South African surfer Bianca Buitendag gave the country so much more to smile about after her stellar performance at the Tokyo Olympics. The 27-year-old Buitendag gave seven-time world champion, Stephanie Gilmore a run for her money after knocking her out to reach the quarter-finals on Monday.
Buitendag, who comes from Victoria Bay on the Garden Route, scored 7.10 in the first wave and 6.83 in the second wave to total 13.93 points, beating the 33-year-old Gilmore, who hails from Australia, by 3.93 points.
According to Team SA, this is what Gilmore had to say: “I was so fired up, yesterday [Sunday] was such a good heat. I was feeling really confident, really strong. Bianca is a really tough opponent. Both of us are probably the tallest girls in the whole event, so it was a really level playing field.
“Her backhand is really strong. I let her get that wave on the priority, and she got the highest heat score. I looked at that wave and was like, it doesn’t look that good. I let her have it. She turned it into a seven [point score], that was the most frustrating for me. I should’ve taken that wave and just kinda held that control of the situation. It’s a tough one. I still had a good five minutes in the end to try and make it, but I just couldn’t do it today.”
On the other hand, Buitendag who is the sole surfing representative for Team SA was ecstatic about her victory: “Being up against a seven-time world champ you can understand my sentiment going into it. I had nothing to lose… I felt absolutely no pressure. I’m the underdog coming in at 17th seed for this event. It’s a really comfortable spot to be in. It takes away all the nerves and pressure that could exist.
“Things just seem to be going my way … many times in the ocean it doesn’t. So, a lot of things had to align for this victory to happen. I knew I had to be on the best waves, otherwise I stood no chance. I just made sure that was at least covered, to give myself the best chance possible.”
“In the ocean, especially, you’ve got to give yourself the best chance. If you are on the smaller waves, that’s not gonna happen. I just made sure my wave selection was really good because that was the only advantage that I could bring out,” she adds.
“I obviously want to do my best but, with no great expectations weighing on my shoulders, I’ve got the freedom to surf the best that I can. The further I go, the more I’m an underdog I think,” Buitendag concludes.
Buitendag will face Portugal’s Yolanda Hopkins in Tuesday’s quarter-final (2.24am SA time) at the Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach, as per IOL.
Picture: Team SA