The Australian Olympic Committee has announced its team of four surfers who will be competing in the the sport’s Olympic Games debut at Tokyo 2020.
Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright will be making history by representing Australia at the Olympic Games when surfing gets underway at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba, east of Tokyo, from July 25.
The four surfers’ ticket to Tokyo 2020 was confirmed earlier this month after competing in the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador. However, each of them had previously earned provisional quotas based on their 2019 World Surf League (WSL) tour rankings.
Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman was delighted to announce the selections that make up the Australian contingent at Tokyo 2020.
“Congratulations to Sally, Steph, Julian and Owen on today’s selection to the Australian Olympic Team,” 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.”
The world-class talent will be on display at the Olympic Games, headed by seven-time World Champion Gilmore and three-time ISA World Surfing Games champion Fitzgibbons. Wilson and Wright have each won multiple WSL tour events to round out the strength of the team.
For Fitzgibbons, she says its a memorable achievement to be able to represent Australia and have 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.”
For Gilmore, she says surfing’s inclusion into the Olympic Games schedule will do wonderful things for the sport and hopes it will inspire a new generation of Australian surfers.
“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,” Gilmore said.
“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.”
Wright shares Gilmore’s sentiment that with surfing making an appearance at the Olympic Games will only strengthen the sport’s 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,” Wright said.
“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… I know it will be one of the biggest privileges of my life.”
Wilson touched on the honour to be selected, especially on account of a deep talent pool the AOC could choose from.
“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.”
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The Australian surfing team have officially been named The Irukandjis, adding a touch of identity towards the team that will cover all disciplines of surfing in Australia. Named after an extremely venomous species of jellyfish that inhabits Australian marine waters, The Irukandjis name was gifted to Surfing Australia by the local Yirrganydji people of North Queensland.
Seven-time World Champion and Surfing Australia Chair Layne Beachley commended the efforts of the four surfers that will be going to Tokyo.
“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 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 onto Beachley’s compliments as the Olympic Games nears.
“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,” Mater said.
“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 Irukandjis team.”
Surfing at Tokyo 2020 gets underway on July 25 and runs until July 28 though if inclement weather conditions prevent competition, there are additional ‘lay days’ are set aside, going through to August 1.