SIX-TIME world champion Stephanie Gilmore lost the battle for her fourth Rip Curl Pro crown at Bells Beach but has won the rankings war with the Australian to keep the yellow leaders jersey on her back for a fourth straight event.
It is Gilmore’s best start to a year since her 1-2-1 in 2012 and betters the 1-3-1 start she had in 2014 en-route to her sixth world crown.
“It’s never good to come second but I have to say that I am very happy with the start to the year,’’ said Gilmore, just a world title away from matching Layne Beacheley’s record of seven crowns.
“It’s the best start for a long time and that makes me very excited about what lies ahead.’’
Gilmore was pipped for a record-equalling fourth crown at Bells by defending champion Courtney Conlogue of the US in a close final at the famed Victorian break on Monday.
It was Conlogue’s eighth world tour win and moves her into fourth place on the world rankings – behind a trio of Australians.
With a first, third and second in the opening three world tour events in Australia, Gilmore will carry the No.1 ranking into the Oi Rio Pro in May, with fellow Australians Sally Fitzgibbons and Tyler ranked second and third.
“It’s a huge relief to still be holding onto the ranking,’’ Gilmore said.
“Hopefully I can hold onto it a bit longer.’’
On a day of drama for Australian surfers, Wright injured her ribs when her board buckled under her feet in her semi-final against Conlogue.
Wright had been in pole position for the victory when the disaster occurred, with Conlogue then riding a wave to victory and into the final against Gilmore.
Less than an hour earlier an injured Sally Fitzgibbons was sent to the sidelines by American Lakey Peterson in their quarter-finals.
Fitzgibbons had been unable to warm-up for the heat due to a foot injury and back spasms.
Earlier three-time Rip Curl Pro mens champion Joel Parkinson produced a masterclass in the bowl against exciting Australian rookie Connor O’Leary.
Parkinson, who last rang the winners bell in 2011, said he was thrilled with his surfing at the event.
“It’s been pumping and everything has been great,’’ he said. “I do have a good relationship with Bells. I’ve loved it since the day I got here.’’
Parkinson now joins fellow Australians Mick Fanning and Owen Wright in the non-elimination fourth round.
Defending champion Matt Wilkinson was knocked out by Brazilian Wiggoly Dante in the upset of the day in the men’s event.
Originally published as Gilmore mellow in yellow despite Bells loss