Surfing-Local Fierro wins Tahiti Pro to boost French Olympic medal hopes

Surfing - World Surf League - Tahiti Pro - Teahupo'o, Tahiti, French Polynesia - May 29, 2024 France's Vahine Fierro in action during the women's final REUTERS/Thomas Bevilacqua

(Reuters) -Local wildcard Vahine Fierro won the Shisheido Tahiti Pro in pumping surf at her home break of Teahupo'o on Wednesday, establishing herself as a favourite for gold when the Paris Olympics kick off at the same venue in two months.

Fierro, who is not on the top-tier world championship tour but has qualified to represent France at the Olympics, was unstoppable in the heaving tubes as waves reached heights of four to five metres.

"My body is so sore, I gave it my all, I ate it so many times," an elated Fierro said after her win. "It's just insane, thank you Teahupo'o."

Fierro easily won a lopsided quarter-final against Australian charger Molly Picklum and then squeaked through one of the heats of the year against Brazilian Olympian Tatitana Weston-Webb.

The lead changed several times as both women threw themselves over the ledge on the powerful waves, scoring deep barrels in between some heavy wipeouts.

Weston-Webb looked to have done enough with a perfect 10-point ride late in the heat for a late takeoff and huge tube described by broadcast commentators as the best wave ever caught in women's surfing competition.

But, with seconds remaining, Fierro took off on another giant wall and got a long tube to secure the win.

"It's really scary out there, but I just was so grateful to have the opportunity. Like, how often do we get these conditions? Especially for females," said Weston-Webb.

"And obviously, we have the Olympics coming up, and it's a really big goal of mine to do pretty well there. Vahine is amazing out here, and she inspires me."

In the final against Costa Rican Olympic surfer and current world number one Brisa Hennessy, Fierro again caught the biggest and best waves, finishing with a 15.17 total out of 20 to claim the title.

On the men's side of the draw, fellow Tahitian wildcard Mihimana Braye took heart from Fierro's win and knocked out world number one Griffin Colapinto in the first elimination round.

Reigning men's Tahiti Pro champion Jack Robinson of Australia was another surprise early exit, going down to Brazil's Yago Dora.

Californian rookies Crosby Colapinto and Cole Houshmand put on the two biggest two-wave heat scores of the day, both topping 17 points out of a possible 20 to win their respective heats.

"That was definitely the best wave of my life and probably the biggest barrel of my life," Houshmand said of his 9.57 point ride against Italian Olympian Leonardo Fioravanti.

"That’s what I’ve dreamt of. I was scared I wasn’t going to make it, so I was stoked when I did."

The men's final rounds are expected to take place on Thursday, with more huge swells and epic conditions forecast.

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Wellington; editing by Clare Fallon, Peter Rutherford)

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