Seven of the greatest sporting comebacks

We take a look at seven memorable examples of athletes defying the odds and returning to greatness.

Liverpool, 2005 Champions League final

No one considered Liverpool to be serious Champions League contenders back in 2005, but they somehow managed to scrape through the knockout stages to progress to the final against AC Milan.

Reds fans dared to believe they might be destined for glory, but the rest of us had serious reservations about their chances – reservations that seemed entirely justified when Liverpool found themselves 3-0 down at half-time.

But this was not going to be an ordinary final. Inspirational captain Steven Gerrard started the fightback in the 54th minute. Six minutes later, they were level after further goals from Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso.

The game headed to extra time, and then penalties, where the pressure got to some of AC Milan’s biggest stars. Andriy Shevchenko, Serginho and Andrea Pirlo all missed. So did John Arne Riise for the Reds, but it didn’t matter. Liverpool had battled back from 3-0 down to win the Champions League.

Europe, 2012 Ryder Cup

They don’t call it the Miracle at Medinah for nothing.

Beginning the final day facing a massive four-point deficit and needing to find a way past the American side’s star-studded line-up, Europe somehow managed to secure eight wins and a tie out of the 12 matches to capture a 14-13 victory. Martin Kaymer’s victory over Steve Stricker was the one that made the comeback complete.

Europe’s captain Jose Maria Olazabal was in tears as he dedicated the win to Seve Ballesteros, who had recently passed away. The legendary Spaniard would have been pretty proud of Europe’s efforts on that day.

Red Rum

Human beings aren’t the only one ones capable of great comebacks. In 1973, a horse by the name of Red Rum stunned the world when he came from 30 lengths behind to beat Crisp, another champion runner.

Red Rum was a full 24lbs lighter than Crisp and, having less weight to carry around, he was able to maintain a speed that his classy opponent simply couldn’t.

What made the win even more special? A Classic photo finish at the line.

Michael Jordan

No list of comebacks would be complete without a mention of the great Michael Jordan.

Quitting basketball after feeling he had accomplished all he needed to accomplish and having won three consecutive NBA titles with the Bulls, Jordan sensationally decide to switch sports completely and pursue a career in baseball.

While he never got out of the minor leagues with a bat in his hand, it was what he achieved upon his return to basketball that ensures Jordan will forever go down in history.

Returning to the sport – and the Bulls – after a two-year absence, Jordan picked up right where he left off, once again turning the Bulls into a champion side. He would go on to achieve another three-peat – three successive NBA titles – from 1995-1998, cementing his status as arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.

Kelly Slater

Like Michael Jordan, Kelly Slater too felt he had achieved all he needed to achieve in his chosen sport, having won five consecutive world titles in the 90s.

So dominant was Slater that, when a new crop of talented surfers started to emerge, he simply got back on his board and returned to surfing professionally, schooling the new generation by winning six more world titles.

Perhaps no other athlete in history has dominated his or her sport to the degree that Slater dominated surfing.

Kim Clijsters

Tired of coping with several niggling injuries and itching to start a family of her own, Belgian tennis star Kim Clijsters retired in 2007.

She gave birth to her first child the following year and then defied all expectations by not only returning to tennis, but succeeding at the highest possible level, winning the 2009 US Open.

That win was no fluke either – Clijsters would go on to win the 2011 Australian Open as well.

The great Margaret Court and her Australian compatriot Evonne Goolagong are the only other women to win Grand Slam titles while also being mothers – but Clijsters achieving it in the modern power era is even more impressive.

George Foreman

The great George Foreman went toe-to-toe with the likes of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the early 70s, becoming world heavyweight champion in 1973 and defending his title twice before losing to Ali in the infamous 1974 Rumble in the Jungle.

That would have been a pretty epic boxing career in itself, but Foreman wasn’t done yet. After retiring in 1977 at the age of 28, he returned to the sport to defeat Michael Moorer and become heavyweight champion again in 1994 – a full 20 years after his last reign.

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