Injuries are a part of an athlete’s life. But sometimes, an athlete suffers a career-threatening injury, and coming back from something like that requires a great deal of courage and determination. Although most players end their career with a rough patch, some athletes are born fighters and they etch their names into the history books with their gumption. By making tremendous comebacks from potentially career-ending injuries, these athletes gain higher status than the others. Here are 10 remarkable comeback stories from the sports world:
#1 Niki Lauda (Motorsports)
Niki Lauda was one of the best drivers in Formula One history. A week prior to the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, Lauda asked his fellow drivers to boycott the race, largely because of the poor safety standards on the track.
Most of the other drivers decided to go ahead with the race. On August 1 1976, during the second lap, Lauda was involved in an accident where his Ferrari swerved off the track and burst into flames as it touched the Ford car.
The Ford was safe, but Lauda was trapped in the fire. As he was wearing a modified helmet, his face was exposed to the fire and he soon fell into a coma.
Surprisingly, Lauda returned to racing just six weeks later. He recorded a fourth placed finish in the Italian GP to complete a memorable comeback.
#2 Maria Sharapova (Tennis)
Maria Sharapova was at the top of her career when she suffered a shoulder injury. Back in 2008 she was in peak position and was dominating every court, but luck wasn’t on her side. She had to go through a shoulder surgery which put her out of action for close to a year.
But the Russian recovered and stated that her career wasn’t over. She completed her career Grand Slam in the year 2012 by winning the French Open.
The injury had some long-term effects on her playing style and she wasn’t the same player; she now makes many more double faults than she used to before going under the knife. But due to her rigorous training and zeal to dominate, the Russian has made a great comeback and is again among the elite players in women’s tennis.
#3 Yuvraj Singh (Cricket)
The hero of India’s 2011 World Cup triumph, Yuvraj Singh is one of the finest all-rounders from India. He is also known for hitting six sixes of Stuart Braud’s over in T20 World Cup in 2007. But after the 2011 World Cup, he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his left lung and underwent chemotherapy treatment in Boston and Indianapolis.
In March 2012, he was discharged from the hospital after completing the third and final cycle of chemotherapy, and he returned to India in April.
With most people predicting an end to his career, Yuvraj took on the challenge and made his international comeback in a Twenty20 match in September against New Zealand shortly. Yuvraj also played in the T20 World Cup and was also expected to be picked for the 2015 World Cup squad, which he eventually wasn’t.
Later, the Delhi Franchise of Indian Premier League purchased him for 16 crore in the 2015 IPL auctions.
#4 Felipe Massa (F1)
Qualifying has never been Massa’s stomping ground and it proved to be fatal for him during the Hungarian GP back in 2009. Despite his head being protected by an helmet, he was hit by a suspension spring during the pre-race run.
He went on to crash into a tyre barrier and was airlifted to a hospital in Budapest. Further tests revealed that a titanium plate was needed on his eye. Massa underwent several examinations, under the cautious eyes of the FIA’s medical delegate.
Massa completed his comeback by returning to the circuit in 2010, and now drives for Williams F1.
#5 Mary Kom (Boxing)
Mary Kom or MC Mary Kom is a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six World Championships. In 2012, she won a historic bronze medal for India at the London Olympics.
She then suffered from a string of injuries and also gave birth to a baby. As she was spending all that time away from the ring, many of her fans thought that her career was over. But about 18 months into her hiatus from competitive boxing, she realized she was missing her first love too much.
Mary went through intensive training sessions and when the team for the Commonwealth Games was needed to be finalized, she lost in the trials and hence she was dropped from the squad. But Mary Kom didn’t lose hope and she bounced back and won the gold medal at the Asian Games last year.
#6 Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps the greatest batsman of all time, almost ended his career prematurely. He has got innumerable records under his name, but this might have not been possible if he had given up in 2004, after his body refused to cooperate. Tendulkar was afflicted by a tennis elbow injury and he wasn’t even able to hold a bat.
The Little Master was away from cricket for about seven months. He had surgery and then about four months of training, but he wasn’t sure if he would ever rediscover his vintage form. This could have been the end of his career, but the player didn’t lose hope and made a grand comeback.
The doctors said that it might be impossible for him to play at the highest level again, but for Tendulkar, impossible is just a word. He came back strongly and was a part of Indian World Cup winning team in 2011.
#7 Rafael Nadal (Tennis)
Rafael Nadal, the 14-time Grand Slam champion, has had a long and painful history of injuries. But his trials during the 2012 season were perhaps the worst of all.
Nadal suffered a recurrence of his chronic knee injury around the time of Wimbledon that year, just after losing to Lukas Rosol in the second round. He then took the rest of the year off to deal with the injury, during which he underwent multiple surgeries and intensive recovery procedures.
More than seven months after he went away, Nadal came back to the court by playing in the claycourt tournament of Vina del Mar, in February 2013. He was soon back to his best, winning the French Open and the US Open that year and finishing the season ranked World No. 1.
Nadal has suffered debilitating injuries at other times in his career too, most notably in 2007 and 2009. But he has come back stronger each time, and might well be called the ‘Comeback King’ of the sporting world.
#8 Lance Armstrong (Cycling)
The Boss Big Tex or Lance Armstrong is, or was, the greatest inspiration for all the athletes. He was regarded as the best cyclist before the doping controversy. Armstrong won the Tour De France race seven times in a row.
In October 1996, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen. His cancer treatments included brain and testicular surgery and extensive chemotherapy. In February 1997, he was declared cancer-free and the same year he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
By January 1998, Armstrong had renewed serious cycling training, having signed a new racing contract with US Postal. He was a member of the US Postal/Discovery team between 1998 and 2005.
On July 24, 2005, Armstrong retired from racing at the end of the 2005 Tour de France, but returned to competitive cycling with the Astana team in January 2009. Armstrong’s comeback has been regarded the biggest comeback of all times, despite the fact that he later confessed to doping.
#9 Martina Hingis (Tennis)
Martina Hingis is a Swiss professional tennis player, who spent a total of 209 weeks as World No. 1. She won five Grand Slam singles titles (three Australian Opens, one Wimbledon, and one US Open). She also won nine Grand Slam women's doubles titles, winning a calendar-year doubles Grand Slam in 1998, and two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.
Hingis suffered a serious ankle injury in 2001. And though she tried returning to the court in its aftermath, she never looked comfortable. Succuming to her body, she took retirement from the game at the age of 22, in February 2003.
The Swiss Miss came back to the sport a couple of years later, and in 2006, she won the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Mahesh Bhupathi. She never reached her peak in singles after coming back, but she gave her full efforts in every match she played.
She retired from tennis once again in 2007, but today plays competitive doubles regularly. At the start of 2015 Hingis partnered with Leander Paes and won the Australian Open mixed doubles title, which was her first Grand Slam win after the 2006 Australian Open.
#10 Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is one of the greatest players the sports world has ever seen. He has a long list of achievements under his name, and he is still going strong. However, he has had a rough time since 2008. He had two stress fractures of the left tibia and he was advised to take six weeks’ rest.
His career was almost finished because of his family issues and the injury. But he clenched his fists and came roaring back, recapturing the World No. 1 ranking and declaring that he was not finishd. He has every big tournament title under his name and he still has the chance to break Jack Niklaus’ record of most Majors won.