CULBURRA Beach's Tyler Wright fell just short of a fairytale return to professional surfing circuit on Monday, losing the Maui Pro final to seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore.
After qualifying for the quarter-finals, the former St Johns student, who has missed the past 17 months of action due to an ongoing battle with chronic fatigue, took down France's Johanne Defay (10.84 to 10.74) in the final eight.
The 25-year-old two-time world champion then took down Brazil's Tatiana Weston-Webb (13.00 to 7.33) in the semi-final - setting up a mouth-watering clash with close friend Gilmore.
In the 40-minute Honolua Bay final, the Culburra Beach Boardrider jumped out to an early lead, with a 6.00 ride.
But scores of 7.33 and 6.83 saw Gilmore vault back into the lead - an advantage she never relinquished, holding on for a 14.16 to 9.67 victory.
"I feel very lucky and grateful to be here today [Monday]," Wright said to WSL.
"It was only a couple of months ago that I was still in a rough place.
"I would love to thank the people who have helped me get here today.
"A lot of that is my girlfriend, Alex.
"She has been there the entire time for me - she saw it all.
"She saw the worst of the worst and to be here today, to be surfing, and to be happy and healthy, it was a rough one and I am so enjoying this moment.
"To see all the girls qualify for the Olympics and to see the first year full year of equal pay, that is a huge moment in our sport.
"To sit on the sidelines and watch that, I became a huge fan of this sport. I want to thank everyone that has taken part in that."
Wright's amazing charge to the final was reminiscent of one made by her older brother Owen - who won Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast after missing the whole 2016 season through injury.
Fellow South Coast product Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa) was knocked out in the quarter-finals by Weston-Webb 150.07 to 12.00.
Fitzgibbons is one of eight surfers to have their spots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games following the Maui Pro - as the 2019 WSL CT was a crucial qualification pathway for the world's best surfers.
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Following the season finale in Maui, the WSL rankings have determined the first eight eligible women to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, subject to all qualified surfers meeting the ISA's and IOC's eligibility requirements and being selected by their respective National Olympic Committee.
The eight provisional qualifiers for surfing's first ever appearance at the Olympic Games are:
United States - Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks.
Australia - Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons.
Brazil - Tatiana Weston-Webb and Silvana Lima.
France - Johanne Defay.
Costa Rica - Brisa Hennessy.