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Billabong pro Cory Lopez wins over CJ Hobgood

Photo / Tostee...................................Winner Cory Lopez and runner up CJ Hobgood .



Billabong Pro Teahupoo (May 8-19)

ASP 2001 World Championship Tour (WCT)

Teahupoo, Tahiti (Tuesday, May 15th, 2001). World number 14 Cory Lopez (USA) today defeated fellow Floridian CJ Hobgood to win the Billabong Pro Teahupoo event. By amassing the day’s highest points, he earned his first WCT victory, collected US$30,000 prizemoney and jumped to the top of the current ASP ratings.

Conditions at Teahupoo remained 4-5 foot (1.5m) throughout the day, with strong wind and rainsqualls occasionally affecting the otherwise perfectly hollow waves. Competition commenced with round four this morning, ran through the quarter and semifinals, before climaxing during the 2001 grand finale.

Lopez, 24, began the 35-minute decider playing catch-up. After allowing Hobgood to catch the first good wave despite holding priority, he was immediately under pressure since his close friend was awarded a near perfect 9-point ride. He answered back with three consecutive high scores, however, and from then dominated. A last minute effort from his opponent narrowed the gap, but it proved too little to late.

Having made a name for himself at Teahupoo during the 1999 tournament by committing himself to one of the deadliest waves ever attempted, today’s performance and ultimate result further vindicated Lopez’s legend at the infamous reef break. He overcame Kalani Robb (Haw) first up, then Shane Powell (Aus) in the quarters, before ending the run of Flavio Padaratz (Brz) to reach his first final since 1998. After claiming the title, he was clearly in disbelief.

“It doesn’t even feel real yet,Ebegan Lopez on the media boat, with a cold Tahitian Hinano beer in hand. “It’s like a dream. A one-day whirlwind that started in the 9th (place) round and then I made the final and won. I can’t believe it. I’ve been waiting five years for a victory and finally got one. I’m stoked, especially here at Teahupoo, as it’s got the most prestige, right up there with Pipeline (Hawaiian event).

“It started off with me letting a wave go by and CJ got a 9.0, so I was a little mad about that,Ehe laughed, in retrospect. “Luckily I came back and got an 8.4, and then another 8.4, and then an 8.25 all in a row. Those were my three waves, and it only took about six minutes to get them. I was freaking out when he got that good barrel at the end and came out, but luckily when the scores were read out he had a 7.35 and needed an 8.56. That’s when it hit me.

“Taking the ratings lead is a first for me, but it’s only the second event of the year and we have six more to go,Ehe said of his newfound position. “I hope I can keep on a roll and hold it out. There’s a ways to go, so we’ll see how it goes through Brazil, J-Bay (SAfr) and Europe. It might make me focus a little more and do some stretches and pre-psych for the events. For sure I’m psyched and ready to go.Ep>

World number seven Hobgood, 21, had been in devastating form all day. Disposing of Andy Irons (Haw) in round four, then ‘JocaEJunior (Brz) in the quarters, he went up against 1999 world and event champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) to post revenge for their Teahupoo final two years ago. Once past ‘OccyEhe seemed destined to win, but again was forced to accept runner up slot. Nonetheless, the result sees him second on the current ratings.

“Another year another second (place),Elaughed Hobgood afterward. “I gave it all I had. Cory’s a good friend and seriously, besides my brother (fellow WCT surfer Damien Hobgood) I couldn’t think of another person I’d be stoked to see win it. And after the performance Cory put on that one year (1999), he deserves like three of these. I made it close at the end, so that was good for everyone watching.

“I was trying to put my arm as far as I could in that wave to get as deep as I could,Ehe explained of his last ride. “If I would have gotten more love from it, I may have earned the score. It didn’t happen, but I can’t tell you how stoked I am. I love the people here and we owe them a lot for them opening up this wave to us. There’s not many of these left in the world.

