Life is not a fairytale.
He would have taken his razor-sharp focus and his lion-sized courage and he would have surfed to a victory that would have had the whole nation cheering.
Because in a fairytale, the day after you hear some of the worst news imaginable, that’s what would happen.
Sites like ours would be overflowing with praise for a man who has endured a year few of us could imagine, and his name and face would have been hastily added to all those Legends Of The 2015 stories you’ll be seeing over the next few days. He would be hailed a real hero.
It didn’t happen. Because life is not a fairytale, Fanning came second, deprived of his glory by a 21-year-old Brazilian surfer called Gabriel Medina, and a glorious 360-degree move on an epic Hawaiian wave.
And you know what? It doesn’t matter one bit.
Today, Mick Fanning is a hero. And today, Mick Fanning is a champion.
And it’s not because he’s a truly excellent athlete. And it’s not because he had the misfortune to come face to face with a great white shark in the cold South African ocean in July. And it’s not because he’s been beset by family tragedy.
It’s because of who he is. And because of the way he has dealt with a year that could only be described as tumultuous.
Male professional surfers hold a particular place in the folklore of Australian manhood. They are golden boys, revered and idolised, held up as rarified role models by young men. They are the chosen ones truly Living The Dream – travelling the world, doing what they love. Riding waves all day, partying all night, fighting off beautiful girls in bikinis, being handsomely rewarded with cash, and cred and sponsorship deals.
It’s hard to imagine a more macho pursuit. So when Fanning smashed into mainstream consciousness in July with that fated shark encounter, we were all watching to see how he handled it.