Top Tens

Top Ten - Sporting comebacks

Rate It:
  • Currently 4.02/5 Stars
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5 takes a look at those who have shocked, inspired and occasionally embarrassed by returning for more glory

Michael Schumacher

It was in 2006 that the Michael Schumacher last put on his helmet and pitted his wits against the best in the business.

His final race in Brazil saw him suffer a fuel-pressure failure in qualifying and, in the race itself, a puncture after nine laps that saw him drop to 19th. Yet he bounced back spectacularly, finishing in fourth place, and described his heroic performance as a 'class finale'.

It was a fine way to sign off - an encapsulation of the endless determination that had defined his career.

"You know the song 'My Way'? I'd say that fits the way I feel," he said afterwards.

So, when talk came up of the now 40-year-old Schumacher stepping in for Ferrari driver Felipe Massa after his serious injury at last weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, the German's manager, Willi Weber, said he was '200 percent' sure he would not risk his reputation in an unfamiliar car.

"The pressure on him would be huge," Weber said. "He would be expected to win, but he has not driven this car.

"When Michael was racing he would get as close to perfection as possible. In this case, it would not be perfection - it would be a gamble - and that's not Michael's style."

But perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised when it was confirmed that Schumi would, in fact, be returning.

After highlighting the importance of his loyalty to Massa and Ferrari in making the decision, he said: "As the competitor I am, I also very much look forward to facing this challenge."

George Foreman

He may be as well known for his grills as his sporting career these days, but George Foreman remains one of the greatest boxers the world has ever seen.

Beaten by a rope-a-doping Muhammad Ali in the legendary Rumble in the Jungle fight of 1974, Foreman took some time off before coming back to beat Ron Lyle and Joe Frazier and - after three further victories - losing to Jimmy Young in 1977.

He announced his retirement but, more than that, became a born-again Christian and an ordained minister.

Quite the surprise, then, when he re-entered the ring in 1987 at 38 years old, looking a long way away from fighting fit. However, he was still spirited enough and, after several years of solid victories and narrow defeats to the likes of Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison, he did something quite incredible in 1994.

At the age of 45, he knocked out Michael Moorer to become the heavyweight champion of the world, reclaiming his title after a 20-year gap.

He finally called it a day when he lost to Shannon Briggs in 1997. But, even then, he threatened comebacks in 1999 and, at the age of 55, 2004.

Kevin Keegan

When Newcastle announced a second coming for the 'Geordie messiah' in January last year, it didn't do the man justice - Kevin Keegan has had more second comings than most messiahs have had hot breakfasts.

Currently the subject of speculation that he could have a third spell in charge at St James' Park, Keegan's managerial career has followed the kind of rollercoaster trajectory that makes him nicely suited for the tumultuous goings-on on Tyneside.

After just missing out on the title with Newcastle in 1996, Keegan took a step back from the pressure to become director of football at third-tier Fulham. Two years later, having taken over as manager and seen them promoted, he was England boss. Eighteen months later, he quit.

After taking a few months off, he headed to Manchester City, got them promoted, resigned and retired from football in 2005.

And then - finally or otherwise - he had his second stint as Newcastle boss. It's got to be worth a flutter on another comeback, hasn't it?

Lance Armstrong

One of the most inspirational stories in sport, Lance Armstrong battled back from stage three testicular cancer to re-establish himself at the top of the sport.

Armstrong, then 25, was diagnosed with cancer in 1996 that had already spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. The prognosis was not good but, after successful chemotherapy, he returned to training in 1998.

One year later, he won the Tour de France and he went on to retain the title for seven consecutive years. He then took some time off, but he made a further comeback this year - finishing third - to raise further awareness of cancer.

Sugar Ray Leonard

Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard was a man with a heavy addiction to comebacks.

After winning an Olympic gold at 20 years old in 1976, Leonard said his dream was fulfilled and hung up his gloves, planning to go back to college.

Not long afterwards, he was back in business as a pro and he won his first title in 1979.

In 1982, he retired again. In 1983, he was back. In 1984, he retired again.

In 1986, he made a comeback for a one-off fight with Marvin Hagler, which he won on points.

In 1988, he came back again and, after several fights, he finally retired in 1991.

Finally retired, that is, until 1997, when he fought Hector Camacho and lost, before announcing his retirement.

Geoff Boycott

Never far from controversy, Geoff Boycott lived up to both name and reputation in 1974 when he spent three years on a self-imposed exile from the England team.

