The Philippines’ Nilbie Blancada got into a showdown with one of the world’s best surfers and lost on points during her final run in the women’s division’s fourth repechage round on Day 5 of the 2021 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games at El Sunzal beach.
The experience of Sally Fitzgibbons proved too much for Blancada as the world’s no. 2 surfer got the points and went on to advance to the fifth round with Japanese surfer Amuro Tsuzuki.
Blancada eventually bowed out of contention with fellow Filipino bet John Mark Tokong.
The 29-year-old Blancada was able to make two turns along frothy swells, which reached heights of more than 10 feet that day as she came up with scores of 5.23 and 4.23 for a total of 9.46.
But Fitzgibbons, who already secured an Olympic slot via the 2019 World Surfing League Championship Tour, put on standout performances with her smooth ride down one of the big waves that came in during repechage rounds of Thursday.
Fitzgibbon’s heat total of 17.5 proved to be the highest of the day in the women’s side.
Before Fitzgibbons came up with a good score of 6.1, Blancada saw her chances of reaching the next round fade when Tsuzuki submitted a second good score of 5.83 to move up to no. 2 with her tally of 10.43.
After that, Blancada tried to find another good wave to ride on and get a better second score.
Unfortunately, there were no more big waves during her turn, after French surfer Canelle Bullard was given a priority on the last good swell that came up.
“Nilbie had a great heat. She led all throughout, until Sally Fitzgibbons, an Olympic bet and already qualified, got a 6.1 and moved Nilbie to no. 2. Another surfer got the priority on the final wave,” said national coach Ian Saguan in a message to the Manila Standard.
Blancada emerged as the last Filipino surfer to survive the tough search for an Olympic qualifying slot for Asia, after making her way past the fourth repechage.
She earned the top honors in the fourth repechage with 10.17 as she reached the fifth with Canadian Paige Alms, who had an 8.74.
Meanwhile, Tokong also had a tough day in his confrontation with world no. 17 Matt Givillray of South Africa, Israel’s best Yoni Klein and Europe’s no. 2 Dylan Groen of Germany.
The 24-year-old Tokong had an opportunity score big after riding and turning twice while negotiating a 10-foot swell.
But Tokong lost his footing and dropped down hard as he tried to ride the big wave, ending up in fourth place with 5.2 points at the end of Heat 4 in the fourth repechage.
This gave Givillray the top spot in the round with 9.5, and also allowed Klein to place second with 7.87 points.
So far, Australian Owen Wright’s total of 16.26 was the highest score for the day in the men’s division.
El Salvador’s Bryan Perez remained an Olympic hopeful for the host nation after he advanced through two repechage rounds.
Argentina’s Lucia Indurain put on a memorable performance in the Main Event Round 4, winning the heat to send Australia’s Stephanie Gilmore down to the repechage rounds.