Sally Fitzgibbons is back in fighting shape this year. The energetic Australian is sitting at No. 3 on the Jeep Leaderboard heading into the Outerknown Fiji Women's Pro, just behind Leaderboard co-leaders Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright. After slogging through her worst season ever in 2016, finishing 8th, Sally clearly has her fire back. It's that same fire that served her well in Fiji back in 2015.
Fitzgibbons entered the event that year as defending champion. One year earlier she had edged out Stephanie Gilmore in the Final to claim her first Fiji win. With hopes of a World Title run in 2015, she was hoping for a repeat performance, but she was dealt a heavy blow in Round Two when her head slapped the water's surface at the exact wrong angle, resulting in a ruptured eardrum.
If you've never ruptured your eardrum, it's hard to imagine the pain. But picture somebody hammering a nail into your ear and you get the idea. And depending on the size of the rupture, it can sideline a surfer for weeks. Indeed, medical officials advised Sally to stay out of the water in the aftermath. But instead, she politely refused. Further, Fitzgibbons asked them to fashion a bandage that would keep her injured ear dry.
Fighting through the pain and equilibrium issues, Sally pushed on, blazing through her Round Three heat to earn a direct trip to the Quarterfinals, and she wasn't done. Fitzgibbons averaged more than 17 points per heat through the rest of the event, finishing strong with two 9-point rides in the Final, for an 18.56 to 14.40 win over Bianca Buitendag.
The gutsy win was vintage Sally fight style, and because her extra effort paid off it will always hold a special place in her heart.
Not surprisingly, nobody on the women's side is looking forward to Fiji more than Sally, which is why betting against her is a risky proposition.