EVEN Mick Fanning could probably see the irony in the World Surf League’s slogan: “You can’t script this’’.
Sport is not meant to be a matter of life and death.
But it became so for Fanning this season.
His tussle with a great white shark at Jeffries Bay in South Africa opened surfing to a new audience that was backing the Coolangatta Kid to win a fourth world title even before news broke on Thursday of the tragic death of his brother older Peter.
Fanning’s year of adversity would be capped with a title that would put him equal with Australian great Mark Richards.
Things seemed to be going to plan early. Fanning got the late wave he needed to beat 11-time world champion Kelly Slater in their quarter-final, knocking Brazilian Gabriel Medina out of the world title race.
He earnt an early lead over Medina in the semi, with the stars seemingly aligning for a Fanning-Adriano de Souza final to decide the world title.
But that darn slogan …
Judges at the world’s most famous tube-riding contest handed a high score to Medina for a single aerial move.
And Fanning, who has seemed in clutch situations in the past to have a personal line to Huey, was deserted by the wave god.
De Souza beat Mason Ho in his semi-final to secure the world crown and then went on to beat Medina in an all-Brazilian final.
Fairytales don’t always come true.
But then Fanning already knew that. The 34-year-old had been living a nightmare since learning of his brother’s death.
“I’m walking down (the beach) and almost in tears every time I’m paddling out,’’ he said after his quarter-final win. “Even out in the water I’m just going through waves of emotion.
“A friend told me once you can deal with anything, you’ve just got to do it the best you can, stay true to yourself and things will happen.’’
His decision to surf on in his brother’s name has inspired all in the surfing community, including leading women’s surfer Sally Fitzgibbons and close mate Joel Parkinson.
“Mick is an incredible inspiration, not only as an athlete but a person,” Fitzgibbons said yesterday.
“Unfortunately that title wasn’t his but everyone’s heart is with him. All of Australia was behind Mick.”
Parkinson said: “He’s a really strong guy but I think as a good mate, I’m just concerned about over the next week just being there for him.
“Once this whole world title stuff settles down and the year’s finished as a competitor, he’s going to have to address a lot of emotions.
“As friends, we’ll be there.”