Bianca Buitendag clinched the Copper Medal for South Africa today (Monday) when she finished fourth in the final of the Women’s event at the 2017 ISA World Surfing Games taking place in Biarritz, France.
The lanky 23 year-old from Victoria Bay in the Southern Cape finished runner-up her semifinal encounter earlier today, showing steely nerves by getting the score she required in the final minute, to reach the last four in the event.
Competing against best friend and current WSL No. 4 Johanne Defay and her French teammate Pauline Ado, along with two-time former ISA finalist Leilani McGonagle (Costa Rica), Buitendag struggled to find waves with scoring potential in the weak, knee-high surf at Grande Plage.
It was Ado who led from the outset of the 25 minute final heat, and although Defay stayed in contention, Ado went on to claim the first Gold Medal presented at the Games. Defay held on to earn the Silver medal, McGonagle took Bronze and Buitendag Copper.
The South African team captain had advanced through four rounds of cutthroat competition on Saturday and Sunday, winning three heats and finishing runner-up in one, and posted the highest single ride score of the entire event, a near perfect 9.0 out of 10, in her opening heat.
“This morning we huddled with the whole team,” said Buitendag yesterday (Sunday). “We assessed the conditions and worked out a game plan. The tides were varying with a dropping swell, which made it a challenge, but I found my waves and my heats were a success nonetheless.”
“The big day is tomorrow (Monday). It’s the whole reason that most of us are here. The semifinals and finals will be very exciting to watch. It would mean the world to me to stand atop the podium.”
Although she did achieve her ambition to appear on the podium, it was to collect the Copper medal and not the Gold she coveted. Nevertheless Buitendag set a shining example for the four men in the team to emulate as she collected 670 points towards the team total.
South African teammate Tanika Hoffman (Sea Point) was not as fortunate, incurring an interference penalty in her Round 2 match-up yesterday and finishing in 46th place overall with 255 points towards the team tally.
The first ISA World Surfing Games to be staged since it was announced last year that the sport will be included in the Japan 2020 Olympic Games has attracted a record 243 competitors from 47 nations, many of whom are participating at an international event for the first time.
The event runs until Sunday 28 May and the four South African men will be aiming to advance through six rounds of competition to reach the final and claim a medal.
To date, vice-captain Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay) has advanced directly to Round 2 after placing second in his first heat earlier this morning. A team debutant Brandon Benjamin (Steenberg), Davey van Zyl (Glenashley) and Shane Sykes (Salt Rock) have yet to compete.
The contest is currently on hold due to the lack of waves and a decision will be made at 4.30 pm, after the tide has dropped, on whether to continue today or wait for better conditions tomorrow.
May 22-28 – Men’s Competition, Grande Plage
Watch the action live on www.isaworlds.com