WHILE every medal Aussies win at the Tokyo Olympics is special, for many of us, Owen Wright's bronze in surfing is extra special. It is an incredible story of recovery, determination, never giving up, overcoming the odds. You could go on and on - it's just incredible. And something Owen (Picture: EPA) should be rightfully proud of - as should the whole Shoalhaven.
It was the first-ever surfing Olympic medal decided, writing a special page in history not only for Owen but the Shoalhaven. But there is so much more to Owen's story. The past six years have been a remarkable journey. In December 2015 he suffered a devastating head trauma at Pipeline. That not only threatened his career but life as he knew it. Surfing was the furthest thing from his mind - he had to learn to walk and talk again and then finally slowly got back onto the board. Throughout his own battles, his mother Fiona was diagnosed with cancer, his uncle Mark tragically passed away and his little sister Tyler was also struck down by chronic fatigue. Many would have given up, be content just to be back having a "normal life", whatever that is nowadays. But not Owen - surfing is Owen Wright and he had to get back in the water. He said surfing's announcement as an Olympic sport was one of the things that spurred him on - the catalyst to get back in the water - and hasn't that paid off 10-fold.
Many of us, especially a number of us at the South Coast Register, have watched and covered Owen's career from when the "gangly goofy-footer" first started to make a name for himself as a youngster. Owen would be the first to admit that it has been an incredible ride, from a young kid in Culburra Beach to turning pro, starring on the World Surf League through to the Olympics. As one local journalist who has been a part of that "incredible ride" having covered many of his early exploits, along with now sports editor Courtney Ward we, like all the Shoalhaven, couldn't be more proud. And through it all, he hasn't changed. His approachable attitude, as it is with all the Wrights, of course, his sister Tyler is a two-time world champion and younger brother Mikey, who is also a superstar.
All elite athletes make sacrifices and overcome obstacles but if there was a gold medal for perseverance, determination and sheer guts it has to go to Owen Wright. If this hasn't inspired us all in these uncertain times nothing will. Way to go Ow!
Rob Crawford, Senior Journalist