Surfing-Australian Olympian Owen Wright retires from pro surfing

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Surfing - Men's Shortboard - Round 3 - Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach, Tokyo, Japan - July 26, 2021. Owen Wright of Australia celebrates with a coach after winning Heat 8 REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Surfer Owen Wright, who fought his way back from a traumatic brain injury to win an Olympic bronze medal for Australia, announced his retirement from professional competition on Wednesday, saying he no longer wanted to risk his health.

"Over the years I've had a number of head injuries and concussions and it's got to the point where I need to prioritise my long term health," Wright said on social media.

"I'm going to retire from the highest level of competition, and basically from taking heavy water risks."

Wright was in contention for a world title in 2015 but was injured in a wipeout during a warm-up surf at Hawaii's notorious Pipeline, forcing him out of the event and out of the water for almost a year.

In an incredible turnaround, Wright won his comeback professional event on Australia's Gold Coast in 2017, one of four world championship titles for the tall and powerful goofy-footer.

Wright excelled in the world's most powerful and dangerous waves, scoring two perfect 20/20 heat totals in one event in giant tubes at Fiji's Cloudbreak in 2015 and winning another championship tour event at Tahiti's Teahupo'o in 2019.

While still struggling with his brain injury, Wright crowned his comeback with a bronze at surfing's Olympic debut at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, but was knocked off the elite championship tour in 2022.

"The next chapter for me, I will still be surfing, I will still be surfing a lot...I just don't have to take the risks I used to," the 33-year-old said, adding he hoped to bring awareness to head injuries in sport.

Wright, whose sister Tyler is a twice world women's surf champion, will sign off from pro competition as a wildcard in next month's Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Australia.

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Jamie Freed)

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