Gabriel Medina, as fútbol (soccer) pundits like to say, is in the mood. It's a nod to an athlete at the top of his game looking to punish his counterpart. Never one to underestimate his opponents, such is the nature of his tactical prowess, Medina takes big moments seriously.
The European leg as a whole is a massive moment for the Brazilian, who has jumped five spots up the Jeep Leaderboard in Europe, to No. 2. Heading to France, his Title hopes looked slim after what's undoubtedly been an inconsistent year. Just when it looked like he was gaining traction, he suffered another 13th at the Hurley Pro at Trestles in September. A rebound was required to keep any whiff of a Title shot alive.
Medina answered the call, stepping it up a level and then some -- winning the Quiksilver Pro France convincingly earlier this month, and defeating No. 1 John John Florence in the Semifinals for good measure. That win in Hossegor put Medina back in the Title hunt.
Medina has a history of good results in France, but the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal has been a different story. His best-ever finish was a 2nd place to winner Julian Wilson back in 2012 (his first full season on the CT), along with a couple of Quarterfinal round exits since then. Now, with an entire season in the balance, Medina has shaken up that record with a win in Peniche, and forced the World Title chase to Hawaii at the Billabong Pipe Masters.
The Brazilian was taking care of business in Portugal from the start. Earlier in the event, prior to his Round Three clash with Ethan Ewing, he was dead serious, astutely aware of the task at hand, like a boxer moving through his pre-fight ritual. After his heat, he acknowledged as much, telling the WSL, "Ethan's so good, in these waves you can get two 9s on two waves. You can't give in."
Medina got hyper-focused after watching John John Florence fall to Kolohe Andino in the Quarterfinals, crushing the bottom half of the leaderboard with wins over Mick Fanning, Kanoa Igarashi and Julian Wilson on his way to victory. It was sweet payback for Gabe, who still hasn't forgot the 2014 Final with Julian. But the sweeter part, obviously, is that now he can legitimately think about another World Title. And it should be noted, Medina's record at Pipe is pretty darn good.
It was an exclamation point on the end of an intense day where many of the Brazilian's fellow Title chasers were tossed by the wayside. But not Gabriel. Not when he's in this kind of mood.