Surfing-Olympic surfing just not Wright for world title contender

SYDNEY, June 23 (Reuters) - Australian world championship contender Owen Wright believes surfing is closer to an art form than a sport and would not be a good fit at the Olympics.

Surfing was one of eight sports shortlisted for possible inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games on Monday as the Olympic movement looks to engage a younger audience.

Wright competes on the elite World Surf League Championship Tour and thinks the 11-stop circuit is a much better way to decide the best surfer in the world.

“I think surfing in itself is more of an art form and an expression so I think the Olympic banner doesn’t really suit the sport of surfing,” he told Reuters.

“It suits a lot of other sports but I think surfing is more like judging an art work. It’s kind of hard to put it under that one banner.

“If you had one event and named the Olympic champion? I think in the world surf league we have a bunch of different canvasses, they’re all totally different waves, and by the end of it you get the winner.

“I think it has to be like that, to have a bunch of different inclusions to get the one champion.”

The International Surfing Association (ISA), which runs its own world championships without the top professionals, made the bid for the Tokyo Games and welcomed the sport’s inclusion in the shortlist.

The body, which is recognised by the International Olympic Committee, is putting great faith in the rapid growth of surf parks, which guarantee artificial waves at competition time.

“We are energised and excited to present our case,” ISA said in a statement.

“With the new, cost-effective surf parks that are revolutionising our sport, we are confident that this is the perfect time for surfing to step up to the greatest sporting stage.”

Wright fired his challenge for a maiden world title last week in the very real three-metre waves off the coast of Fiji when he became the first surfer to record perfect scores in two heats in the same event.

That gave him victory in the fifth leg of the tour and put him into third place in the title race ahead of former world champions such as compatriot Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater.

American Slater, who has won 11 world titles, has previously questioned the purpose of putting surfing in the Olympics and Wright said he thought most top surfers would agree.

“There’s a lot of people that want to see it go that way but I think if you ask the surfer, I think you’ll get a similar answer,” he added. (Additional reporting by James Regan, editing by Peter Rutherford)