Steph Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons; The history of Australian surfing in the WSL

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Sally Fitzgibbons will be for a world title. Photo: Tony Heff / World Surfing League

She missed out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo, but Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons will chase an elusive world title after securing her spot for the first World Surfing League final next month.

The forced cancellation of the Tahiti Pro due to the Covid situation in the Pacific island nation means the Corona Open in Mexico has become the final event of the regular season of the world tour.

Qualifying for the semi-finals in Mexico means Fitzgibbons, along with seven-time world champion and fellow Australian Steph Gilmore, are stranded among the top five surfers who will face off in a battle for the world. title in Lower Trestles, Calif., in September.

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“From the start of the year, I believed it was possible,” said Fitzgibbons after securing his chance to win the world title in the new finals format.

“I’ve worked really hard to try to grow and evolve my game. Watching the five is super hard to make that cut.

“It’s just the first step and then it’s just getting the opportunity to go to Lowers and really let my surf free.

“I’m hoping to do this very high risk surfing because I guess the whole season has been a warm-up for there.”

The unique one-day format will feature the world’s top five surfers competing in a series of playoff heats to determine the 2021 World Champion.

Morgan Cibilic is the only successful Australian surfer, finishing fifth in the standings despite his early start in Mexico.

Fitzgibbons has been a three-time World Championship finalist and made an emotional outing in the Olympics quarterfinals earlier this month before returning to tour.

But to win a first world title, Fitzgibbons will have to defeat fellow Australian and Olympian Gilmore, who also secured a top-five spot to reach the final.

She will now have the opportunity to make history and win an eighth world title, a record.

“Once we heard that Tahiti was called off, I was like, ‘This is it, stick with it,’” said Gilmore beaming after hitting the top five.

“All I wanted to do was make sure I had a chance to make the final … that’s all I wanted.”

The two Australians will surf in the semi-finals in Mexico on Friday night.

Sydney

Russell Gould is a senior sports writer with nearly 20 years of experience in a wide variety of sports including AFL, cricket, golf, rugby league, rugby and horse racing. First a sports reporter at MX, t … Read more

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