Sally Fitzgibbons has used the COVID-19 enforced shutdown of the World Surf League tour to make herself a more complete surfer.
Sally Fitzgibbons has used the COVID-19 enforced shutdown of the World Surf League tour to make herself a more complete surfer.

Surfing Sally still has eyes on Olympic gold

Sally Fitzgibbons has used the COVID-19 enforced shutdown of the World Surf League to make herself a more complete surfer ahead of next year's postponed Olympics.

Fitzgibbons, who sealed her nomination to Australia's surfing team for the sport's Olympic debut with her performances on the world tour last year, has used a rare block of time at home to add to her aerial arsenal ahead of the rescheduled Tokyo Games next August.

Before the pandemic, Fitzgibbons' schedule would have had her "crisscrossing the globe six or eight times" as well as heading to the Olympics this year.

Instead, she will take to the surf on the Tweed Coast this weekend in the opening event of the Australian Grand Slam of Surfing series at Cabarita Beach alongside the likes of seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and two-time winner Tyler Wright.

But Fitzgibbons won't just be heading out for a rare competitive tilt.

 

The tour shutdown and Olympic Games postponement allowed the 29-year-old to "take ownership" of her continued development and she will unveil her evolved style this weekend.

"I love working on my craft and my surfing, so it gave me that opportunity to work on parts of my surfing that I was yet to scratch the surface on really," Fitzgibbons said.

"(I've worked on) the progressive element, aerial surfing, (and surfing) some of the bigger waves on the (NSW) South Coast, the ones that really get the juices flowing but we've never been at home in the winter time to train on them."

One of the fittest competitors on the world tour, Fitzgibbons is able to stay on rides and extract every ounce of scoring potential with her long, carving rides.

But adding aerial manoeuvres to her arsenal would give her another string to her bow and allow her to be competitive in all conditions, something that could be vital in the unpredictable conditions expected at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on Chiba Prefecture's Pacific coast.

"Like learning anything new, it goes into the testing phase and there's a lot of crashes and patching the body back together and then it (becomes) innately in my system to use as a tool under pressure," Fitzgibbons said.

"I'm hoping that they actually start to really come into my competitive game and I have that knockout punch look to them."

Given the lockdown situation around much of the world, Fitzgibbons is happy just to be competing again at the weekend but she's still looking forward to the Games next year.

"Knowing that Tokyo's still set for next year does give you that level of comfort that you don't have to do the qualification process entirely again," she said.

"But we don't know what that chapter for surfing looks like yet.

"It's something I'm just holding the space for and it's going to be one almighty sports party and one I'd like to keep my invite to."

The Tweed Coast Pro will be held on Sunday and Monday at Cabarita Beach, with 24 of Australia's best surfers competing in men's and women's divisions.

Originally published as Surfing Sally still has eyes on Olympic gold


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