- WSL / Cait Miers

Passion can be an overused word, but in Italo Ferreira's case it describes his motivation perfectly. Ferreira learned to surf on a styrofoam cooler lid gifted by his fisherman father, and he's now a World Champion and an Olympic Gold Medalist.

That's the stuff behind the true meaning of the word, and it's hard to imagine the weight of this narrative is not what has fueled his runaway ascendancy, after he burst onto the scene in 2018, winning his first-ever Championship Tour event, and then claiming two more that very year.

Fast-forward one more season, to 2019, and he'd bagged a World Title at Pipeline, in a showdown against one of the fiercest competitors the sport has ever seen in Gabriel Medina, at competitive surfings flagship wave.

The fairytale nature of this story seems to inspire its protagonist as much as it does his fans, and to re-claim the World Title in the same year as becoming one of surfing's first-ever Gold Medalists ... Ferreira desperately wants this to come true.

The Olympic win could be the edge he needs. The make up of the WSL Final Five is far from certain at this stage, but it's a very safe bet that at some stage we'll see Ferreira and Medina meet up on the World Title-deciding day at Lower Trestles.

Italo Ferreira Olympic Celebration Imagine what's going through Italo Ferreira's head in this moment, after winning Gold - Sean Evans / ISA

Only one athlete in the men's field will know that they rose to the top of the field when surfing was on sport's biggest stage -- Ferreira, the Gold Medalist, paddled out in a Final against Kanoa Igarashi that was make-or-break to decide an Olympic Gold Medal, the highest honor in global sport, and even after breaking his board on the first wave he caught, the intensity couldn't get to him.

So much success in surfing comes from confidence. It's no coincidence that Ferreira's first CT win back in 2018 set him on a roll that's taken him to where he is now. It's built up, step by step, but now he's something none of his rivals do -- the Gold, and the knowledge he had what it took to win it.

The biggest question mark over the first-ever Rip Curl WSL Finals event is how athletes will cope with the laser-focused pressure of potentially only surfing a handful of heats to decide a World Title. In the case of the World no.1, that means everything riding on a single heat.

Italo Ferreira Bells Beach 2018 Ferreira really got going back in 2018, which isn't all that long ago - WSL / Kelly Cestari

Some have gone so far as to speculate that there might even be an advantage to coming in second or third, and getting some of that magic confidence from a warm up heat or two.

But one thing is for sure, going into the final leg of the regular season with a Gold Medal is going to make Ferreira feel as though the Title is a foregone conclusion, even if people like Gabriel Medina are doing literally everything in their power to prove him wrong, and without the WSL Final Five even being locked in.

With only two Championship Tour events to go before the Rip Curl WSL Finals, we're about to find out soon.

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