Former Little Athlete Sally Fitzgibbons is the new surfing world No.1
Former Little Athlete Sally Fitzgibbons is the new world No.1 after beating Carissa Moore in the final of World Surf League’s Rio Pro in Brazil.
The 28-year-old, prevailed 14.64 to 12.57 over former world champion in clean 4-5 foot surf at the beachbreak of Saquarema on Sunday.
The win, Fitzgibbons’ first since the 2017 Margaret River Pro, adds to her three other podium finishes in 2019 to give her the yellow jersey at the halfway point of the season.
“It feels pretty delightful,” Fitzgibbons said.
“Just coming in and receiving that welcome back to the beach, that was insane, and some of my mates cheering me up the beach and a big hug from my dad.
“And I know my mum’s watching out there with all my family and friends, and just the team that had my back, so it’s all part of the process and they’ve all chipped in and it’s pretty cool to be standing here.”
Although Sally Fitzgibbons followed her 3 older brothers into surfing at the age of 6, she also at that age joined the Kiama Little Athletics centre on the NSW South Coast as an U7 and soon discovered that she could run fast too. In fact, Sally Fitzgibbons is still the Kiama LAC U9 70m record holder, with the time of 10.80 seconds recorded back in 2000. By the time she was about 11 however, it was the middle distance events that seemed to best suit Sally, and the 800m and 1500m events became her favourites. She joined the Kembla Joggers Athletics Club, well-known for its successful middle distance athletes and teamed up with respected coach Ian Hatfield.
Following the Australian All Schools Athletics Championships in December 2006, Athletics NSW wrote: “After winning the Australian U18 Surfing Title a fortnight ago, Sally Fitzgibbons put her surfboard away for the weekend and concentrated on the U17 Girl’s 800m and 1500m. Utilising her fluid stride to its full potential, Fitzgibbons took out both events in World Youth Qualifying times of 2:08.73 and 4:25.85 respectively”.
At age 16, Sally was considered to be one of Australia’s hottest middle distance prospects, winning the 800m and 1500m at the 2007 Australian Youth Olympic Festival. In an article at the time, the Australian Olympic Committee said: “To add to her 1500m gold medal, Gerroa’s own super-woman 16-year-old Sally Fitzgibbons produced a victory in the 800m that looked effortless in the soaring 36° heat. The national surfing champion, state cross country runner and state touch footballer, never looked like losing the event which she completed in a time of 2:10.08 to the roar of a crowd that appreciated the talent before them”. The Youth Olympic Festival was in the end however, the last major athletics meet for Sally Fitzgibbons. She withdrew from the World Youth Championships in the Czech Republic that year because of a clash with the World Junior Surfing Titles.
Since then Sally has gone on to hold US and Australian Opens of Surf Titles.