The reasons for his brief retirement are not entirely clear - he recently claimed it was the pressure of dividing his time between England and Yorkshire - but, upon his return, he made it crystal clear what his country had been missing.

He hit 107 in his first innings in his comeback against Australia at Trent Bridge and 80 not out in his second, batting on all five days of the Test and, in Ian Botham's opinion, effectively seeing off the Aussies single-handedly.

Monica Seles

Monica Seles was a precocious talent upon her arrival into the world of tennis.

At 16 years and six months old, she became the youngest female singles champion at the French Open in 1990 when she beat Steffi Graf in the final. In 1991, she retained the title as well as adding the Australian Open and US Open. The following year, she retained those trophies.

Things seemed to be going well at the start of 1993, too, when she won the Australian Open for a third successive time, but she was stabbed between her shoulder blades in full view of the court in April by a German spectator during a match in Hamburg.

She took two years off despite a relatively swift recovery from the physical damage, and - while she never fully recovered her previous form - she became a Grand Slam champion again in 2006 when she won the Australian Open for the fourth time.

Michael Jordan

Widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan's success with the Chicago Bulls made him a global brand.

However, he announced his retirement at 30 in 1993 after his father was murdered and he grew tired of his celebrity status.

He then stunned the world by announcing he was pursuing his father's dream to see his son become a professional baseball player, and he had an unspectacular stint in minor leagues with the Birmingham Barons.

But in 1995, he returned to the Bulls and, after a disappointing false start, he trained hard ahead of his first full season back and returned to the peak of the game - including an emotional NBA championship victory on Father's Day in 1996.

He retired again in 1999 and headed off to the Washington Wizards to become part-owner and president of basketball operations, but it was not long before he was back on the court.

In 2001, he announced that he would be playing for the Wizards and continued for two more years.

Bob Champion

Some 15 years before Lance Armstrong, English jump jockey Bob Champion made headlines in 1981 when he recovered from testicular cancer to reach the pinnacle of his sport.

Champion had been diagnosed with the disease in 1979 but he bounced back two years later when he rode Aldaniti - who had also recovered from a career-threatening injury - to Grand National success.

Champion then went onto further success in the Hennessey Cognac Gold Cup and the Whitbread Trial Chase, was made an MBE and saw his story committed to celluloid in the film Champion, which starred John Hurt and Aldaniti himself.

Steve Thompson

Steve Thompson was at one point regarded among the best hookers in the world - a Rugby World Cup winner in 2003 with England who carried his 18-stone frame at fearsome pace.

But he announced his career was over at the age of 28 in 2007 when he picked up a serious neck injury during a match for Northampton.

"If I had taken one more knock, I would have ended up paralysed or even dead," he told the Mail on Sunday.

"I felt as if I'd emerged from a serious car accident alive, rather than thinking that something I dearly loved had been taken away from me."

He subsequently joined French side Brive as a recruitment and technique adviser but, later that year, he received further medical advice and decided on a return - culminating in an international call-up from former team-mate Martin Johnson this summer.

Related Top Tens

Sebastian Vettel: Youngest man to win the Formula One title twice

Top 10 double champs

We run down the greatest Formula One drivers to have taken the title more than once.

McDowell: Extraordinary birdie on the 16th hole which sealed Ryder Cup win

Top ten magic moments delivers its top ten sporting moments from 2010 that will live long in the memory.

Andrew Flintoff and Brett Lee share one of the best Ashes moments

Top 10 Rivalries takes a look at some of the most exciting rivalries throughout the world of sport.

Schumacher: Shock return

Top Ten - Sporting comebacks

A look at those who have shocked, inspired and embarrassed by returning for more glory.

Andrew Strauss celebrates Ashes glory

Top Ten 2009 moments

It has been another spectacular sporting year. We look at the highlights from the last 12 months.

Newcastle drop out of the Premier League.

Ten 2009 moments to forget

We take a look at those sporting incidents which will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Top 10 sporting siblings picks out the siblings who have left their mark on the world of sport.

Smash and grab: Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost collide in 1990

Top Ten F1 finishes

Jenson Button is out to wrap up the drivers' title. We look at ten seasons that went down to the wire.

Derby: Worst season ever?

Top Ten: Seasons of disaster has a look at some of the worst seasons in sporting history.

Top ten Arsenal-Spurs

Sky Sports counts down ten of the best North London derbies ahead of Sunday's clash.