Wright secures outright series lead in Fiji
1 June 2017
SURFING: Australian Tyler Wright has taken the outright lead in the world surfing title race after reaching the Fiji Women's Pro semi-finals.
As main rival and compatriot Stephanie Gilmore faltered with a fourth-round elimination, Wright progressed with wins over Bethany Hamilton and Sage Erickson at Cloudbreak on Wednesday.
But Wright, the defending world champion, narrowly lost to American Courtney Conlogue for a place in the decider.
Australian world No.3 Sally Fitzgibbons also reached the final four and would have claimed the top-ranking previously shared by Wright and Gilmore with victory over Hawaii's Tatiana Weston-Webb.
But Fitzgibbons also fell short in a low-scoring semi-final in tricky, metre-high swell.
Nevertheless, her efforts in Fiji see her leapfrog Gilmore into the world No.2 ranking.
Gilmore, aiming for her seventh world title, lamented being knocked out in the fourth round by Weston-Webb for her worst result of the year.
"It was a tough one. I just couldn't really hit a section confidently. It was weird," Gilmore said.
"It stings at this point in the race but that's what it is.
"It's exciting for the fans, for the sport, for everybody, to have five or six girls in contention for the world title."
Wright, Fitzgibbons and Gilmore each have one tournament victory in 2017 and will remain entrenched in the top-three regardless of the result of the all-American final between Conlogue and Weston-Webb, possibly to be held on Thursday.
In the semi-finals, Conlogue dispatched Wright with a combined score of 8.17 from her two best waves to 7.83.
Fitzgibbons led Weston-Webb before the Hawaiian got the better of conditions late in the heat to take the decisive lead with her last ride.
The elite world surfing tour next heads to California's Huntington Beach in late July.