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Stephanie Gilmore keeps it together to make cut at Margaret River

Stephanie Gilmore  kept her cool and her hopes alive at Margaret River. <i>Photo: AAP</i>

Stephanie Gilmore kept her cool and her hopes alive at Margaret River. Photo: AAP Photo: AAP

Eight-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore has survived the World Surf League’s mid-season cut, holding her nerve to edge out Hawaii’s Gabriela Bryan in a tight round-of-16 clash at the Margaret River Pro.

The reigning world title-holder entered the event in ninth spot on the overall standings, with only the top 10 women to remain in contention for the 2023 championship.

Gilmore had some nervous moments late in her heat against Bryan but held on to win by 14.83 points to 14.40.

“Far out, it’s so stressful,” she said.

“… to go from winning the title last year to being back on the bubble again.

“Maybe it’s a nice little theory – sneak into 10th place, just sneak into fifth and finish No.1.

“I’m stoked to make the cut and there’s some great events after the cut.”

It was an excellent morning at Margaret River for the home contingent, with fellow big-name Australians Sally Fitzgibbons and Tyler Wright also booking their spots in the last eight.

Tour veteran Fitzgibbons kept her chances of making the mid-season cut alive with a nerve-wracking 12.66 to 11.27 win over young American Caitlin Simmers.

‘I surfed a really smart heat’

“Win, win, win – it’s a pretty simple recipe and it’s so much fun,” said Fitzgibbons.

“This is why we play sport really.

“As a kid, these are the big match-ups, the moments.

“There’s definitely a lot of work to do here, but I’m trying to settle into that and the pressure and enjoy the situation.

“I felt like I surfed a really smart heat.”

Fitzgibbons’ quarter-final opponent will be American Caroline Marks.

Two-time world champ Wright advanced to a headline quarter-final showdown with Gilmore by downing Johanne Defay from France 16.16 to 12.17.

Fellow Australians Bronte Macaulay and Molly Picklum locked-in their spots in the last eight on Saturday.

Winnowing the men

The top 22 men’s field was decided after their third round was completed on Saturday.

A round-of-16 berth was enough for Liam O’Brien, knocking out Kelly Slater on Saturday to cement his status on Saturday.

But that was as far as he got, beaten by Griffin Colapinto in a high-scoring heat, 15.1 to 14.06 on Sunday.

Tokyo Olympic champion Italo Ferreira again took to the air in his bid to take down Australia’s Bells Beach champion Ethan Ewing.

But that wasn’t enough, his acrobatics trumped by the Stradbroke Island talent’s classic style, 15.3 to 13.3.

Connor O’Leary will join Ewing in the last eight, topping Yago Dora to set up a quarterfinal against rankings leader Joao Chianca after the Brazilian pipped Callum Robson.

Bells runner-up Ryan Callinan never found his groove, Hawaiian Barron Mamiya charging on to a last-eight meeting with Colapinto.

-AAP

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