Sally Fitzgibbons moved through to the semi-finals at Bells Beach despite a heavily bandaged foot.
Australian surfer Sally Fitzgibbons has overcome a serious foot injury to move through to the semi-finals at the World Surf League Bells Beach event, a feat reminiscent of her 2015 win in Fiji where she competed with a perforated eardrum.
Fitzgibbons required three stitches to her right foot after colliding with a rock during her third-round clash against France’s Johanne Defay and Silvana Lima of Brazil.
Despite competing with her foot bandaged and wearing a bootie, Fitzgibbons accumulated a total score of 14.93 to oust opponent Tatiana Weston Webb of Hawaii (13.37).
Her campaign was helped along by two consecutive lay days, which allowed her foot to heal further.
“It was really nice to give myself a shot,” Fitzgibbons said shortly after her heat win.
“I just sort of taped it up, wrapped it up and put it into a boot and just tried to eliminate it from my mind.”
It’s not the first time Fitzgibbons, who won at Bells in 2011 and 2012, has competed while injured, having won the 2015 World Surf League event in Fiji despite perforating her eardrum in an earlier heat.
“I just went into the heat saying, if I can play the game of surfing really well, whatever I lose in that sharp high performance aspect, I can make up in strategy,” Fitzgibbons said.
“It was a good battle. Everyone comes in with so much fire, that’s why I love this sport.”
Ratings battle heats up
Fitzgibbons came into the event at Bells Beach off a comprehensive win over fellow Australian Tyler Wright at the previous tour stop of Margaret River.
The win saw her move into equal first on the WSL ratings with six time world champion, Stephanie Gilmore.
Gilmore trailed for much of her fourth round heat against Brazil’s Silvana Lima before taking the win in the dying moments.
Gilmore joked after the heat the strategy of waiting for the last moment to take a heat win was a “terrible one.”
“I’m consistently going for the patient award,” Gilmore said
“It’s a terrible tactic and it’s stressing me out. I’m going to lose my hair and chew all my fingernails off before the year’s over. It was a tough one.”
Reigning world champion Tyler Wright bypassed the fourth round courtesy of a third round win and will meet Hawaii’s Coco Ho in the second quarter final.
Gilmore will surf against Johanne Defray while Fitzgibbons faces California’s Lakey Peterson.
Australia’s Matt Wilkinson beat good mate Mick Fanning in their first round match up at Bells Beach (Source: WSL/Sloane)
The first round of the men’s division also got underway today, with Australian’s Matt Wilkinson and Owen Wright posting solid heat wins.
Brazil’s Filipe Toledo accumulated the day’s highest heat score, with a near perfect 19.70 during his heat against Connor Coffin (US) and Queenslander, Bede Durbidge.
The event is expected to resume tomorrow.