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Wildcard Julia Christian eliminates Layne Beachley from Surfing's Billabong Pro Maui


Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawaii - Wildcard Julia Christian (USA) today continued her dream run to eliminate reigning four-time world champion Layne Beachley (Aus) from the Billabong Pro Maui. The final event on the 2002 women’s World Championship Tour (WCT) commenced this morning with the Vespa Trials, in which Christian (USA) secured her position into the proceeding main event. The US$60,000 tournament will decide the 2002 world champion on the next and final day of competition, as well as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion.

Clean 3-4 ft (1-1.3m) surf was on offer at the idyllic location of Honolua Bay throughout the day. Organizers utilized conditions to run as far as the fourth third round heat.

Christian, who dominated five Maui hopefuls this morning to win the Vespa Trials, lost to Beachley in the opening non-elimination round of the main event. The 20-year-old then helped eliminate four-time world champion Lisa Anderson (USA) in the ‘losers’ second round, before meeting Beachley again, head-to-head, in the day’s final, nail-biting third round decider.

Having trailed for the majority of the inconsistent 35-minute clash, the Californian picked off her third and highest scoring ride in the final minutes, posting a heat topping 7.75 score to gain an unmatched lead. After winning the final 4-Star World Qualifying Series (WQS) Turtle Bay Resort event on Oahu only days ago to qualify for the 2003 WCT ranks, today’s results further supports the rising star’s place among the elite.

“This contest I’m just a wildcard, so I figured I’m just going to have fun and surf my best,” said Christian afterward. “I happened to be seeded against Layne and I didn’t really think about it too much before I went out. Lately I’ve just been cruising and the more mellow I’ve been, the better I’ve surfed in my heat, so I’ll try and keep it up.

“That was probably my best wave of the whole contest,” she explained of her final, sealing ride. “I knew it would probably be a good enough score to win the heat, so I was stoked. The waves have been insane all day and it’s been nice surfing a WCT with just one other person in the water. I’m enjoying it.”

Beachley, who dominated her opening heat against Christian, appeared to have the situation in control once more this afternoon. Despite falling on a good first wave, she quickly secured the lead and held it ‘til for the majority. After her opponents’ final ride took charge, however, she ultimately required another worth 6.51-points.

“Honestly, I’m numb right now with shock and disappointment,” said Beachley after the defeat. “It’s frustrating, as I fell on my first wave and that’s what lost me the heat. If you want to win heats and world titles you can’t fall, and I fell.

“I don’t know what to think,” she added, of the upcoming final day of competition. “I don’t know whether I want to stay and watch it, or go home and get away. I’m so bitterly disappointed in myself right now. When it comes down to being able to win or lose a world title on one wave in one heat, it’s pretty disappointing. It’s out of my hands now and I don’t like the feel of it.”

The 30-year-old still leads the race for the 2002 world title, which would mark a record-breaking fifth, if clinched. Ratings runner-up Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus) needs a runner-up finish or better in the Billabong Pro Maui now to pass her, while both #3 Lynette MacKenzie (Aus) and #4 Keala Kennelly (Haw) can claim the 2002 crown by winning this final tournament at Honolua Bay.

Kennelly, who fought her way back from a first round loss this morning, went on to win both her second and then third round matches this afternoon. The Hawaiian faced her greatest challenge against defending two-time consecutive Billabong Pro Maui champion Neridah Falconer (Aus) in their clash, and while it was extremely close, the 24-year-old kept her chances alive with a series of critical backhand re-entries.

“Super close and super tough,” admitted Kennelly afterward. “I was nervous going into it just knowing how good Neridah is out here, especially with her track record. It’s kind of like her pet event, but I was lucky with the priority today.

“I hate losing in front of my dad too, so that was motivation just there,” she added, since her father was on the headland watching. “I’m not putting any pressure on myself, so we’ll what happens. Anything is possible.”

Redman-Carr, who finished runner-up to Maria Tavares (Brz) this morning, will contest the first heat when competition commences. She’ll meet 2002 World Qualifying Series (WQS) winner Pauline Menczer (Aus), who defeated fellow Australian and current #3 MacKenzie this morning.

“I’m fairly relaxed,” said Redman-Carr, of her world title prospects. “I pretty much have to win the event, so it’s dependant on a lot of factors and I haven’t got myself worked up over it.”

