THE Australian Olympic Committee has officially unveiled its four surfers to represent the green and gold as the sport makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
South Coast duo Sally Fitzgibbons and Owen Wright, as well as Stephanie Gilmore and Julian Wilson, 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 Gerroa's Fitzgibbons winning the competition in an exciting show of form ahead of Tokyo.
With seven-time world champion Gilmore, three-time champion of ISA World Surfing Games and winner of the most recent WSL tour event in Rottnest Island Fitzgibbons, and multiple WSL tour event winners in Wilson and Culburra Beach's Wright, the squad is bursting with talent.
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 their 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.
"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."
Thirty-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," the Kiama High School alumna 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."
Thirty-one-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," the Culburra Beach Boardrider 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 - 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."
The Australian surfing team have been officially named The Irukandjis after the extremely venomous species of jellyfish that inhabit Australian marine waters.
The Irukandjis name was generously gifted to Surfing Australia by the local Yirrganydji people of North Queensland.
"It's been a long road for our four athletes in gaining Olympic qualification," said Surfing Australia CEO Chris Mater.
"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 Irukandjis team."
This 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 July 25-28, with additional 'lay days' until August 1 to allow the competition to move depending on the conditions.
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