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GOLD COAST, Australia – Going surfing with Mick Fanning made Chad le Clos a little nervous.
Fanning had to punch away a shark during a competition in South Africa in 2015, and the Aussie surfer's later interview describing the narrow escape became the stuff of legend. The video of Fanning's encounter with the Great White has been viewed more than 25 million times.
Le Clos accepted the offer of a surfing lesson at Fanning's local Kirra Beach the morning after completing his swimming program at the Commonwealth Games — where he won five medals for South Africa — with one reservation. He wanted to know if there were any sharks in the water.
Fanning assured him he'd be fine and added, besides, it wasn't the sharks you could see that usually caused any problems.
"If you see 'em, you're sweet," he said, "they've already made up their mind."
That was good enough for le Clos, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 200-meter butterfly who surfed a bit while living in Durban but admitted he was a "bit too scared" to venture too deep since moving to Cape Town.
But was keen to pick up any pointers from Fanning, a three-time world champion who retired from competition last week.
"It's crazy — I literally finished racing less than 12 hours ago," le Clos said. "It's the first day of my holiday and what better way to spend it than on a beautiful Gold Coast beach with the legend."
Le Clos arrived in Australia chasing a record for most career medals at the Commonwealth Games, but fell one short of the mark of 18. It's OK, he says, there'll be a next time.
"It was a fantastic week. It couldn't have gone better for me individually. I've got five medals, I was hoping to get six to break the all-time record," he said. "Unfortunately we didn't get that last relay medal, but personally very happy. Personal best times in a lot of the races and national records.
"All very positive going into 2020 and the world championships next year."
Fanning has the opportunity to become an Olympian, with surfing included on the program for Tokyo in 2020, but — only days into retirement — he's content with his decision to surf for fun.
He narrowly lost at Bells Beach, Victoria in his last event to Italo Ferreira and said compared with the Brazilian surfer's celebrations, "I don't have that passion anymore."
The Commonwealth Games moves from the sandy beaches of the Gold Coast to Birmingham, England in 2022, so Fanning doesn't expect his sport to feature on the program.
"It's one of those things: If we have the right locations it's great," Fanning said. "We don't want to be surfing terrible little waves because I think that would hinder the sport."
He said the conditions in Japan didn't suit his style, but he was looking forward to seeing his sport at the Olympics.
"If I'm not involved with the team," he said. "I'll be on the beach with pompoms."