Golden years: Five great sporting comebacks

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

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.