Injuries in the world of sport are often horrific, usually painful, and sometimes career-ending. Stories of great comebacks from broken ankles, dislocated shoulders, twisted knees and the like are rare, especially when those injuries are especially serious.
However, last week during the official Team GB Alpine Skiing squad announcement for the World Championships in Beaver Creek, one of the greatest sporting comebacks occurred. Charlie Guest, the 21-year-old from Perth, broke her back in late 2014, putting her hopes of skiing in the USA in severe danger. However, within a month, she was back on skis and has somehow managed to be fit in time for the World Championships.
With this in mind, The Student decided to look at the greatest sporting comebacks.
A comeback that casual tennis fans may not have realised even happened due to the lack of effect it had on the ‘King of Clay’. In 2012 and 2013 Nadal took 222 days out due to tendonitis of the knee alongside a partially torn patella tendon, an injury that requires prolonged low-load rehabilitation.
For a tennis player to be out of the game and not able to train for over six months is a major obstacle to overcome. For Nadal, it led to dropping out of the ‘Top Four’ in the rankings for the first time in eight years. After his break from the game, he came back an even stronger player, getting to the final of the Australian Open in 2013 before losing to an inspired Stan Wawrinka, before winning his record ninth French Open title; more than securing his already deserved title of ‘King of Clay’.
In one of the most shocking incidents of recent F1 history, the moment when Felipe Massa, then racing for Ferrari, careered into the barriers at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix after being hit in the head by a stray piece of suspension from Ruben Barichello’s Brawn, still resonates. The impact, which hit Massa one inch above the eye, not only fractured the driver’s skull but also knocked him unconscious with his foot hard down on the accelerator. After over nine months out of the sport, he returned in 2010 and drove like he’d never been away. Fast-forward five years, and as one of the elder statesmen of the F1 grid racing for Williams, he is consistently challenging for podiums.
As many football fans will know, Henrik Larsson is a legend of the game, having won four Scottish Premier League titles with Celtic, one Premier League with Manchester United and two La Ligas and a Champions League with Barcelona.
What they will have almost certainly forgotten is that Larsson had a career-threatening double leg break in 1999 while playing for Celtic. After eight months on the sidelines, missing all but the last game of the season, Larsson returned in the 2000/01 season to fire Celtic to the title, and in 2003 helped Celtic reach the UEFA Cup final. A prolific and increasingly high-profile career followed, cementing his status as a legend of football.
A comeback that was quite rightly immortalised in the film Rush, Niki Lauda’s comeback from a fiery crash at the Nurburgring in 1976 is legendary in its speed and its successes. The crash in Germany left the Austrian with burns that covered the majority of his body and face, leaving his face permanently disfigured and most of his right ear missing. After lapsing into a coma due to his injuries, he returned to F1 after only six weeks, and after losing out to James Hunt in the 1976 World Championship, he bounced back to win the 1977 World Championship in an immense show of strength.
While not technically a sporting injury, the story of Eric Abidal’s return to the game after defeating cancer is one of the most inspiring stories in football. His diagnosis of liver cancer in early 2011, and the following liver transplant in early 2012, sandwiched the incredible feat that saw him play 90 minutes for Barcelona against Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final, helping them to a resounding 3-1 victory at Wembley. After his liver transplant, he returned to play for Barcelona on a couple more occasions, finally finishing his career at Monaco and Olympiakos in 2014.
Image courtesy of PictFactory (originally posted to Flickr as Revés)