Sally Fitzgibbons wins World Surf League wildcard for 2023, Owen Wright cut
Olympian Sally Fitzgibbons has been “blown away” after being granted a reprieve from the World Surfing League and will return to the main circuit as a wild card for the first half of the 2023 season.
She might even come back this year.
Fitzgibbons, 31, was among the most publicized victims of the controversial mid-season cut when she lost at the Margaret River Pro last week, losing her place on the main tour, which has been reduced to just 10 competitors, for the first time. times in 14 years.
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“I’m just blown away. You don’t get a lot of second chances,” Fitzgibbons said.
“I guess all these years of service, just trying my heart out, it’s cool to see my work.
“It brings tears to my eyes, it’s been an emotional week.
“Being back where I really want to put myself in the best position to improve my surfing, that definitely aligns with my goal.”
She said she will fight to come back and qualify for the second-tier Gold Coast Pro quarter-finals this week, surfing with stitches in her head after a crash at the weekend.
Just before her Round of 16 and on her father’s birthday, the WSL announced that Fitzgibbons would be one of two wildcard winners for 2023, giving her direct entry into the top five events, including Pipeline and Bells Beach, before the upcoming mid-season cut. year.
But she will also be the first alternate for the rest of this year if any of the remaining competitors withdraw from any of the six remaining events on the 2022 calendar.
But fellow Olympian Owen Wright, who also failed to qualify mid-season, did not receive one of the two wildcards given to male surfers, one going to the three-time world champion Gabriel Medina.
WSL Wildcards are selected based on athlete nominations and take into account competitive performances, rankings and event results.
Fitzgibbons is a three-time world title runner-up and wore green and gold for Australia at the Tokyo Olympics when surfing was first introduced.
On Monday, Owen Wright withdrew from the Gold Coast event by the narrowest of margins, leaving the Australian Olympian’s professional surfing career at a crossroads.
After the Margaret River Pro earlier this month, Wright fell victim to the World Surf League‘s controversial mid-season cut, which was introduced this year and significantly reduces ground on the Championship circuit.
Relegation left Wright, 32, contemplating his future in the sport, but he ultimately decided to suit up for the Gold Coast Pro on the second tier challengers tour.
Wright was eliminated from that event on Monday in the most heartbreaking of circumstances, missing out on advancing to the third round by 0.03 points.
Meanwhile, Gold Coast crowds got their last glimpse of Kelly Slater on Monday. The 50-year-old veteran finished third in his round of 16 series and was eliminated.
He was edged out by Italian Leonardo Fioravanti and fellow American Cam Richards, neither of whom were born when Slater won his first world title.
Thanks in large part to his memorable victory at that year’s Pipeline, Slater avoided relegation from the Championship Tour and had been surfing the Gold Coast for fun.