Posted November 29, 2017 19:47:15>
> Photo: Sally Fitzgibbons left athletics to compete in pro surfing — now she has a shot at a world title. (Source: WSL: Cestari)
>Map: Wollongong 2500
Surfer Sally Fitzgibbons will attempt to win her first surfing world title in Maui over the coming fortnight but her career could have gone down a different track.
Ian Hatfield coached Fitzgibbons in Wollongong when she was a champion middle distance runner in her teenage years. Fitzgibbons won the 800 and 1,500 metres events at the Youth Olympics in Sydney in 2007.
"There's no doubt that she would've represented Australia at the Olympics, no doubt whatsoever," Hatfield said.
"You don't come across too many like Sal in your career. Did everything asked of her, always on time, she just had that competitive spirit, fire in the belly.>
> Photo: Sally Fitzgibbons trained under coach Ian Hatfield alongside Ryan Gregson (R), who made it to the Olympics. (Supplied: David Tarbotton.)
"I used to call her 'The One More'. 'One more', she'd say at the end of the session, 'just one more rep Ian, just one more'."
Fitzgibbons and fellow distance runner Ryan Gregson trained together under the watchful eye of Hatfield.
Gregson is the current Australian record holder in the 1,500 metres and finished ninth in that event at last year's Olympics.
He was the first Australian male in 40 years to make the final.
Hatfield has often wondered what Fitzgibbons could have achieved if she had stuck with athletics.
"She was always super fit. Always did what we call the one percenters, and I'd put Ryan [Gregson] in that category too, and that's what separates the champions from the ones that just don't make it.," he said.
External Link: Sally Fitzgibbon 500km challenge insta
While excelling in athletics, Fitzgibbons lived near the beach in Gerroa and was also winning junior surf tournaments.
In 2007, she qualified for the World Youth Athletics Championships but it clashed with a surfing event. The two sports could no longer be juggled and the lure of the ocean was strong.
"She came and saw me and I said, 'Sal, you go for it mate, you're going to do a lot better financially going surfing than in athletics and that's a mere fact, that's not knocking athletics," he said.
"But I did say, 'Go and win a world title and then come back to athletics, you'll still be young enough'."
The 27-year-old Fitzgibbons is the top-ranked surfer heading into the last event of the year at Honolua Bay.
A win would guarantee her first world title while she could still claim the crown if her rivals falter.
"No doubt I'll have a tear in my eye, I'll be very proud and very happy for her because she's one amazing young lady who's put everything into this and if anyone deserves a world title, it's Sally," Hatfield said.
External Link: Sally Fiztgibbons tweet: Thankful for my love of the ocean on this #Thanksgiving Day. So blessed
"I'll be proud and pleased that I've been part of her journey."
Fitzgibbons has a reputation as one of the most dedicated surfers on the tour.
"If she's not surfing, she's running, she's in the gym. She's carried it on through her life, her belief in fitness, good healthy living," Hatfield said.
"She's just such an inspiration to so many young athletes.
"She definitely made the right choice, you've seen what she's done in surfing.
"Her profile has risen tremendously, and it was the right choice that's for sure."
Fitzgibbons appears destined to represent Australia in Olympics after all, with surfing to make its debut at Tokyo in 2020.
Source : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-29/sally-fitzgibbons-would-have-made-olympic-athletics-former-coach/9208350