Olympic bronze medalist Owen Wright has announced his retirement from competitive surfing and will use the Bells Beach Classic as his swansong.
The 33-year-old is not competing on this year’s World Surf League tour after failing to qualify with the now elite course snapping mid-season.
The father of two, whose sister is a two-time world champion, Tyler Wright, chose not to compete in the Challenger Series to try and rejoin the Tour.
Wright finished fifth at Rip Curl Bells Beach last year and earned a wildcard for the 2023 edition, which begins on the famous Victorian holiday from Tuesday, April 4.
With surfing making its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2021, his bronze medal capped an inspiring comeback after a devastating 2015 pipeline crash in Hawaii that left Wright with a traumatic brain injury.
He had to learn to walk and surf again, and rejoined Tour 1 in 2017 and won his first event again, on the Gold Coast, and topped the podium again in 2019 in Tahiti.
Wright said that competing in big waves was not the best thing for his health and that he would walk away satisfied with his accomplishments.
“After my traumatic brain injury in 2015, my desire to prove to myself and the world that I can still be great and overcome this life-threatening incident inspired my recovery,” Wright said in a statement from WSL.
“Now eight years later, after the challenges and accomplishments, I can look back with happiness, knowing that I achieved this goal.
“Considering my recent history with head injuries and concussions, competing in some of the roughest waves on earth is no longer in the best interest of my long-term health.
“I have excelled in these conditions during my career, but the risks associated with this type of surfing are too great for someone in my position, given my medical history.
“I’m not going to retire from surfing completely — just from surfing big waves.
“I hope to continue surfing for the rest of my life; I love surfing and I thank the sport for everything I have.”
Hailing from the NSW South Coast, Wright has won four events with his WSL career which began in 2010.
He became the first competitor to surf two perfect heats in one event, scoring a 10.0 at the 2015 Fiji Pro at Cloudbreak.
Wright said he hopes to continue using his platform to promote awareness about brain injuries and concussions in athletes.
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