Relieved Gilmore back on top of the world
STEPHANIE Gilmore says her close battle with American nemesis Lakey Peterson for the world No.1 ranking in women's surfing has lifted her to a new level.
After multiple lay days, Gilmore won the first major women's event to be held at South Africa's Jeffreys Bay in almost two decades.
The Australian beat Peterson 14.24 to 11.50 at Supertubes to claim her third world tour win this season and retake the lead in the race for top spot at season's end.
"To wait a week and to make sure we were in great conditions is so important for all of us girls. The waves came and all the girls showed up with incredible performances," Gilmore said.
"To come out with the win is crucial, knowing that both Lakey (Peterson) and I are so close to each other.
"This win was crucial to the world title so I will take it and I will wrap it."
Gilmore has amassed a record 29 championship tour victories, with more on the cards in 2018 as she chases a record-equalling seventh world crown.
The Aussie is relishing the close battle with Peterson and the pressure she is under to perform.
"This is what sport is all about," she said.
"This is what I love about competing - you find yourself in these moments where you are challenged and under pressure.
"You think, 'Okay, can I compose myself? Can I rise to the occasion and make it happen?' That is what the magic of sport and rivalry is."
Gilmore said she is also happy to have reclaimed the yellow rashie.
"It is nice to be up front again," she said.
"I've been doing the tour for quite a while and I've had a lot of wins, but I just love it.
"I love performing and seeing if I can do my best. Lakey (Peterson) is getting better and better every single event, so this is definitely not the end by any means."
Gilmore defeated Brazilian Tatiana West-Webb in the semis and fellow Aussie Bronte Macaulay in the quarters to book her finals place.
Gilmore now leads Peterson in the world rankings by just 2145 points.