Nilbie Blancada made it to the third round of the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games in dramatic fashion, Tuesday morning (Manila time) in El Salvador, Brazil.
This tournament also doubles as an Olympic qualifier. The top five men and top seven women finishers will secure their ticket to Tokyo in July later this year.
Blancada struggled to catch a wave before finally nailing one halfway into the 20-minute period with a 2.23. She followed that up with a 3.33.
Leticia Canales of Spain took advantage of productive waves and scored high enough to pull away from the rest of the heat, forcing the Filipino to battle for the second Round 3 berth with Belgium’s Rheanna Rosenbaum and Paige Alms.
Rosenbaum started really slow and settled for a 1.40 total, while Blancada just erased the previous backup with a 3.20 to take her total to 6.53.
The Belgian then tried to overhaul the lead with a huge wave at the dying second, but the judges scored it not enough to dislodge Blancada as she just ended with a final score of 6.16.
The rest of the Team Philippines are not as fortunate as the day went by.
Rogeilo Esquievel Jr. earlier stunned the field after topping his Round 1 heat in La Bocana with a 10.23 total, forcing top favorite Owen Wright for the second qualifying spot for the next round.
Esquievel, however, had to get back into action just hours after on the other side of the beach in El Sunzal, and the switch was not as productive.
After taking the early lead with a 4.83 at the onset of his Round 2 heat, the 24-year-old, who won silver in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, had to watch this advantage get eaten up with bigger scores from Mexico’s Alan Cleland and the rest of the field
The Mexican ultimately bagged the spot, while Equievel and Nikita Avdeev of Russia and Michel Bourez of France were neck-and-neck, with the Filipino having the priority of choice. In the end, Esquievel could not catch a decent wave and end up last in his heat with a 6, just 0.4 off the Frenchman.
John Mark Tokong, Edito Alcala Jr., and Daisy Valdez all settled for third place in their respective heats in Round 2 to drop into the second round of repechage.
Tokong was outclassed by Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and Indonesia’s Rio Wada in Heat 7, ending up with a 6.57 against the two’s 13.93 and 12.26, respectively.
Alcala Jr. also took the early lead in his heat, but this quickly dissipated as huge scores came in for eventual heat runner-up Joan Duru of France. Stanley Norman for Great Britain then came out of nowhere to top the field with 13.64, 1.11 points clear of the French.
Valdez, on the other hand, could not find her luck in the heat that included a top favorite in winner Mahina Maeda of Japan. Bethany Zelasko of Canada took the second spot.
Blancada and the rest of the contingent will continue their quest for Olympic glory as Round 3 is set to unfold as long as the expected start of the repechage rounds happen on Tuesday.