Florence and Freestone Forge Ratings Rebalance in Rio (via WSL)


John John Florence has never been an outspoken fire-breather. He’s not an overemotional chest-thumper, either. His mellow Hawaiian vibe is one of the lovelier aspects of his personality. Whether on the podium at Waimea Bay or Postinho, his smile seems to be getting softer and more innocent with age.

But we shouldn’t be fooled. Beneath that supremely cool exterior there’s a flame burning, and it ignited on Thursday at the Oi Rio Pro.

First the facts: Florence beat rookie Jack Freestone in the Final, and did so rather handily. In capturing the third CT victory of his career he jumped to No. 3 on the Jeep Leaderboard rankings, 5800 points behind front-runner Matt Wilkinson. And while that’s a big gap on paper, just remember that we’re heading into the dreamy portion of the schedule, with Fiji, J-Bay, Tahiti and Trestles on tap. It means nothing.

In Rio everyone in the Top 10 was eliminated before the quarterfinal. But this wasn’t a continuation of what happened in Australia. Quite the contrary. It was nature doing its rebalancing.

Florence arrived in Rio still licking wounds. The sea of fresh-faced rookies and battle-tested replacements took their toll on him in the first few events. He was dealt two early-round losses at the hands of rookie Caio Ibelli, and didn’t make it past the quarterfinals in any of the three events.

It was hardly the start of a world title contender’s run.

True champions know how to bounce back, however, which is the challenge Florence now faces in 2016. Consistency has never been his forte, but it’s something he knows he needs if to make a world title run a reality.

John John Florence’s dominance above and below the lip made him the undisputed champ of the 2016 Oi Rio Pro.

The next journey for John John is inward, strengthening his resolve through adversity, be it bad waves, bad calls, bad food or bad injuries.

Rio was a test of his mental muscle, and he aced it. His demeanor during the nine-day grind was steadfast with a smile. His passion fueling the work when conditions were good, and his work fueling his passion when they weren’t. It’s a delicate balance, that motivational game, but if he’s able to master it there’s no stopping him.

That said, the list of contenders is getting larger every day in this new era. Rookie Jack Freestone may be late to the 2016 party, but he crashed it hard on Thursday by taking down Gabriel Medina in a hotly contested semifinal.

John John Florence feels right at home in the wedgy walls of Postinho. The Hawaiian thrilled the crowd with his disappearing act.

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For more on this story: http://www.worldsurfleague.com/posts/205533/florence-and-freestone-arrive-fashionably-late-to-2016-party

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