- WSL / Cait Miers

It was back in 1964 -- that's almost 60 years ago -- that Midget Farrelly won Australia's first surfing World Title.

The 19-year-old Farrelly claimed this prize at home in Manly in front of 60,000 spectators. Ever since, the Aussies have been at the cutting edge of competitive surfing, and the sport holds a special place in the nation's culture.

Yet since then, have had to wait all those years to compete for Olympic Gold.Now, in less than a month, Julian Wilson, Owen Wright, Stephanie Gilmore, and Sally Fitzgibbons will have their chance.

For the quartet, it's an incredible opportunity. You see, concerning the Olympics, Australia has history. They have competed in every modern Summer Olympic Games since the first one was held in Athens 1896, just one of five of the 205 eligible nations to have done so. They have also hosted the Games twice, and boast a remarkably successful record.

In the Summer Olympics since the year 2000, Australia has placed 4th, 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th respectively in the medal tally, despite its 23-million population being ranked 53rd in the world.

The reasons for success are varied. The country's strong sporting culture, based on an active lifestyle lived outdoors is one theory. The generous funding the Australian Government has invested into elite sports development, through the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is another.

Either way the Aussie surfing quartet, recently branded the Irukandjis, have all grown up watching Australian Olympians punch well above their weight.

"I always loved watching the Olympics. Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett ... they're just a few names who had iconic performances when I was younger," Julian Wilson recently told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"It's an incredible opportunity to compete at the Olympics which is the ultimate competitive arena."

Wilson Finds His Form, Advances To Round Of 16
The Australian opens up on the Strickland Bay left dropping an 8.33 with a spectacular display of backhand surfing at the Rip Curl Rottnest Search.

For Australia, surfing is also a much more mainstream sport than in most other nations. More than 85 percent of Australians live within 30 miles of the coast, making the beach an integral part of the Aussie lifestyle.

Once the sport was included in the Games, the government also quickly got behind surfing, sensing they could be backing a winner.

Surfing Australia secured a substantial slice of the $112 million that the AIS hands directly to sports and athletes for high performance purposes each year.

That money has the goal of "delivering national pride and inspiration through international sporting success."

The Surfing Australia High Performance Centre, built back in 2015, and upgraded in 2018, is easily the most state-of-the-art surf training facility in the world.

MARGARET RIVER, AUS - MAY 6: 7X WSL Champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia surfing in QuarterFinal 4 of the Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro presented by Corona on May 6, 2021 in Margaret River, WA, Australia. (Photo by Matt Dunbar/World Surf League via G Stephanie Gilmore swooping in Western Australia. - WSL / Matt Dunbar

Julian Wilson, Owen Wright, Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons have benefitted from the facilities and camps, even if much of this investment has come relatively late in their career.

All four are now in their 30s, and so most likely this will be their first, and only, chance of securing an Olympic Medal.

The veterans Aussies are up against it, with the Brazilians in the Men's and Team USA in the Women's, their biggest obstacles to a podium finish.

However, having watched green and gold athletes often finish way above their ranking, the motivation to make history remains stronger than most.

"Surfing has finally arrived as a global sport. It's got the recognition now. We are going to the Olympics," said Sally Fitzgibbons, who captured gold medals in the 800m and 1500m at the Youth Olympics in 2007. "It's cool to have that as a milestone in my career. It's hard to underestimate just how important this is for me personally, and surfing in general. We've waited a long time for this."

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