Olympic medallist Owen Wright announces retirement from competitive surfing after inspiring comeback
Olympic bronze medallist Owen Wright has announced his retirement from competitive surfing and will use the upcoming Bells Beach classic as his swansong.
The 33-year-old isn’t competing on this year’s World Surf League tour after failing to qualify with the elite field now cut mid-season.
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The father of two, whose sister is two-time world champion Tyler Wright, has opted not to compete on the Challenger series to attempt to rejoin the tour.
Wright finished joint fifth at the Rip Curl Bells Beach last year and has been granted a wildcard for the 2023 edition, which gets underway at the famous Victorian break from Tuesday April 4.
With surfing making its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2021, his bronze medal capped an inspirational comeback after a shattering wipe-out at Hawaii’s Pipeline in 2015 left Wright with a traumatic brain injury.
He had to learn to walk and surf again, rejoining the top tour in 2017 and winning his first event back, on the Gold Coast, and topping the podium again in 2019 in Tahiti.
Wright said competing in big waves wasn’t the best thing for his health and he would walk away satisfied with his achievements.
“After my traumatic brain injury in 2015, my desire to prove to myself and the world that I could still be great and overcome this life-threatening incident inspired my recovery,” Wright said in a WSL statement.
“Now eight years later, after challenges and accomplishments, I can look back happily, knowing I achieved that goal.
“Given my recent history with head injuries and concussions, competing at some of the heaviest waves on the planet is no longer in the best interest of my long-term health.
“I excelled in these conditions over my career, but the risks associated with this type of surfing are too significant for someone in my position, given my medical history.
“I will not retire from surfing altogether – just from surfing heavy waves.
“I hope to keep surfing for the rest of my life; I love surfing and thank the sport for everything I have.”
From the NSW South Coast, Wright won four events through his WSL career which started back in 2010.
He became the first competitor to surf two perfect heats in one event, scoring 10.0 at the 2015 Fiji Pro at Cloudbreak.
Wright said he hoped to continue to use his platform to promote awareness about brain injury and concussion in athletes.
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