Gabriel Medina has sparked a surfing sportsmanship storm after deliberately sabotaging an opponent to ensure victory.
Medina stunned the surfing world on Thursday at the Pipe Masters in Hawaii when he intentionally dropped in on Caio Ibelli’s wave to make sure his opponent couldn’t beat him.
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Medina was leading fellow Brazilian Ibelli in their head-to-head battle, but Ibelli had priority on one final wave to try and progress.
However Medina deliberately dropped in on Ibelli’s wave to ensure he couldn’t score enough points to beat him.
Medina was rightly penalised for the devious act, but he knew the penalty wouldn’t be enough to see him knocked out.
Medina was docked his second highest score (2.07), but it didn’t matter because his highest score of 4.23 was more than Ibelli’s two-wave total of 1.13.
“I knew if I had an interference I was going to count my big wave,” Medina said afterwards.
“If it’s in the rules, you’ve got to play the game. I’m stoked to make it through. In my head, I knew what I was doing … as I said, it’s in the rules.”
Ibelli said he knew what was about to go down when he saw Medina’s stepdad yelling “Now you can burn him” from the beach.
“It would have been my best wave if he hadn’t burned me,” Ibelli said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that but it shows what kind of competitor he is. He plays tough but dirty. He’ll do anything to win and I think that’s the mindset of a champion.
“I asked him ‘what the heck was that?’ and he said ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’. It just makes me want to win more and get him next time.”
Surfing world explodes over ‘disgusting’ act
TV commentators couldn’t believe what they’d seen.
“This is outrageous,” Ronnie Blakey said at the time.
Co-commentator Barton Lynch added. “I don’t know what to say, I’m absolutely baffled.”
“Did he mathematically know he could win it and take it out of the control of Caio by dropping in?
“This might be one of the cleverest tactical manoeuvres we’ve ever seen in the history of the sport.”
Fans and fellow surfers also flocked to social media in shock, with opinion divided about Medina’s act.
However the overriding feeling was one of anger, with some labelling Medina a ‘disgrace’ and ‘disgusting’.
Gabriel Medina you are a disgrace to the sport! Don’t care if it was intelligent you are as far from a role model as possible to get! #BillabongPipeMasters 😂 joke— Simon James (@simonjamess) December 19, 2019
Disgusting!!— Li09 (@biaz09) December 19, 2019
By condoning this @wsl what message are you sending to the kids coming into the sport? @sogoldschmidt - your involvement in rugby union would have taught you that it matters how people win in sport. rewrite your rules to penalise intentional interference!— Dene Schonknecht (@deneschonknecht) December 19, 2019
call rule 171.11 and re-surf the heat. that was egregiously unsportsmanlike and should be swiftly eliminated from anyone’s mind so far as repeating it. why do you allow that? he blatantly denied his competitor from having any chance. it was awful. RESURF!!! Let them decide it!!— Juan (@talljohnc) December 19, 2019
Bizarre that WSL seems to be condoning this clearly unsportsmanlike interference. Ibelli had Priority, would've got a score, but got shafted, and the tour is congratulating Medina for being ruthless. No me gusta. Bad look for a sporting org.— Messinho (@kopnou1) December 19, 2019
Not the first time and certainly not the last. Medina showed several times in his careers he is ready to anything to win. Some love him for it, some hate him. To me he is an incredible surfer but a shit sportman. Win not matter what but at the end people will remember how— Tibo (@tibo301) December 19, 2019
He is competing for a world title and he is using the rules on his favour. Nothing Wrong with that.— Thiago Jambo (@ThiagoJambo) December 19, 2019
WHOA world No 1 Gabriel Medina deliberately interferes with Belli knowing he can win even if waves disqualified. Nasty and not typical surf etiquette, but he goes straight to beach acting like a winner. @honolulumag @wsl— Don Wallace (@don212wallace) December 19, 2019
Gabriel Medina is an absolute clown. Disrespectful— Trevor Cleveland (@trevcleveland) December 19, 2019
Dude, you can argue that it's tactics but it is also absolutley a dick move on Medina's part.— Hemal Jhaveri (@hemjhaveri) December 19, 2019
Quite clear that Charlie knew the math and gave Gabriel the signal that in the event a wave came to Caio, Gabby could block him and still advance. Gangster AF #BillabongPipeMasters— ALEKESAM (@SalMasekela) December 19, 2019
Karma strikes as Medina falls short of world title
Italo Ferreira was later crowned the 2019 world champion, defeating Medina 15.56 to 12.94 in the final to win his first world title.
Ferreira and Medina went head to head in a winner-takes-all final at Pipeline after Kolohe Andino was eliminated by France's Michel Bourez in the last 16.
Defeat for Medina stops him from becoming the first surfer to go back-to-back at Pipeline since the late Andy Irons in 2006.
"It was my dream," Ferreira said.
"I've trained all my life for this. I can't believe it. Thank you God."