Top of the class
By ADAM WRATTEN
KINGSCLIFF'S Stephanie Gilmore became the first woman to win back-to-back world junior surfing titles with a dominant display at California yesterday.
Carrying the weight of expectation and Australia's hopes on her shoulders, the golden girl put together a formidable two-wave combined score of 17.70 to wrap up her second junior world title.
Her performance under pressure drew comparisons with fellow Snapper Rocks surfer Joel Parkinson, the last man to claim back-to-back junior world titles.
It has been a memorable 12 months for the Kingscliff High School student, who will this week sit her HSC exams.
This time last year she won her first world title in Tahiti, then in March she stunned the surfing world with victory against the best women surfers in the Roxy Pro at Snapper.
A modest Gilmore yesterday said she her title defence had been an invaluable lesson.
"I can't get too cocky because you never know what's around the corner," Gilmore said.
"I have had a little bit more experience than the other girls, but I still see myself on the same level as them.
"I am preparing for the 'CT, and feeling more confident now for the 'QS."
Daily News columnist Andrew McKinnon yesterday said Gilmore's victory was a "remarkable achievement".
"The pressure was on her to back up for a second time having had such an incredible year and beating the world's best open surfers," McKinnon said.
"She has set such a high bar and everyone expects her to win."
He said Joel Parkinson was the only other surfer he knew who had won back-to-back titles.
"There are a lot of similari- ties between the two," McKinnon said.
"They both have come on really strong at an early age.
"Snapper Rocks is their home base and I know Steph has been called the Parko of the women's circuit because of her radical but relaxed approach."
Gilmore will sit her first HSC at the Australian consulate in America today before heading home tomorrow for a busy week of exams.
She will then compete at the Stradbroke Assault on the weekend, where she will represent Snapper Rocks. Gilmore's family cheered her on watching the final on the internet.