(Australian Associated Press)
An Olympic medal has lit a burning flame within Owen Wright for a big finish in this year’s World Surf League and the Paris Games in 2024.
Wright upset two-time world champion and current series leader Gabriel Medina to win bronze in Tokyo; Australia’s first surfing Olympic medal.
With this year’s world title decided in a top-five showdown in Lower Trestles in California in September, Wright needs some big results at the Corona Open in Mexico this week and at the Tahiti Pro in Teahupo’o to climb the rankings.
He is in 20th place, 11350 points outside the five, which includes Australian rookie Morgan Cibilic in fourth.
Wright likes his chances, saying he was riding high from his Olympic medal.
He said the remaining two events before the finals were in locations better suited to his big wave strengths.
“It’s going to take some big efforts for sure to get up there but it’s totally doable,” the 31-year-old told AAP.
“Last week was like a breakthrough performance for me so I am bringing all that confidence from that into these last two events and it opens my mind up that anything is possible and those results can come.
“The Olympic medal was a career highlight for me and it’s an amazing feeling to have 11 years into my career – I’ve never been more inspired.”
The tour returns to the remote Barra de la Cruz for the first time since the inaugural Rip Curl Search in 2006 when the late Andy Irons revelled in four successive days of six-to-eight foot right-handers.
Australia’s own Taj Burrow etched his name in history with one of the longest tube rides ever seen in competition.
Wright went on a scouting mission to the break before Tokyo and said it was an “incredible” wave.
“As a 16-year-old surfer I was hooked on how good that was back then and I always wanted to get over here.
“We got amazing waves and we’ve now got a great swell forecast.
“It might not be as good as it was in 2006 but it’s pretty damn close, it’s an incredible wave.
“I think this is going to be one of the best events I’ve done in a very long time, just from the free surfing I’ve seen here already.”
With four months away from family, Wright sent his medal home to his young son Vali but he’s already thinking about another in 2024, when the Olympic surfing will be held in the French outpost Teahupo’o.
“I’ve never felt such a good feeling from a surfing event ever, the Olympics was such a special thing.
“Being there and getting that result, it’s lit this flame in me to go for 2024 as well so if I can qualify for that I will be a really good chance for a gold medal for Australia.”