Current #9 Rochelle Ballard (Haw) dominated both her heats today. Against Serena Brooke (Aus) in their third round decider, the Hawaiian waited at the start as her opponent took the lead, but patience paid off for the 31-year-old with an incredible double-barrel ride on her first wave, scoring the best single score of the tournament for a near-perfect 9.8. Combined with another 7.75 ride, her two-wave tally of 17.55-points was the highest of the day. Despite suffering strained quad muscles in her right leg, she dominated the 35-minute exchange, with the loss further equating in Brooke’s failure to re-qualify for the 2003 WCT ranks.

“Serene is one of my favorite surfers, so it was actually one of the most emotional heats I’ve had in my life,” acknowledged Ballard. “I felt bad for winning, since she hasn’t qualified for the WCT. It’s a shame to see such an incredible surfer like her not make it, but at the same time it felt good to go out and do what I needed to do. I just felt really blessed out there today.

“I didn’t think it was going to do it at first,” she continued, of her 9.8. “I just tucked up into it, as it was a high-line barrel. Before I even had a chance to come out, the next one was setting up and snuck out of it. I was pretty happy (laughs).”

Jacqueline Silva (Brz) was another standout today, posting a 9.5 in her first heat where she finished runner-up to Ballard, and then edging out Samantha Cornish (Aus) in round three. The Brazilian opened her account strongly with another high scoring 8.5, and while her Australian opponent came within the closest of margins on her final wave with a 7.9 score, her run ended there.

“I did good in my heats today,” admitted Silva. “Samantha’s last wave was really close, but I tried to do my best and stay calm. The sets were inconsistent, but I’m happy I made the next round and hope to make a good result here. This wave is a perfect right and I love surfing on my forehand.”

Four-time world champion Lisa Andersen (USA) bowed out of the Billabong Pro Maui, as well as the 2003 WCT ranks today, by losing both her first and second round heats. The Floridian, rated 14th leading into the tournament, paddled into her last wave hoping to move into second position and progress against Kennelly and Christian, put fell attempting a floater and only scored a 1.1. After an illustrious career, chances are the mother of two will only surf in select events in the future.

Official results of the Billabong Pro Maui Round three (1st>quarterfinals; 2nd=9th receives US$2,500)
H1: Keala Kennelly (Haw) 14.74 def. Neridah Falconer (Aus) 14.4
H2: Rochelle Ballard (Haw) 17.55 def. Serena Brooke (Aus) 12.25
H3: Jacqueline Silva (Brz) 15.75 def. Samantha Cornish (Aus) 15.65
H4: Julia Christian (USA) 14.0 def. Layne Beachley (Aus) 13.3

Round two (1st/2nd>Rnd3; 3rd=17th receives US$2,000)
H1: Keala Kennelly (Haw) 13.5; Julia Christian (USA) 11.25; Lisa Andersen (USA) 8.4
H2: Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 17.25; Megan Abubo (Haw) 16.65; Prue Jeffries (Aus) 10.0

Round one (1st/2nd>Rnd3; 3rd>Rnd2)
H1: Rochelle Ballard (Haw) 15.5; Silva Jacqueline (Brz) 14.75; Lisa Andersen (USA) 11.0
H2: Amee Donohoe (Aus) 13.9; Samantha Cornish (Aus) 12.85; Keala Kennelly (Haw) 12.4
H3: Layne Beachley (Aus) 16.75; Serena Brooke (Aus) 13.4; Julia Christian (USA) 11.75
H4: Maria Tavares (Brz) 11.35; Melanie Carr-Redman (Aus) 11.25; Prue Jeffries (Aus) 9.75
H5: Pauline Menczer (Aus) 14.9; Lynette Mackenzie (Aus) 12.0; Megan Abubo (Haw) 7.1
H6: Neridah Falconer (Aus) 15.65; Heather Clark (SAfr) 14.6; Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) 12.4

Upcoming round three heats in the Billabong Pro Maui (1st>quarterfinals; 2nd=9th receives US$2,500)
H5: Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus) vs. Pauline Menczer (Aus)
H6: Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) vs. Megan Abubo (Haw)
H7: Heather Clark (SAfr) vs. Maria Tavares (Brz)
H8: Lynette MacKenzie (Aus) vs. Amee Donohoe (Aus)

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