Sally Fitzgibbons speaks out amid 'heartbreaking' surf controversy
Sally Fitzgibbons has vowed to fight her way back onto surfing's top tour after falling victim to the World Surf League's controversial new mid-year cut.
Fitzgibbons was one of a number of high-profile casualties of the new system after she was eliminated from the Margaret River Pro in the round of 16.
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Only the top 10-ranked women advance to the second half of the Championship Tour, with the other surfers relegated to the Challenger Series and forced to qualify for the top tour again in 2023.
On the men's side, the top 22 advance. Aussies Owen Wright and Morgan Cibilic fell victim to the cut, as did Brazilian young gun Joao Chianca.
It means for the first time in 14 years, Fitzgibbons won't be part of the world's premier surfing competition.
However the 31-year-old has vowed to return and dismissed thoughts she could retire from the sport.
"I feel like at this point in my career, maybe it is a blessing," Fitzgibbons told AAP.
"Sometimes if it is a little later in your career, like in your late 30s maybe, it just feels like maybe an impossible mission sometimes just to get the energy to take on the next generation, but I feel like at this sort of point in my career I still have a lot of energy around my competing.
"I can see avenues to really keep developing my surfing and it's coming along. I just feel like I haven't really met that opportunity in a heat, especially this year.
"That's why we keep turning up because it is another opportunity to try and get to those capabilities in a heat."
Ftizgibbons will begin her road back to the WSL tour at the Gold Coast Pro - the first event on the eight-stop challenger series which includes competition in Sydney, South Africa, France, the United States and Brazil before a final event at Haleiwa in Hawaii from November 26 to December 7.
The Aussie star conceded she was still feeling flat after being kicked out of the top tour.
"I didn't realise how exhausting that could be or the toll and after the heat didn't go to plan and walking up the stairs, it's almost like it all empties out of you," Fitzgibbons said of pressure of the mid-season cut.
"I was definitely really flat and I thought going home for a couple of days would sort of reboot, but it really hasn't been that much time to really re-energise.
"Coming into an event, straightaway, the preparation is so quick and limited that it sort of almost releases the expectation or pressure valve.
"I'm going to have to rely a bit on archival knowledge, obviously have my wits about me and strategise well but the lead-up hasn't been the same so I don't really pin it all on that has to go to plan.
"I'm here and I'll start rolling but there's a lot of challenger events. So hopefully I can just get a little momentum and be like 'hey, this is my new home'."
The unconditional love that comes with putting on my jersey #89 Everything about this sport,the surf community&my dream keeps me coming back for more.I felt everyone of those cheers and hugs from you yesterday and hope I can reciprocate when we cross paths in your big moment 🙏💙 pic.twitter.com/uHZAWNZyyz
— Sally Fitzgibbons (@Sally_Fitz) May 1, 2022
Controversy over surfing's new mid-season cut
Speaking at the Margaret River Pro, American star Kolohe Andino said there wasn't a lot of love for the new system.
"It's just kind of hard the whole cut thing. No one really likes it," he 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."
Fans have also expressed their dislike of the mid-season cut on social media.
Watching Owen Wright’s interview and he has a day and a half to make a decision on his career.
Is this mid-year cut supposed to be fun and exciting, cause I all feel is sadness?
— Jimmy Wilson (@Jimmicane) May 3, 2022
yo WSL stop this bullshit man for real what's wrong with you guys...
— ʇ ɐ u ʞ ǝ 🌱 🐥 🥤 🗂️ 🎞️ 📂 🧃 📁 (@16041204z) May 3, 2022
This cut is so disrespectful.
— país tá dando tilte (@elton2arq) May 3, 2022
Heartbroken about Malia and Sal 💔. But those rookies are fire!
— Sara Jay (@sarausername) May 5, 2022
Is this a cost saving measure? Seems illogical to cut out a large chunk of your best athletes mid season.
— Craig Berrell (@craigberrell) May 4, 2022
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