Sally Fitzgibbons ready to shine in Brazil
Sally Fitzgibbons will be aiming to continue her glorious record in Brazil after earning a late call-up to compete at the World Surf League Rio Pro in Saquarema.
Fitzgibbons, who missed the WSL's mid-season cut, wasn't originally listed as one of the wildcards to compete in Rio de Janeiro.
But the withdrawal of two-time world champion Tyler Wright due to visa issues opened the door for Fitzgibbons to be thrust into the draw.
Wright has endured a torrid time of late, with the 28-year-old forced out midway through G-Land after contracting COVID-19.
She didn't compete at the recent El Salvador Pro due to complications from her bout of COVID-19, and she was left devastated after her transit visa to enter Brazil didn't arrive in time, forcing her out of the Rio Pro as well.
Fitzgibbons won the Rio Pro in 2012, 2014 and 2019, and has her eyes set on claiming the trophy a record fourth time.
She faces a tough first-up battle against fellow Australians Stephanie Gilmore and Isabella Nichols, with only one to earn direct entry into the quarterfinals.
The other two will be thrust into the elimination second round.
Gilmore, the 2018 Rio Pro winner, enters the event in hot form after taking out the El Salvador Pro.
That result saw her rocket to third in the standings, giving her an excellent chance to finish in the top five and earn a spot in the season-ending finals in California.
Nichols is seventh and Wright sixth in the standings.
But Wright's no-show in Brazil will see her slide further down the rankings, leaving her with just two events to claw back into the top five.
In the men's side of the draw, 11-time world champion Kelly Slater and John John Florence (knee) have been ruled out through injury for the second straight event.
Australia have three men in the mix to finish in the top five.
Jack Robinson is second following wins at the Margaret River Pro and G-Land to go with his third-placing at Bells Beach.
Ethan Ewing is seventh and Callum Robson eighth and a big result in Brazil could lift them into the top five.
Filipe Toledo sits top of the rankings, while Griffin Colapinto (third), Italo Ferreira (fourth) and Kanoa Igarashi (fifth) round out the top five.
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