Surfing furore: ‘absolutely a dick move’
GABRIEL Medina's reputation as the World Surf League's most ruthless competitor was further amplified as he kept his title hopes alive with a calculated drop-in against a competitor at the Pipe Masters.
In a move that's been hailed as genius but also called his sportsmanship into question, the 25-year-old intentionally blocked fellow Brazilian surfer Caio Ibelli from catching a wave to win his round-of-16 heat on Friday morning.
Medina, a two-time world champion, is locked in a tense battle with current world No.1 Italo Ferreira for this year's crown and needed a victory to stay in contention.
The 25-year-old was leading a low-scoring heat when Ibelli attempted to catch a wave and steal the win with about 30 seconds remaining.
Medina paddled in front of him to stop him from taking off and was penalised for interference, but admitted he'd done it on purpose.
His penalty - losing his second highest score (2.07) - was inconsequential because his highest score (4.23) was still better than Ibelli's two-wave total (1.13). Blocking Ibelli was against the rules, but guaranteed victory.
"I knew if I had an interference I was going to count my big wave," Medina said.
"If it's in the rules, you've got to play the game. I'm stoked to make it through.
"In my head, I knew what I was doing … as I said, it's in the rules."
Medina dropped in on Ibelli to keep him from having any chance at getting the score he needed. Even with an interference, Medina will advance into the Quarters. “This might have been one of the cleverest tactical maneuvers we’ve ever seen in the history of the sport”#pipemaster pic.twitter.com/atLHtyXp00— FUEL TV (@FUELTV) December 19, 2019
Ibelli said he first became aware of the cunning plan when he heard Medina's stepdad, Charlie, yelling instructions from the beach.
"Now you can burn him, now you can burn him," Charlie said. Medina was pictured responding with a thumbs up.
"It would have been my best wave if he hadn't burned me," Ibelli said.
"I don't think I've ever seen that but it shows what kind of competitor he is. He plays tough but dirty. He'll do anything to win and I think that's the mindset of a champion.
"I asked him 'what the heck was that?' and he said 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry'. It just makes me want to win more and get him next time."
The surfing world was stunned by the controversy. Fellow competitor Billy Kemper hailed Medina's competitiveness and calculation under pressure, but others weren't as impressed.
Dude, you can argue that it's tactics but it is also absolutley a dick move on Medina's part.— Hemal Jhaveri (@hemjhaveri) December 19, 2019
"This is outrageous," commentator Ronnie Blakey said.
Co-commentator Barton Lynch added: "I don't know what to say, I'm absolutely baffled.
"Did he mathematically know he could win it and take it out of the control of Caio by dropping in? This might be one of the cleverest tactical manoeuvres we've ever seen in the history of the sport."
Ferreira continues to hold his nerve at the top of the draw, winning his quarter-final against Yago Dora to progress to the semis. But Medina isn't blinking either, knocking out Hawaiian star John John Florence to keep pace.
PIPE MASTERS QUARTER-FINALS
Italo Ferreira (Brazil) defeated Yago Dora (Brazil)
Kelly Slater (USA) defeated Jack Freestone (Australia)
Gabriel Medina (Brazil) defeated John John Florence (Hawaii)
Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs Michel Bourez (France)
Quite clear that Charlie knew the math and gave Gabriel the signal that in the event a wave came to Caio, Gabby could block him and still advance. Gangster AF #BillabongPipeMasters— ALEKESAM (@SalMasekela) December 19, 2019
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