Olympic Games 2021: Australian surfers ready to ‘pack a sting’ in Tokyo Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content

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By Tom Decent

Australia’s Olympic surfers are aiming to “pack a killer sting”, like the venomous jellyfish their team is named after, at the upcoming Tokyo Games.

Despite being provisionally picked two years ago, a four-person team of Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright was officially unveiled on Friday following a final qualifying event in El Salvador.

Surfers Sally Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright will fly the Australian flag in Tokyo.

Surfers Sally Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright will fly the Australian flag in Tokyo. Credit:Getty

It is the first time surfing has been included as an Olympic sport and Australia’s athletes are genuine medal contenders.

The team has been named the “Irukandjis” after a dangerous species of jellyfish. The name was given to Surfing Australia by the local Yirrganydji people of North Queensland.

“It’s very fitting,” said Wilson from hotel quarantine in Sydney. “We want to pack a killer sting and come under the radar. It is a little bit hard because we are a strong surfing nation, but to represent our Indigenous culture and be allowed to use the name ... there is going to be an extra layer of representation for Australia to have that Indigenous backing.

“It’s a nice feeling to be fully solidified into the team and definitely going to Tokyo.”

The quartet will compete at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba, 100 kilometres south-east of Tokyo’s central business district and well away from the majority of other sports. They will depart Australia on July 20, five days out from the start of the men’s and women’s events.

Gilmore, a seven-times world champion, and Fitzgibbons, who won gold in the ISA World Surfing Games event in El Salvador this week, always dreamt of going to the Olympics.

“I used to tattoo the Olympic rings on myself at school with our pens,” Fitzgibbons said. “It’s pretty cool to have a legit one now on my shirt.”

Gilmore added: “I never thought I’d get the chance as a surfer. Here we are and I’ll do my very best to bring home some medals.”

Wright, who has recovered from a traumatic brain injury, which he suffered in a surfing accident in 2015, is hopeful youngsters will take a greater interest in the sport.

“We compete around the world all the time and it’s such an individual thing, whereas here we’re travelling as an Australian team,” he said. “When any Aussie is competing in the Olympics ... you just get fired up and you want to see them do well.

“All the groms will be frothing to see that. That’ll fire them up and hopefully we can get good results and it gets them out there surfing every day.”

Wilson added: “It’s incredible to think kids can dream of going to the Olympics just from putting on a pair of boardies and going surfing. It’s pretty special to think about how it’s going to influence the next generation.”

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