The surfing world is rallying around Sally Fitzgibbons after the Aussie superstar was relegated from the World Surf League's top tour in devastating scenes.
The 31-year-old came into the Margaret River Pro ranked 12th, but couldn't break into the top 10 after being eliminated by France's Johanne in the last 16.
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Only the top 10-ranked women (plus a wildcard) qualify for the second half of the Championship Tour (CT) season, with the rest relegated to the Challenger Series (CS).
It means Fitzgibbons will now drop to the second-tier series for the rest of the year and have to qualify for the 2023 main tour.
It also brings to an end a run of 108-consecutive WSL events during Fitzgibbons' 14 years on tour.
Nevertheless, the fan favourite put on brave front and thanked her supporters.
“The unconditional love that comes with putting on my jersey #89. Everything about this sport, the surf community and my dream keeps me coming back for more,” she wrote on social media.
“I felt every one of those cheers and hugs from you yesterday and hope I can reciprocate when we cross paths in your big moment.”
American legend Kelly Slater commented: “Legend Sally. I’m sure yesterday was a hard one but I have no doubt you’ll be back in a few months threatening tour wins and after that title.”
Compatriot Stephan Gilmore wrote: “You’ll crush the quey and be back for pipe no problemo!”
Your energy, passion, positivity and never ending smile inspires people every day. Tear snapper apart
— Leon Tarbotton (@LonTarbo) May 1, 2022
Great attitude Sally now go win Snapper!
— Mark Lehman (@Bama_Surf) May 1, 2022
You're so inspiring Sally! You're gorgeous in every way!. 😍❤🤙🏼
— Dave Petersen ⚡ (@davepsurf66) May 1, 2022
You’ve got this @Sally_Fitz If anyone has the character to come back, and dominate a sport, from this silly cut- and do it with grace and dignity- it’s you. Such a good role model to our kids.
As you once told our daughter- live your passion and never, ever give up, legend
— Jase Wilde (@wilde_jase) May 1, 2022
Morgan Cibilic also axed from surfing's top tour
On Tuesday, fellow Aussie Morgan Cibilic became the latest high-profile victim of the mid-season cut after failing to make it past the third round at Margaret River.
Cibilic, who entered the WA event ranked a lowly 28th, needed to beat countryman Callum Robson in Tuesday's head-to-head battle to have any chance of surviving the axe.
While the top-10 women qualify for the second half of the tour, the top 22-ranked men (plus a wildcard) advance.
But Cibilic's bid was unsuccessful when his two-wave tally of 10.7 fell short of Robson's 12.0.
Cibilic finished fifth in the world last year and must now win back his CT spot through the CS.
American star Kolohe Andino is now safe, but said he's not a huge fan of the mid-season cut.
"It's just kind of hard the whole cut thing. No one really likes it," Andino told the WSL broadcast.
"We're all friends on tour and we all love each other, so you don't want to knock the guy off tour.
"It just seems like it's a TV show a little bit, like drama all the time.
"Watching the women's the other day it was just heartbreaking with the girls that were losing. They were crying all day."
Andino said one positive to come out of the introduction of the cut was the quality of surfing.
"I definitely feel like the calibre of surfing has risen," he said.
"Usually a lot of guys if they get a result or two earlier in the year, they will kind of mail it in knowing they are going to qualify at the end of the year.
"So it seems like everyone is trying their best and ripping in really hard, so it's good for that."
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