ASP Top 17 Invade San Bartolo for Movistar Peru Classic

SAN BARTOLO, Lima/Peru - The world's best female surfers will assault the South American continent this week for the fifth stop on the 2010 ASP Women's World Tour, the Movistar Peru Classic presented by IDP.

For the first time in the event's storied four-year history, the Movistar Peru Classic will whisk the ASP Top 17 away from the lengthy, sandbar lefts of Lobitos and Mancora in exchange for the punchy reefbreaks of San Bartolo in Lima.

Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 22, reigning three-time ASP Women's World Champion and current ASP Women's World No. 1, has been on a rampage in 2010, collecting three wins from four events and grabbing a stranglehold on the rankings' lead.

"It has to be the most talented field ever and so this great string of results has surprised me as well," Gilmore said. "I think the first few events have left everyone questioning the results of the rookies and younger girls, so the focus and expectation grows on them and then allows me to be comfortable and just do my thing."

While Gilmore has a had a major roll in South America, collecting two wins and a Runner-Up finish in the past three seasons, the iconic Australian admits that this year's new venue will level the playing field.

"This is my first time to San Bartolo and I don't really know what to expect but I have been to Lima before and it was a pleasant experience," Gilmore said. "I'm excited to get there for a new challenge. Peruvians are very passionate about sport and surfing especially because of Sofia (Mulanovich). It's pretty cool to rock up to a new event venue and see what happens, so Sofia is always a threat especially on home turf, but the conditions are beachbreak stuff so any of the girls are dangerous."

Gilmore faces Bruna Schmitz (BRA), 20, and one of the Peruvian wildcards in the opening Round of Movistar Peru Classic competition.

Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 26, defending Movistar Peru Winner and current ASP Women's World No. 3, is one of the only surfers with experience at this year's venue and with the full support of the South American country behind her, will be a major threat at this season's event.

"The waves in San Bartolo are small but it can get really fun," Mulanovich said. "It is a right if swell is small or medium and left is swell is big. I have surfed San Bartolo all my life and really enjoy surfing there."

Despite her current ASP Women's World No. 3 ranking, Mulanovich is currently rehabbing a neck injury sustained earlier this season.

"I am just trying to take it heat by heat this season, have fun and see what happens," Mulanovich said. "I need to improve a bit on my fitness because I have been nursing a bad neck lately."

Mulanovich will take on Rosanne Hodge (ZAF), 23, and one of the Peruvian wildcards in Round 1 of competition.

Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 19, current ASP Women's World No. 2, is into her second season amongst the elite and her dedicated preparation is already making the talented natural-footer renowned amongst her peers.

"This will be my first time surfing San Bartolo but I've heard good things about the waves in the area," Fitzgibbons said. "I will be in San Bartolo for a Red Bull camp which will definitely help me with becoming familiar with area. I know a few of the girls have travelled and surfed the location before, but I'd say it's a pretty even playing field."

The young Australian has been on a tear this season, rocketing up to second on the ASP Women's World Tour rankings leading the charge against the Gilmore juggernaut.

"It's great to be in second on the ratings at this stage of the season - definitely closer to where I want to be," Fitzgibbons said. "I'm not too focused on the ratings and placings and what not. I just want to carry on being consistent and improve my surfing in the back half of the year. No pressure at this stage, just happy to be fit and ready to surf."

Fitzgibbons will battle Amee Donohoe (AUS), 29, and a Peruvian wildcard in her Round 1 heat.

Coco Ho (HAW), 19, current ASP Women's World No. 8, has yet to repeat the results that saw her attain ASP Rookie of the Year Honors in 2009, but feels her surfing is still in top form and results are bound to .

"I've never been to San Bartolo," Ho said. "It's always fun surfing a new venue. Everyone is figuring it out and it always brings good surprises. I definitely hope to find myself in a Final this year. I don't feel like I'm surfing badly. I'm just making simple mistakes with Mother Nature. My goal at the moment is to crack Top 5. I know I am capable, but I have to put all my focus into conditions and prepare with a game plan."

Ho will face Chelsea Hedges (AUS), 26, and Claire Bevilacqua (AUS), 27, in the opening round of the Movistar Peru Classic.

Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS), 24, and Lee Ann Curren (FRA), 20, have both withdrawn due to injury and Carissa Moore (HAW), 17, is unable to attend due to High School graduation.

Heat 1:
Melanie Bartels (HAW), Rebecca Woods (AUS), Nikita Robb (ZAF)
Heat 2: Silvana Lima (BRA), Paige Hareb (NZL), Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Bruna Schmitz (BRA), TBA
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Amee Donohoe (AUS), TBA
Heat 5: Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Rosanne Hodge (ZAF), TBA
Heat 6: Chelsea Hedges (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Claire Bevilacqua (AUS)