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Young Kiwi topples world champion in surfing heats

Thursday 15 Apr 2010 5:40 p.m.

By Di O'Connell

Kiwi teenager Sarah Mason’s hopes are still alive in the women's world surfing tour event in the Taranaki after knocking out world champion Stephanie Gilmore.

The 15-year-old stunned the Aussie queen of the waves to set up a mouth-watering quarter final with fellow Kiwi Paige Hareb.

Mason was running out of time to keep her dream alive but with two minutes left she pulled off a giant-killing ride.

The crowd could tell it was special, but Mason could hardly believe her score toppled the world's best.

“It's probably the most memorable heat I’m ever going to have - just so happy,” says Mason.

Her third round opponent, three-time world titleholder Gilmore, was surprised by the teenager.  

“She's so young, so small - I think I underestimated her a little bit,” says Gilmore.

Mason now lives in Queensland, but grew up in Taranaki where she's riding a wave of popularity.

Local fans may be divided as world number nine Hareb beat Australian Rebecca Woods today, to set up tomorrow's all-New Zealand quarter-final against Mason.

It is the first time two Kiwis have made the final eight of a pro event.  

“Sarah’s an amazing surfer even though she's so young, it's going to be an interesting match,” says Hareb.

Away from the waves the Kiwi national champ was relaxed, despite the attention and pressure of tomorrow's match-up with Hareb. 

“I'm not really worried at all. I’m just going to do the best I can. It doesn't really matter who wins the next one because we're both Kiwis,” says Mason.

Mason has already shown her talent by winning over the judges and shown she can mix it with the world's best.

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