Feature: Australian surf champ riding wave of success to Tokyo Olympics

Source: Xinhua| 2021-07-02 10:21:12|Editor: huaxia

Photo taken on May 20, 2021 shows Sally Fitzgibbons competes during the Rip Curl Rottnest Search in Western Australia . (Xinhua/World Surf League)

SYDNEY, July 2 (Xinhua) -- In sport, as in life, timing can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Australian surfing champion Sally Fitzgibbons is no doubt as aware of that as any soccer player who has scored the winning goal or runner who has surged first across the finish line.

In just a few weeks, 30-year-old Fitzgibbons will be in Japan for the Olympic Games' first ever surfing competition. The current No. 3 on the women's World Surf League (WSL) is, to put it mildly, stoked to be part of Australia's two-man, two-woman surfing team, recently renamed the Irukandjis, an extremely venomous species of jellyfish that inhabit Australian marine waters.

"The Olympics, yes, I have been yearning to go," Fitzgibbons told Xinhua, her pent-up enthusiasm almost like a palpable energy.

"We were ready to go last year but then, of course, it was called off because of the pandemic, so it's unreal to think we're about to go. It'll be the ultimate sports party."

Judging from Fitzgibbons' recent performances on the pro surfing circuit, she is a strong contender for gold at Tokyo. The timing of her achievements has been impeccable. In early June she won the crown at the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games in El Salvador in Central America, and that was hot on the heels of her victory at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search off the coast of Western Australia in May.

"Yeah, it's been what they call a purple patch. It's like the planets have all lined up the right way and I have the momentum with me," she said.

"Both events had very different surf conditions, so together they were a great chance to try out my different skill sets. I feel really fortunate about how those contests went. And the Rip Curl trophy looks really cool, I'd had my eye on one for a while."

Not that winning trophies is anything new to Fitzgibbons as over the past 12 years she has accumulated a trove of oversized cups, including three as the World Surfing Games queen, and has surged to the top of the international rankings on six separate occasions.

In fact, the awards were arriving long before her reign on the pro surf circuit. As a girl growing up with three older surfing brothers in a coastal town in Australia' state of New South Wales, Fitzgibbons stood out in a slew of sports. Among her many state and national achievements during her school years were gold medals in the 800m and 1500m races at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney in 2007.

"I ran track, played soccer, touch footy ... as many sports as I could fit in," she told Xinhua. "I was really drawn to running because I liked the discipline and it was something you could do on your own, you didn't need a support team. But eventually I had to decide on which sport to concentrate on and I could see with surfing there was a sustainable career path."

A potential fly in the ointment for her Olympic preparations could have been staying in Sydney while the city has been in lockdown as it tried to control an outbreak of the virulent Delta strain of COVID-19. Not that Fitzgibbons is the sort to get either distracted or pessimistic.

"It just means there is a lot of visualisation going on, keeping in the right frame of mind," she said. "And doing lots of cardio and aerobic workouts, lifting weights, treadmill, skipping rope, stretches, all those sort of things."

"I'm feeling good about how everything is going. Yeah, there will be plenty of tough competition in Tokyo with the U.S. and Brazil, in fact, any of the countries on the day. But it's going to be great and the thought of winning gold for Australia; that would be the ultimate for me."

Fitzgibbons certainly has the experience, endurance, agility, strength and passion to be an Olympian - and, yes, she also knows a thing or two about timing. Enditem

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