What's the point of living if you don't take a few bold swings? Photo: WSL
20 Years Of WSL Data Says Gabriel Medina Is Unlikely To Win A World Title In 2019
But, you can never rule out Brazil's most blood thirsty, competitive ace!
It’s time to talk about Medina, specifically his almost extinguished world title aspirations for 2019.
Hear that gurgling sound, the choking-suffocation? It’s the venom rising to the back of a million Brazilian throats. But to the naysayers, I ask that you withhold your fury, if only for the next few minutes, while I attempt to explain.
I know the arguments:
‘He’s a world champion!’
‘He finishes strong!’
‘We’ve only had four events!’
Yes, the above are all true statements, but here are facts which should loosen your mind.
He finishes well. We know this. There were two years when Medina came from a worse start to the year and finished incredibly well: 2nd in 2017 and 3rd in 2015. But he didn’t win. The fact is Medina has never started so poorly and gone on to win a World Title.
Further, every title winner in the past twenty years has placed top three in at least one of the first four events. This year, Medina hasn’t.
But John John has. Italo has. And Toledo has.
You’d have to trace back to Occy in 1999 to find a surfer who started a season as badly (or in Occy’s case, worse) as Medina, who has then surged home to win the World Title.
And finally, after Event Four in 2018, Medina was only 3,220 points behind Julian (2nd in 2018) and 4,960 points behind Toledo (3rd in 2018). In 2019, Medina is 15,265 points behind John John (currently 1st) and 8,670 points behind Italo (currently 3rd). Put simply, he’s a lot further behind in points this year when compared to last.
Is he done and dusted? Many would say yes, throw him to the scrapheap. But a more considered response is ‘nearly’.
Here’s why. The current Top 5 is an odd-looking bunch. We have five different surfers from five different surfing nations (rare), and a lack of likely title winners.
Dear Kolohe, Kanoa, and Jordy. Prove that wrong. Kindest regards.
The thing working in Medina’s favour is there are only two serious title threats at the top (John John and Italo) getting in his way, as opposed to three or four in any other year. If, say, John busts his knee, or Italo goes a bit skimp on form, then that leaves only one competitor fending off a ravenous G. Medina. And that should make everyone on tour nervous.
Preventing Medina’s third title requires a strong bunch up top. He’ll likely devour one or two weak juveniles as they drop away in points, but he can’t take down the entire herd. There’ll be at least one or two strong surfers who maintain form all the way through. Safety in numbers, etc.
But if you’re a betting man or woman, and you’re waiting for a firmer prediction, I’ll give you this: if Medina doesn’t finish Top 5 in Rio, and both John John and Italo do, then he’s done.
Right, what else.
While we’re on the subject of struggling Brazilians, the ‘Storm’ has eleven surfers on tour and only two in the current Top 10. That’s a disappointing start.
Kolohe now sits in second place. The last time a mainland-American surfer who wasn’t born with the name Robert Slater finished Top 3 at the end of a season was 2001 (CJ Hobgood 1st and Cory Lopez 3rd).
And Team Australia. Yeesh. Ryan Callinan, the lone wolf placed inside the Top 10. The last time there wasn’t an Australian surfer in the Top 5 at season’s end was 23 years ago in 1995. Make no mistake, Australia is on track for its worst men’s CT performance in over two decades. The Fanning-sized hole in Australia’s line-up isn’t disappearing anytime soon.
And the women.
The Top 5 is locked tight with talent. All of the usual suspects are there.
How does Steph’s start to the year compare with those of her previous World Title years? For five of those years, her results after four events were a little better. For two of those years (2007 and 2014) she started worse. She’s on track for numero eight.
What about the American trio? Caroline, Courtney and Lakey are alive and well, sitting in 2nd, 5th and 6th, which forms a lovely segue into the ugly truth that no female surfer from the US mainland has won a title since Lisa Andersen in 1997. We now have three in the Top 6. I would say pour your life savings into one of them taking home the glory at season’s end, as long as Steph wasn’t currently 1st and Carissa wasn’t 3rd. Which they are. And therefore I advise extreme caution.
And so the Oi Pro is nearly upon us.
Since the Brazilian leg switched to Rio in 2011, no goofy foot – man or woman – has won. It’d take a brave punter to write off Caroline Marks and especially Italo in his home waters, but, hey, results don’t lie.
If we look at the recent Rio results of the current men’s Top 5, no one, except perhaps John John, sort of, inspires great hope.
John: 9th (2018), 13th (2017), 1st (2016)
Kolohe: 5th (2018), 25th (2017), 25th (2016)
Italo: 13th (2018), INJ (2017), 9th (2016)
Kanoa: 9th (2018), 9th (2017), 13th (2016)
Jordy: 13th (2018), 5th (2017), 13th (2016)
If we browse the past eight years in Rio, Brazilians have won four and John John has won two. That should narrow your event predictions.
For the women, expectations weigh upon both Steph and Sally, which makes sense given Australian women have won six of the past eight events.
Steph: 1st (2018), 5th (2017), 5th (2016)
Marks: 9th (2018), - (2017), - (2016)
Moore: 5th (2018), 13th (2017), 3rd (2016)
Sally: 5th (2018), 3rd (2017), 2nd (2016)
Conlogue: INJ (2018), 9th (2017), 3rd (2016)
But Saquarema is a volatile beast and we remain ignorant as to what it shall spew. Select your winners wisely.
In terms of the 2019 season, the completion of Rio will place us just shy of halfway. So to all the Toledos, the Medinas, the Weston-Webbs and the Defays, lunch break is over.