RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Three-time world surfing champion Gabriel Medina has announced he will take an indefinite break from the sport amid concerns about his well-being.
The decision comes less than a week before the Billabong Pro Pipeline in Hawaii, the first event of the 2022 World Surfing League (WSL) calendar.
"The past few months have been a difficult time for me personally and it has taken a toll," the 28-year-old Brazilian said on Instagram on Monday.
"As such, I've decided to withdraw from the start of the 2022 WSL championship tour. I had every intention of competing for the full season, and made all the preparations medically (I took my COVID vaccination during my holidays), mentally and physically, but I'm not in a place where I believe I can perform against the world's best surfers right now and I need to focus on my well-being."
Medina is considered one of the most naturally gifted surfers of the modern era and is the reigning WSL world champion. He also clinched the title in 2014 and 2018.
The winner of 17 WSL tour events did not say when he might return to competition and thanked well-wishers for their support.
"I don't know how long it will take, but I aim to return to the championship tour as soon as I am ready," he said. "I appreciate everyone's ongoing love and support very much. I'll be back when I am able."
WSL chief executive Erik Logan said the entity stood by Medina and wished him a speedy recovery.
"The health and safety of our athletes is of the utmost importance, and we fully support Gabriel's decision to prioritize his well-being," Logan said. "We want to put the world's best surfers in front of our fans to start the season, but we certainly respect his decision."