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After French hiccup, Gilmore’s title quest moves to Maui

WITH placid wells in Hossegor, France keeping the Roxy Pro frozen on standby, it felt like the sluggish weather all week was conspiring only to delay the inevitable.

Stephanie Gilmore, the six-time world champion out of Kingscliff, has been that good in 2018 that it seemed silly to forecast anything other than another podium finish in France and, consequently, a coronation to a record-tying seventh world title crown.

Only needing to finish ahead of her main rival tour rival Lakey Peterson to complete her epic pursuit of Layne Beachley’s title record, Gilmore failed to finish in the top two places in round three that would have seen her progress to the quarter-finals

Gilmore.

Steph Gilmore knew she had missed a golden opportunity in France.Damian Poulennot

Gilmore required an 8.33 to progress in the dying minutes, but came up 0.6 of a point short on her last wave. The loss clearly rattled the habitual optimist, who knew she had blown a golden opportunity.

“It’s the worst feeling, ever,” she said, tearfully.

“You are trying so hard and there’s so much pressure.

“I’m emotional, but that just shows how much I care about it. It stings and it hurts, but now it’s all about Maui.”

Lakey Peterson is Steph Gilmore's only obstacle to a seventh world title.

Lakey Peterson is Steph Gilmore’s only obstacle to a seventh world title.WSL / ED SLOANE

She wasn’t the only one feeling the pressure. The good news for Gilmore was that Peterson, who sits in second place on the WSL leaderboard, also faltered in her round three contest.

“I let my mind get a hold of me,” Peterson admitted in a moment of candour after failing to capitalise on a Gilmore’s trip-up and gain ground heading into Maui.

“I felt like the chips were falling into place.

“I let a couple of things get in my head too much and that affected the control of the heat.”

Going into Maui, the final tour event of the season, Gilmore has hung onto her 6865-point lead over Peterson, with the fate of a potential seventh world title, and her first since 2014, firmly in her hands.

Peterson would have to win the final event of the year and Gilmore bomb out in the first round to keep that from happening.

But, seeing as France was the first time in 2018 Gilmore failed to make the quarter-finals, there seems little chance one of the world’s greatest ever surfers, who has won six of these before, will slip up again.

STILL ON TOP: Steph Gilmore could have sealed her seventh world title in France last week, but heading into the last event of the year in Maui she remains in the driver's seat.

STILL ON TOP: Steph Gilmore could have sealed her seventh world title in France last week, but heading into the last event of the year in Maui she remains in the driver’s seat.WSL / DAMIEN POULLENOT

After French hiccup, Gilmore’s title quest moves to Maui

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