SOPELANA, Basque Country (Sunday, August 3, 2008) - Medi Veminardi (REU) and Alizee Arnaud (Hossegor, FRA) respectively won the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Grade-2 Men's and Grade-1 Women's Pro Junior events today at Sopelana in the Basque Counrty, ending victorious after a four-day long event that saw big upsets and major ratings' points taken for the regional title race.
Medi Veminardi (REU), 18, won the Island Style Men's Pro Junior after defeating local Basque surfer Jatyr Berasaluce (EUK) in a Man-on-Man 30-minute final posting a good 14.00 point heat score (out of a possible 20). Veminardi, who got through three heats today with victories over underdog Thomas Fok Cheong (REU) in Semifinals and Justin Delanne (FRA) in the Quarters, built his confidence with consistency and heat tactics en route to the final where he waited for a last minute 7.50 point ride (out of a possible 10) to secure his maiden ASP Pro Junior title.
"I was really turned on for this final", Veminardi said. "I had a second place in Portugal in April and I was not going to let this go away from me. I am so stoked to win this event as it is a 2-Star and it will be a very important one for the end-of-the-year ratings."
Veminardi, who moves up from No. 4 to No. 3 on the regional ratings, remains well in contention for the crown and 384 points away only from fellow Reunion Island born surfer and current leader Maxime Huscenot (REU).
"This win keeps well in the Top 5 and it is really important to get this halfway through the season", Veminardi said. "My goals are easy now: regional Top 3 at least and a good result at Narabeen in Australia this winter. Still a long way to go."
Jatyr Berasaluce (EUK), 19, who has had a very consistent season thus far including a semifinal finish in San Sebastian last week, came close to clinching the crown at home but could not counter Veminardi's last assault despite leading the final for fifteen minutes. Berasaluce, who secures his best result this year with his runner-up finish in Sopelana, jumped back from No. 4 to No. 5 on the regional race leaving fellow semifinalist Pierre Valentin Laborde (FRA) move into the Top 5.
"I was very confident and happy to surf at home", Berasaluce said. "I wish I had a bit of luck to get the better waves and get the title, it would have been so good. Second is a good result and a keeper for sure."
Berasaluce, who was among those qualified for the ASP World Junior Championships (WJC) in 2007, clearly expressed his intentions in the Island Style Pro Junior and will have to keep going with a couple more of solid results to start breathing again.
"I am already on the next event now and lots of points to take still", Berasaluce said. "I am in my second last year as a Junior so I take things positively and hope to improve step by step."
Thomas Fok Cheong (REU), 19, was the underdog in the Island Style Pro Junior finishing his giant-killing run in Semifinals against Veminardi. Fok Cheong, who was surfing his first ASP event this year, came up with victories over ASP European Junior ratings' No. 2 and two-times winner this season Marc Lacomare (FRA) in Quarterfinal No. 2 and ratings' leader Maxime Huscenot (REU) In Round 6.
"Stoked to make the semis and beat Marc (Lacomare)", Fok Cheong said. "I am a student so I don't really train but I came to Europe to compare my level with the boys and it is a great confidence boost. I hope I can do as good in Lacanau next week."
Fok Choeng, who eliminated the two favorite surfers in contention for the regional crown, helped Veminardi and other semifinalist Pierre-Valentin Laborde (FRA) giving them a good opportunity to gain ground for the 2008 race and remain in reach of current leaders.
Pierre-Valentin Laborde (Hossegor, FRA), 18, was stopped by Berasaluce in Semifinal No. 2 missing out a second consecutive final after his 3rd place finish in San Sebastian last week. Laborde, a former ASP World Junior No. 5, is slowly coming back in the race to the end-of-the-year Top 5 that will give him a spot for the ASP World Junior Championships (WJC) in Narabeen next January.
"I was relaxed before the semi but Jatyr (Berasaluce) did very well", Laborde said. "An equal 3rd is good and it will help me gain ground on the leaders. The next event is a 1-Star only so I have no pressure, just hoping for some consistent waves and keep up the good work."
Pierre-Valentin Laborde a.k.a PV has been among the ASP European Junior leading competitors for four years already and aims at a second ASP WJC qualification.
With Maxime Huscenot (REU) and Marc Lacomare (FRA) losing respectively in Round 6 and Quarterfinals, the race to the title is tighter than ever and the current Top 3 holds in a 384-point gap. With one ASP Grade-1 and two Grade-2 Pro Junior events coming up, anything can happen at this stage of this season. The battle for the Top 5 will be another serious one as 227 points only separate No. 8 Damien Chaudoy (REU) from Berasaluce.
The ASP Grade-1 Nikita Women's Pro Junior saw Alizee Arnaud (FRA) secure her first win this season after defeating Johanne Defay (FRA), Ravi Bailleux (FRA) and Fanny Brice (FRA) in an all-French final. Arnaud, who was injured for a couple of months this year, put on an exceptionnal performance in the final posting an impressive 19.20 point heat tally (out of a possible 20) to clinch the crown and move up in the ratings.
"I had a great time in the final with the girls who are my friends", Arnaud said. "I felt good and relaxed during this event and I am stoked to get such high scores. All went my way."
Arnaud seized the oportunity to catch up with current ratings' leader Cannelle Bulard (REU) who had a shocker in Round 3, leaving her closest followers all space to jump back in contention fo the regional title.
"I made the choice to come here and forget about the ASP WQS 6-Star in Portugal and I am happy with that call", Arnaud said. "I wanted to get some points to keep my Top 2 goal alive and I got all the points I wanted."
Johanne Defay (FRA), Ravi Bailleux (FRA) and Fanny Brice (FRA) all surfed the first final of their career and will be much awaited for a repeat at Lacanau where all Under-21 competitors will meet Monday, August 11 for Stop No. 4 of 8 of the ASP European Women's Junior tour.
ASP Grade-1 Nikita Pro Junior Results
FINAL: Alizee Arnaud (FRA) 19.20 pts, Johanne Defay (FRA) 15.83 pts, Ravi Bailleux (FRA) 10.97 pts, Fanny Brice (FRA) 8.24 pts
ASP Grade-2 Island Style Pro Junior Results
FINAL: Medi Veminardi (REU) 14.00 pts Def. Jatyr Berasaluce (EUK) 12.74 pts
Heat 1: Medi Veminardi (REU) 12.50 pts Def. Thomas Fok Cheong (FRA) 11.67 pts
Heat 2: Jatyr Berasaluce (EUK) 14.83 pts Def. Pierre Valentin Laborde (FRA) 11.67 pts
Heat 1: Medi Veminardi (REU) 13.67 pts Def. Justin Delanne (FRA) 11.67 pts
Heat 2: Thomas Fok Choeng (FRA) 15.17 pts Def. Marc Lacomare (FRA) 12.50 pts
Heat 3: Jatyr Berasaluce (EUK) 16.50 pts Def. Jules Thomet (FRA) 8.87 pts
Heat 4: Pierre Valentin Laborde (FRA) 12.67 pts Def. Igor Muniain (EUK) 9.56 pts