Article taken from Courier Mail
HER nickname is ‘‘Happy’’ but Steph Gilmore is sporting a new lean, mean look as she gets set to resume her battle with archrival Carissa Moore for women’s world surfing supremacy. Gilmore, 28, is back on the world championship tour in 2016 after missing most of last season with a knee fracture suffered while free-surfing in Western Australia. The injury cost her the chance to defend the sixth world title she won in 2014 and to equal seven-time world champion Layne Beachley’s record as the most successful female surfer of all time. It also allowed Gilmore’s long-time nemesis, Hawaii’s Moore, to snatch a third world crown. She tumbled out of the women’s top 16 and off the championship tour but was never in doubt to receive the World Surf League injury wildcard for this year.
The Gold Coast glamour girl looks in career-best shape as she prepares to make her comeback in the season-opening Roxy Pro, starting today at her home break of Snapper Rocks.
A brutal pre-season regime of hill sprints, underwater laps and gym work devised by Gold Coast master trainer Nam Baldwin, who has worked with everyone from Mick Fanning through to Pat Rafter and the NZ Warriors, has Gilmore jumping out of her skin.
“I’m feeling 100 per cent, injury-wise,” she said.
“I worked really hard in January and February to make sure I had that confidence to get the injury out of my mind, because injuries are something that can linger (mentally).
“I started training (with Nam) pretty full-on last year before the injury but this is the most intense it’s been. I love it, I enjoy it – you push yourself past the threshold and it definitely makes you know you’ve got the fuel in the tank when you want to perform.
“(With) surfing you can kind of get so relaxed and just cruise but it’s such an explosive sport at the same time.”
Gilmore said the hunger was still there for more world titles.
“I thought maybe I would take a step back and be relaxed, but I’m just so competitive,’’ she said with a chuckle.
“Seeing the girls (last year) get to surf in good waves and not being able to be there myself … I was jealous and I wanted to be there. To me, that was a real reminder that I want to be on the tour and I want to compete – and I want to win more world titles.”
Gilmore admitted it would not be easy, with Moore surfing ‘‘better than ever’’ and American Courtney Conlogue’s motivation “through the roof’ after her narrow world title loss last year.
“Sally (Fitzgibbons) is always right up there too … all the girls on tour are surfing great and there’s a couple of new rookies, so it’s dangerous,’’ she said.
Moore, who is battling a head cold, said she was “really excited” to have Gilmore back on the tour.
“I think all the girls are,’’ she said. “She adds a lot to the tour and we all respect her and love watching her surf. I think coming back from injury, she’s really fired up to be back on top.
“I know she’ll be a tough one to beat but, for me, I’m mostly just focusing on myself. I’m going to stick to my game.’’