Mental side a focus for Fitzgibbons

After winning her second-straight Fiji Women’s Pro with a painful perforated eardrum, Sally Fitzgibbons thinks her improved mental strength could help her finally take out the world surfing championship.

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The three-time world title runner-up showed what she was made of at Cloudbreak last week when she defied medical advice to continue competing with a burst left eardrum.

The 24-year-old still can’t hear out of the affected ear but the injury is expected to take 10 days to heal, meaning she’ll be fine to surf at the World Surf League’s US Open in California from July 27.

The Australian surfer’s brave win pushed her up three spots – over fellow Australians Tyler Wright and Stephanie Gilmore – to third in the title rankings.

She says her form has been good all season and she’s developed the strength to overcome the inevitable setbacks and climb towards the top of the rankings.

“I’ve grown a lot in my surf performances and mentally have that strength to push through those tough losses,” she said.

“At the start of the season I felt confident in my performance … it’s just in surfing there’s so many uncontrollables.

“That’s where the mental strength comes in because there’s people telling you … you’re having a bad year.”

Fitzgibbons was shaking and crying with exhaustion following the gruelling Fiji final against South African Bianca Buitendag.

She says the win will likely go down as the most taxing and fulfilling of her career.

Not even a bout of food poisoning the next day reduced her post-victory high, she said.

“The whole night I was hanging out of the balcony … throwing up constantly.

“My body was done. I was absolutely exhausted. I was on such a high, it didn’t dampen the win.”

Fellow Australian Tyler Wright will be defending her championship at Huntington Beach after being knocked down two ranking spots to fifth after Fiji.

Last year’s title winner Stephanie Gilmore has slipped to eighth due to a knee injury that’s sidelined her for two months.