Golden years: Five great sporting comebacks

Golf superstar Tiger Woods returned to the summit of golf by winning his fifth Masters in Augusta in April last year. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Golden years: Five great sporting comebacks

SYDNEY, Australia: All Blacks legend Dan Carter announced his return to Super Rugby at the age of 38 on Thursday, extending the career of the double Rugby World Cup winner and three-time world player of the year.

AFP Sport looks at five other athletes who made famous comebacks:

The US superstar Tiger Woods returned to the summit of golf in April last year at the age of 43 when he ended an 11-year major drought by winning an emotional fifth  Masters at Augusta, 14 years after his last Green Jacket.

It followed multiple surgeries and a string of off-course problems since his 14th major win at the 2008 US Open, with Woods at one point fearing he may never play again.

His feat was hailed as inspirational by a who’s who of the sporting world and the following month he became the fourth golfer to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He capped a remarkable 2019 by equaling Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82 US PGA Tour wins at the Zozo Championship in Japan in October.

Considered the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan famously signed for the Chicago White Sox baseball team after unexpectedly retiring from the NBA during his prime in 1993, and was given a minor league contract.

But his baseball career never took off and he triumphantly returned to the hoops barely a year later, leading the Chicago Bulls to three more championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

The American claimed he had lost the desire to play basketball after his father’s death and wanted to do something different.

He retired again in 1998, before returning for a less memorable stint with the Washington Wizards in 2001.

Austrian driver Niki Lauda appeared to be cruising to a second Formula One World Championship in 1976 when disaster struck at the German Grand Prix in Nuerburgring.

Lauda’s Ferrari swerved off the course and struck an embankment, before exploding in flames. Lauda was trapped in the wreckage and suffered severe burns before being pulled to safety.

He made an incredible return to racing 43 days later at the Italian Grand Prix but was pipped to that year’s drivers’ crown by James Hunt.

He went on to win two more world championships in 1997 and 1984. He died in May last year aged 70.

Monica Seles looked poised to rule women’s tennis in the early 1990s, becoming the youngest woman to reach the world No. 1  ranking in 1991 before winning three out of four Grand Slams in 1992 with victories at the Australian, French and US Opens.

In 1993 she again looked set to dominate, opening the year by winning the Australian Open with a defeat of German great Steffi Graf.

In April, however, Seles was stabbed by a deranged spectator while playing at a tournament in Hamburg.

Although she soon recovered from her physical injuries, the emotional scars meant Seles did not return until 1995 and the following year she won her 10th and last Grand Slam at the Australian Open.

The greatest medal winner in Olympics history, a burned-out Michael Phelps called it quits after his fourth Games at London 2012 with 18 golds to his name.

He spent 20 months on the sidelines, gaining weight, playing golf and being treated for alcohol problems before deciding the water was where he wanted to be, returning for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The American crowned his glittering career with five more golds to extend his all-time Olympic record to 23 gold, three silver and two bronze medals at the age of 31, well beyond the typical peak age for a male swimmer. He has subsequently spoken of a battle with depression since retiring for a second time.


Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

Updated 14 July 2020

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

  • The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place

LONDON: Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League and the remaining two teams that will qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester — and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, too — are now fighting for two qualifying spots instead of three with two weeks of the season remaining.

The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place, in earning tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season.

The most concerned team is likely to be Leicester.

In the top four since September — and, in December, even looking like the most realistic title challenger to Liverpool — Leicester have imploded, collecting only two wins from their last 11 league games stretching back to the end of January.

After losing to relegation-threatened Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday, Leicester will find themselves  in fifth place if Man United beat  Southampton on Monday.

United appears much more likely to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League after a season’s absence.

With four straight wins ahead of the Southampton game, United are the form team in the league and also has the most benign remaining schedule with upcoming matches against Crystal Palace and West Ham before what could be a winner-takes-all game game at Leicester on the final weekend of the season.

Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that another final-day match is between Chelsea and Wolves.

Chelsea is currently in third place, one point ahead of Leicester, but will drop into fourth if United beat  Southampton.

A victory over already-relegated Norwich on Tuesday appears pivotal for Chelsea, considering its last two games are at Liverpool — a team chasing records to cap its title-winning season — and then Wolves, who have gained a reputation for beating the top teams over the last two years.

Wolves are in sixth place, four points off the top four, so the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has come as a blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Indeed, Wolves’ best chance of qualifying for the competition is now to win the Europa League, which earns entry to the Champions League. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo has reached the last 16 of the Europa League and will play the second leg of its match against Olympiakos next month, with the score at 1-1 after the first leg.

Likewise, seventh-place Sheffield United needed City to lose its appeal at sport’s highest court to stand a realistic chance of a finish in the Champions League positions, a prospect that would have seemed fanciful for a team that was widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season.

Europa League qualification will be Sheffield United’s target now, with seventh place possibly earning that reward if Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea win the FA Cup.