Costa Rica’s Leilani McGonagle enjoyed a dream run through the Wallex US Open of Surfing presented by Pacifico, taking down some of the Challenger Series premier performers. The Costa Rican started her campaign toward a Semifinal finish with a solid Round of 48 victory over higher-seeded competitor Ariane Ochoa (EUK), who also advanced. McGonagle then backed it up with a brilliant Round of 32 showing that provided one of the upsets of the event, helping eliminate qualification hopeful Alyssa Spencer (USA).

The 23-year-old continued her incredible flurry to the Round of 16, taking down then ranked Challenger Series No. 1 Isabella Nichols (AUS), now ranked No. 2. A Round of 48 rematch witnessed McGonagle get the best of Ochoa once again, this time in an all-important Quarterfinal matchup. McGonagle looked to be one to beat in the event heading into Finals Day, her first of the 2023 Challenger Series season, against former Championship Tour (CT) star and former US Open of Surfing winner, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS). But, Fitzgibbons was able to regain her ground over McGonagle and the Costa Rican’s run fell just short of a Finals appearance.

McGonagle catapulted 22 spots up the Challenger Series rankings and now sits at No. 18 heading into the EDP Vissla Pro Ericeira beginning October 1 – 8.

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Leilani McGonagle trained in Teahupo´o, the wave of the 2024 Olympic Games 

The surfer from Pavones, Leilani McGongle, participated in the first training camp organized by the International Surfing Association (ISA), it was a week of practices in Tahiti, an island in the South Pacific that will host this sport during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. McGonagle received the invitation for his great performance in the World Championship organized in El Salvador, during the first week of June, added to the fact of having competed in Tokyo 2020 and being qualified for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games.

The best surfers on the planet will play a Olympic medal in the wave of Teahupo’o, belonging to French Polynesia. “It is recognized for being one of the highest-risk waves, it is a tubular wave on top of the reef, I see it as one of the most beautiful but scariest because one starts paddling and looks down and the reef is very clear. 

It is very important to have a lot of respect for him,” Mcgonagle said. Leilani can still qualify for the Olympic Games if she wins the gold medal at the Pan American level in Chile -they compete from October 23 to 30- or through the World Championship to be held in Puerto Rico next year. “That place (Pichilemu, Chile) brings me a lot of confidence. It is the place where I won a Qualifying Series event for the first time and I feel very comfortable in that place, but it is competition and one can never be trusted, you have to be prepared and put in all your effort”, added the athlete born in the southern part of the country.

Currently, Brisa Hennessy is the only Costa Rican surfer with her place guaranteed in Paris 2024.

Photos by WSL/Kenny Morris

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