Sally Fitzgibbons suffers Olympic heartbreak after winning fourth surfing world title

The Aussie champion won individual gold, but won't be going to the Paris Olympics.

Sally Fitzgibbons is celebrating her fourth surfing world title but has suffered the heartbreak of missing out on a place at the Paris Olympics. The 33-year-old Aussie won a thrilling final at the World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico on Sunday, battling her way through eight heats to add to her titles from 2008, 2018 and 2021.

Fitzgibbons was over the moon after become the most successful surfer in the competition's history, but her celebrations were tinged with sadness at missing out on the Olympics. In order for Fitzgibbons to have a chance of snaring a spot for the Paris Games, the Aussies needed to win the team competition.

Sally Fitzgibbons at the World Surfing Games.
Sally Fitzgibbons won the individual gold at the World Surfing Games, but has missed out on a spot at the Paris Olympics. Image: AAP/Getty

That would have clinched an extra spot for the Australian Olympic Team to use on any surfer of their choice. Molly Picklum and Tyler Wright have already qualified for the Games through the World Surf League rankings, but Fitzgibbons was hoping to be awarded the extra spot.

But Picklum and Wright were eliminated in the repechage in Puerto Rico after losing in the fourth and third rounds respectively, with Brazil going on to win the team competition after Tatiana Weston-Webb finished second in the final behind Fitzgibbons. Weston-Webb's runner-up finish gave Brazil 860 points, which took them to 1755 points and past Australia on 1720.

If Weston-Webb had finished third or lower, she would have only collected a maximum of 730 points and Australia would have won the team event - and an extra Olympic berth. Nevertheless, Fitzgibbons was overcome with emotion after her individual success swamped by her teammates after exiting the water .

Sally Fitzgibbons, pictured here after winning the World Surfing Games.
Sally Fitzgibbons waves an Australian flag after winning the World Surfing Games.

She was in tears during an interview after the final, however she didn't appear to know her Olympic chances were over at that stage. She said winning her fourth title was the sweetest of all.

"For sure, just being out there with the crew I've surfed with the last however many years of my career and going toe-to-toe and dropping scores all day," she said. "I just had to keep that belief and trust in surfing, and just trying to get that way at the right moment at the right time and, oh, I feel amazing. I'm just so proud to be Australian."

Sally Fitzgibbons.
Sally Fitzgibbons celebrates after winning the gold medal at the World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico.

Sally Fitzgibbons suffers Olympics heartache amid world title triumph

Fitzgibbons had previously spoken of her desire to compete at a second Olympics after a heartbreaking exit at the Tokyo Games in 2021. She suffered a brutal quarter-final defeat to local surfer Amuro Tsuzuki four years ago, denying her a shot at a medal. Owen Wright, who has since retired, won bronze for Australia in the men's event.

Fitzgibbons has always been a passionate advocate for surfing having a place at the Olympics, after it was introduced for the first time for the Tokyo Games. "Even after all these years it is such an honour and a special feeling to be selected to represent Team Australia," she said. "Although the stakes are high it doesn't change how we all approach things as a team. Your best surfing is done when you are grounded and present in each of the tasks at hand ... the bigger picture will take care of itself."


Gabriel Medina won the men's event in Puerto Rico as Brazil edged France by 41 points for the additional Olympic men's quota spot. It means Brazil will be the only nation to have a maximum contingent of six surfers at the Paris Games.

The Australian men's team finished fifth overall. Ethan Ewing - who bowed out in the repechage after losing his round six heat - was the best performer for the Aussie men.

with AAP

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