“I still think I’m the underdog even if I’m high on the ratings. There’s no pressure on me. I just want to be in the hunt toward he end of the year, so if I can do that I’ll be stoked. I still think the older guys are the ones who should win it (the world title), so I’m just going to taking it contest by contest.Ep>

Finishing equal third today in the Billabong Pro Teahupoo were Padaratz and Occhilupo. The 30-year-old Brazilian trailed Lopez throughout their match, needing a 9.66 score at the end. He now sits equal third on the current ratings, and with the next WCT venue in his homeland; plenty of eyes will be focused on him.

“Even though it was a really good result for me for the points and everything, I sort of missed out with wave selection,Eexplained Padaratz. “I’m happy, though. Back home there’s a lot of expectations on me and to deal with that is very hard. I’ve been doing a lot of mental training with my trainer, and that’s been helping a lot.

Occhilupo, 34, seemed unstoppable after convincingly eliminating world champion Sunny Garcia (Haw) in the fourth round and then Guilherme Herdy (Brz) the next. Despite losing an extremely close battle to Hobgood, the 1999 champ was still thrilled with his result and about being equal third on the ratings.

“It was a great semi,Esaid Occhilupo. “I thought he had me pretty much the whole way, and then I broke my board. I hadn’t ridden the new board yet, but a really good wave came and I got a 9.0. I couldn’t believe I’d actually come back. At that point I thought I had it, as there was only a few minutes to go, but then another wave came. I didn’t think it was going to be enough for him, but CJ was that determined to beat me he just bulldogged his way through that barrel and got the score. I take my hat off to him.

“Teahupoo’s been so good to me,Ehe added. “I’ve won, and never not made the semis. It’s a real good build for the tour. I’ve had a 9th and a 3rd (this year). I’m gradually getting better and am really psyched now. I’ll go home and train really look forward to the next event.Ep>

Garcia, 31, never really looked in contention against ‘OccyE losing by a massive margin and slipping further down the current ratings into eighth.

“All I can say is I’m happy I’m going home to my wife,Esaid Garcia after the loss. “When it comes down to luck, you can either laugh or you cry. Right now I’m looking at the good side. Going home to my wife, sleeping in a nice warm bed, an air-conditioned room and I’ll have cable TV.Ep>
CLICK HERE FOR THE PHOTO AND IMAGE GALLERY

Official Results Of The Billabong Pro Teahupoo Final Day

1st Cory Lopez (USA) 25.05 - US$30,000

2nd CJ Hobgood (USA) 23.85 - US$16,000

Semifinals (losers finish equal 3rd; US$10,000)

SF1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 24.5 def. Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 24.0

SF2: Cory Lopez (USA) 21.75 def. Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 17.35

Quarterfinals (losers finish equal 5th; US$8,000)

QF1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 22.4 def. Joca Junior (Brz) 13.35

QF2: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 22.4 def. Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 14.9

QF3: Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 19.9 def. Richie Lovett (Aus) 13.75

QF4: Cory Lopez (USA) 24.6 def. Shane Powell (Aus) 22.15

Round Four (losers finish equal 9th; US$5,000)

H1: Joca Junior (Brz) 17.0 def. Renan Rocha (Brz) 10.9

H2: CJ Hobgood (USA) 24.75 def. Andy Irons (Haw) 6.65

H3: Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 17.15 def. Shea Lopez (USA) 16.25

H4: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 18.75 def. Sunny Garcia (Haw) 7.0

H5: Richie Lovett (Aus) 23.0 def. Bruce Irons (Haw) 18.25

H6: Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 14.75 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 7.35

H7: Shane Powell (Aus) 17.5 def. Shane Dorian (Haw) 6.75

H8: Cory Lopez (USA) 24.75 def. Kalani Robb (Haw) 13.5

Information: www.aspworldtour.com and www.billabong.com

Jesse Faen : jesse@aspworldtour.com

Billabong : Mandy McKinnon : Mandymac@ozemail.com.au

Photographer:pierre@tostee.com

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