ratings. It’s a great confidence boost going into the next three events. I’m really stoked to make a final in my rookie year. I hope the battle for Rookie Of The Year goes down to the last contest. It’s really close between Lakey and I and I’m not going to count her out.”

Rebecca Woods and Wright were the highest-placed Australian surfers, both finishing equal-3rd. Wright has placed 3rd three times this year, but this is Woods’ best result of the 2012 season and is sure to help her requalification campaign.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling at the moment,” Woods said. “I’ve had a few last places this year, so in some regards I was just happy to put it together for a few heats. I’ve made about nine semifinals in my life and still never made it into that elusive final. It’s good to be pushed by the younger girls. I woke up this morning and thought Courtney was going to win today, then she was on my side of the draw and I cursed myself for putting that in my head. Then she beat me and won the contest, so I was right.”

Gilmore suffered a shock early exit at the Beachley Classic. She’s had three final appearances in the first three events of the year, and today added a respectable equal-5th place finish to her tally. In testing conditions Gilmore was bested by an in-form Manuel, who also defeated her in their non-elimination Round 3 match-up yesterday.

“It’s disappointing,” Gilmore said. “But it’s not a terrible result for me. I feel really strong. When there are great waves on offer I feel like I’m surfing great. It’s just a matter of getting those waves and I didn’t get them today. I’m looking forward to heading over to Brazil and finding the form I had in the first few events.”

Fitzgibbons went down in the quarterfinals to eventual event winner Conlogue. Fitzgibbons held an early lead with two mid-range scores, but Conlogue snared the best wave of the heat and tore it apart with some impressive turns, netting a 9.00 and won the heat.

“This is the worst part about what we do,” Fitzgibbons said. “Today I just wasn’t good enough. When you’re feeling strong, you really want to progress through to that Final. I got some early scores and it was really challenging out there. That one wave popped up for Courtney and she grabbed a 9.00, which is the highest score of the day. I’m really happy for her. She’s a good friend and she trains and surfs really hard and that paid off today.”

1: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.17
2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.56

SF 1: Malia Manuel (HAW) 12.67 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 10.50
SF 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.33 def. Rebecca Woods (AUS) 10.10

QF 1: Tyler Wright (AUS) 14.43 def. Laura Enever (AUS) 12.50
QF 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.00 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.47
QF 3: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 11.73 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 8.73
QF 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.97 def. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.34

CURRENT ASP WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TOUR TOP 6 (after the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic):
1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
3: Tyler Wright (AUS)
4: Courtney Conlogue (USA)
5: Carissa Moore (HAW)
6: Laura Enever (AUS)
6: Malia Manuel (HAW)

(via release)

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