ASB MAGAZINE: The Australian Olympic Committee officially selected the four surfers to the Australian Olympic Team as the sport makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo. Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright will make history as Australia’s first Olympic surfers when they take to Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba, east of Tokyo.
While the four surfers earned provisional quotas based on their 2019 World Surf League (WSL) tour rankings, their ticket to Tokyo was only confirmed after competing in the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador this month, with Fitzgibbons winning the competition in an exciting show of form ahead of Tokyo.
Ryan Callinan and Nicki Van Dijk also qualified for the team as alternates but will not be in Tokyo. Callinan attended the ISA provisional event in El Salvador and is eligible to surf if called up. However, Van Dijk was unable to attend due to a Federal Government ruling over Victoria’s COVID19 regulations and was not permitted to travel to the ISA World Games with her teammates. Her spot as a replacement surfer in Tokyo is a little more complicated than Callinans.
If any team member is unable to surf in Tokyo, then the deadline for the Final Entries list of participating athletes in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (sport entries deadline) is 5 July 2021 at 23:59 Japan time (UTC+9). In the unlikely event that either Sally or Steph cannot surf in Tokyo, then Nicki Van Dijk’s place in Tokyo is not guaranteed and that ‘allocation’ may go to another country as Van Dijk did not attend the provisional ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador.
That decision will need to take place prior to surfing’s Technical Committee which takes place on July 24th. For surfing, in which the quota place is allocated to an athlete by name, the reallocation procedure will be initiated in accordance with the approved Qualification System for surfing. In this case, replacement athletes must meet the eligibility conditions and qualification criteria, must have been registered on the NOC’s ‘Long List’ of athletes eligible to serve as replacements, and must have no doping control issues pending.
In any case, Sally, Steph, Julian and Owen are ‘officially’ Australia’s first Olympic surfers.
Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team Ian Chesterman was thrilled to officially select the first Australian athletes to compete in a sport making its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
“Congratulations to Sally, Steph, Julian and Owen on today’s selection to the Australian Olympic Team,” Mr Chesterman said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to show what Australian surfers are capable of on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
“These athletes are clearly world class and are fantastic ambassadors for their sport and for our country. I know Australia’s surfing community have been following their progress for years and I’m sure we will see all of Australia get behind them in Tokyo as they showcase their incredible skills in this new Olympic sport.
“Thank you to Surfing Australia for all you have done to support surfing from juniors to these newly selected Olympic athletes. We are thrilled to have you as part of the Olympic family.”
Seven-time world champion Steph Gilmore sees surfing’s inclusion as a beacon for the next generation of Aussie surfers.
“It’s a true honour to have qualified for the Olympics and get the opportunity to represent my country,” Gilmore said. “As a surfer it’s something that I never thought I’d ever get the chance to do but here we are and I’m going to do my very best to bring some medals back to Australia.”
“Seeing surfing in the Olympics will hopefully let up-and-coming junior surfers realise a new dream that they can go out there and hopefully win a medal for the country. It’s going to be a whole new opportunity for these junior surfers.”
“Now we’re competing as a team, if anything it will push us to even greater success, to support each other and have that on the world stage. It will mean everything to show up and be able to represent so much more than just ourselves.”
30-year-old Fitzgibbons, who as a talented athletics junior won two gold medals in the 1500m and 800m at the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival, was honoured at the chance to sport the Olympic rings on her jersey.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be officially selected for the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo,” Fitzgibbons said. “I used to draw the Olympic rings on myself back in school – to have the rings on my shirt now, to have it legit is so cool.
“It’s been a long journey but being there in Tokyo will feel all the more special. I’m going to give it my all, I want to compete for my country, fly that flag and hopefully come home with a gold medal. But more importantly, I want to go in with a smile and come out with a smile – to experience that whole emotional journey, it’s a big moment.”
31-year-old Wright says surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics will help broaden the surfing community in Australia.
“We compete all over the world all the time, but it’s such an individual sport whereas here we’re travelling as a team – it will give some of that great Aussie team spirit.”
“We’re going as an Australian team, that Olympic spirit you get whenever you see any Aussie competing in the Olympics – you get all fired up and want to see them do well. I feel honoured to represent Australia – after listening to Cathy Freeman talk to us surfers [at Surf Australia High Performance Centre in 2019] about what it means to compete at the Olympics – I know it will be one of the biggest privileges of my life.”
Wilson said Australia’s deep talent pool made making the team an honour.
“To be one of two Australian males and one of four Australian’s feels like an incredible achievement,” Wilson said.
“I feel like we have a strong team and an extremely deep talent pool of surfers over the country, and I think I can represent them and the country really well in Japan.”
The Australian surfing team have been officially named The Irukandji’s after the extremely venomous species of jellyfish that inhabit Australian marine waters. The Irukandji’s name was generously gifted to Surfing Australia by the local Yirrganydji people of North Queensland.
Seven-time World Champion and Surfing Australia Chair Layne Beachley welcomed today’s announcement.
“It’s going to be something special, being in this first Olympic Games for surfing as a sport,” Beachley said. “I have no doubt our four amazing athletes will give their all in a quest to bring home medals from Japan and I can’t begin to imagine how they are feeling now the games are just around the corner. Best of luck Steph, Sal, Owen and Julian, I can’t wait to watch and cheer you on as you all make history!”
Surfing Australia CEO Chris Mater added “It’s been a long road for our four athletes in gaining Olympic qualification. Now the Games are under two months away it’s getting really exciting for both surfers and staff. We are already so proud of Sally, Owen, Julian and Stephanie as they embark as pioneers of Olympic surfing. That Australian pride and spirit runs deep in The Irukandji’s team.”
The selection brings the number of selected athletes in the Australian Olympic Team to 149 of an expected 450-480.
The Surfing competition will run from 25-28 July, with additional ‘lay days’ until 1 August to allow the competition to move depending on condition.