She missed an Olympic medal in Tokyo but Australia‘s Sally Fitzgibbons will chase an elusive world title after securing her spot in next month’s inaugural World Surf League finals.
The forced cancellation of the Tahiti Pro due to the Covid situation in the Pacific Island nation means the Corona Open in Mexico became the final event of the regular season for the world tour.
Making it to the semi-finals in Mexico means Fitzgibbons, as well as seven-time world champion and fellow Australian Olympian Steph Gilmore, are locked among the top five surfers who’ll face off in a winner-takes-all battle for the world title in Lower Trestles, California, in September.
“Since the start of the year I believed that was possible,” Fitzgibbons said after securing her shot at the world title in the new-look finals format.
“I’ve worked really hard on trying to grow and evolve my game. Looking at the five is super hard to make that cut.
“That’s just the first step and then it’s just getting that opportunity to go to Lowers and really let my surfing free.
“Hopefully do that really high risk surfing because I guess the whole season’s been a warm-up for there.”
The unique one-day format will feature the top-five ranked surfers in the world competing in a series of elimination heats to determine the 2021 world champion.
Morgan Cibilic is the only Australia male surfer to make it through, finishing fifth on the rankings despite being bundled out early in Mexico.
Fitzgibbons has been runner-up three times in the world championship and made an emotional exit in the quarter-finals at the Olympics earlier this month before heading back to the tour.
But to win a maiden world title, Fitzgibbons will have to take down fellow Aussie and Olympian Gilmore, who also secured a top-five spot to reach the finals.
She will now have the opportunity to make history and win a record-breaking eighth world title.
“Once we heard Tahiti was cancelled I was like, ‘This is it, don’t let the foot off the gas’,” a beaming Gilmore said after making it to the top five.
“All I wanted to do was make sure I had a shot in the finals … that’s all I wanted.”
Both Aussies will surf in the semi-finals in Mexico overnight on Friday.Internet Explorer Channel Network