Just weeks after suffering a double facial fracture and contusion of the brain while surfing in Indonesia, Jeremy Flores has returned to competitive surfing with victory at one of the world's most prestigious events, the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Considered doubtful to even compete in the event — let alone win — Flores caused a flurry of upsets on his way to the crown. These included tight wins over the in-form Wiggoly Santos and CJ Hobgood, as well as victories over Kelly Slater, Joel Parkinson and defending world champion Gabriel Medina in the final.
It's also propelled Flores into title contention, as he makes up a group of six who are within a single victory of taking the yellow jersey. Adriano de Souza remains at the top for now, but any of Mick Fanning, Owen Wright, Julian Wilson, Filipe Toledo, Kelly Slater or Flores could hypothetically take the lead after the next event, making for one of the closest title races in recent memory.
It was a mixed event for the Australian surfers, with Owen Wright the sole Aussie representative in the semi-finals, joined by Kai Otton and Josh Kerr in the quarters. Mick Fannning, Joel Parkinson, Julian Wilson and Taj Burrow each failed to make it past round 3, in a disappointing blow to each of their title aspirations.
Gabriel Medina's disappointing title defense took a turn for the better, with consecutive top 5 finishes pushing him into 10th on the leaderboard, although he's not considered a realistic title contender this season.
1st: Jeremy Flores (BRA)
2nd: Gabriel Medina (BRA)
3rd: Owen Wright (AUS)
3rd: CJ Hobgood (USA)
5th: Kai Otton (AUS)
5th: Josh Kerr (AUS)
5th: Kelly Slater (USA)
5th: Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Videos and photos courtesy of World Surf League
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