6 Days. 154 hours. 9,240 minutes. 554,400 seconds and 1 ‘paused’ Sky Sports package into the lockdown. If you, like me, have been counting every second that we have been waiting for sport to make its comeback, maybe it is time we ourselves look back and relive the greatest sporting comebacks in history. Please find below The S Words top five in reverse order. We would love to hear your thoughts and your top five.
5. 2005 UEFA Champions League Final – Liverpool FC vs AC Milan
25th May 2005, a clear night, 18 °C and the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul was where the stage was set. One of the top teams in Europe Vs the team 5th in the Premier League were about to give one of the best football performances ever seen. Surely this can only end one way?? Liverpool, playing in their sixth final (and first since 1985) and Milan, appearing in their second final in three years and tenth overall. The bookies had Milan down as favourites, however very few would have backed what ended up unfolding. It was most certainly a night Liverpool fans will never forget.
Rafa Benitez’s side were given a footballing lesson by AC Milan in the first half of the final. Trailing 3-0 and looking like being on the wrong end of a hiding, the whistle blew for half time. During a moment of tactical genius, Rafa pulled off Steven Finnan and on came defensive midfielder Dietmar Hamann to try and nullify Kaka. And oh boy did it work. This meant Liverpool switched to a 3-5-2 formation. However, Liverpool hero and skipper, Steven Gerrard didn’t want to sit in and wait for chances and so went looking! Stevie G inspired an amazing burst of three goals in six minutes which gave the performance by these two teams a 30-minute extension. Liverpool’s best chance came from a John Arne Riise bullet which shaved the woodwork. Shortly after, the referee blew his whistle and brought the proceedings to a close meaning that the trophy with the ‘big ears’ was to be decided by penalties. Liverpool went 1-0 up early doors thanks to Dietmar Hamann who took his penalty with a broken toe. Cisse then followed to put the reds 2-0 up and from there it was down to goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek performing some spaghetti-legged magic to help Liverpool perform one of the all-time greatest comebacks and help Liverpool conquer Europe for a fifth time.
4. Team Oracle
The winds of the San Francisco Bay picked up in the late morning on the 3rd Feb 2013 and by midday they were blowing at more than 20mph. Jimmy Spithall, skipper of Oracle Team USA, and his 10 teammates climbed aboard the AC72 – a black, 13 story catamaran. With them only the essentials, life vests, crash helmets and a desire to turn the tides. It was a foggy day for race 5, and things were not much clearer in the skipper’s mind. Oracle Team USA, the richest and most well supported team in the history of the America’s Cup, had lost 3 out of 4 of the races. Something was wrong, and Mr. Spithill was staring down the barrel of a very uncomfortable and embarrassing loss.
The America’s Cup is the world’s oldest international sporting trophy. The organisation year on year is not commissioned by a governing body, but the winner of the previous year gets to choose where and when the races are held.
The 2013 America’s Cup ended up reviving the slightly dwindling sport. Huge investors, such as Larry Ellison, meant that Team Oracle had every advantage available. A beautiful 131ft tall, 7 tons, 73ft long catamaran capable of 55mph, with 11 of the finest and most highly skilled crew available. However, for the first nine races they were sailing slower and ultimately left them 8-1 down in a best of seven-teen. The big turning point actually came with the introduction of Sir Ben Ainslie as a tactician. Sir Ben joined when Team Oracle were 4-1 down which actually was 6-1 down due to the 2 penalty points (for making changes to the boat). It took Sir Ben 2 races to settle into his role at Team Oracle as they lost the first two with Sir Ben onboard. With only one left to win for New Zealand, Team Oracle needed to change something and fast. They added the skills of Tom Slingsby to aid Sir Ben, a recent London Olympic gold medallist. Together they noticed that the Kiwis had been upwind foiling (reducing drag by angling onto one of the foils of the catamaran when sailing upwind) and this was deemed to be the turning point. Before the 10th and potentially deciding race, they emailed Mr. Spithill and said that it could be a gamechanger and that they had to try it. Sailing upwind involved a decision being made between speed and distance. The tighter the angle to the wind, the shorter the total travel distance but it will result in slower speeds. The Oracle computer suggested sailing at an angle of 42 degrees, which would be the optimal mix of speed and travel distance. However, New Zealand had come to a more efficient solution. Sailing at 50 degrees. They were covering more water but reaching much higher speeds due to the upwind foiling and this easily offset the greater distance.
With this now common knowledge to Team Oracle, spirits began to pick up. But it meant that after three long and tiring years of training, the America’s Cup might come down to how well Mr. Spithill and his crew executed manoeuvres they had only practiced for a couple of days. On the 25th September came the decisive 19th race. Mr. Dalton, New Zealand’s managing director, now saw his team’s prospects as bleak and was overheard saying, ‘we knew we were going to lose the last race unless we sailed a perfect race’. Mr. Dalton ended up being correct with Team Oracle crossing the finish line 44 seconds ahead of New Zealand completing not only the 19th race and The America’s Cup but also one of the less well-known sporting comebacks ever.
3. Tyson Fury, the road to recovery
The Tyson Fury revival story is like none other. Having beaten Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 by a unanimous decision which was especially surprising seeing as the fight was held in Germany (almost a home venue for Klitschko). This ended Klitschko’s 10-year reign and meant the Gypsy King became the Number 1 ranked heavyweight. Following such a high, Tyson entered into some very dark times. The cancellation of the contracted rematch with Klitschko paved the way for a string of tragic events. Having tested positive for cocaine, Fury had to surrender the belts. Alongside losing these belts, it is no secret that Tyson was battling against many mental demons which was causing him to drink and eat uncontrollably. He ballooned up in size to a peak weight of 27 and a half stone (385 lbs). These issues peaked when he was on the verge of suicide, until a voice in his head prevented him from driving his Ferrari off a bridge. It was this voice that kick started the Tyson Fury comeback…
The True Comeback story:
Tyson has always been a believer in; with a clear head and a big heart you can achieve anything. This saying is very apt as many people feared that this was the last time they would see/ hear from the Gypsy King. They were wrong. Fury set his goal of a ‘return of the Mack’ fight in Manchester. For this he lost an extreme 10 stone. Fury breezed past Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianetato to give himself a shot at the WBC champion Deontay Wilder. Tyson’s comeback story became a reality in Los Angeles, where he won the hearts of thousands, if not, millions of fans worldwide following his courageous display against Wilder. Many will say that he should have won this fight, but this is live boxing and when it comes down to it, it is in the hands of the three judges ringside. The moment that really symbolises the fight was the hardship that Tyson underwent was in the 12thround: he had been knocked down onto the canvas by the hardest hitting boxer around and then he produced a resurrection that had similarities to the physical representation of his recovery.
However hard life got for Tyson, he always battled on. He showed this by standing up on count 7, composing himself and then withstanding the final minute or so whilst even showboating knowing he had won as long as he did not get knocked down. Thiscomeback story is far from over for Tyson. Having knocked out Wilder in the 2ndbout, he has agreed to make it a trilogy. If successful, there is surely only one fight left? AJ! Fury will have the chance to enter the boxing Hall of Fame and become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, which for him, I believe, would be a fitting end to his comeback story but also his career.
2. Miracle at Medinah.
On the morning of the final day of The 2012 Ryder Cup, Europe were facing a10-6 deficit. With 28 points on offer throughout the weekend, this required Europe to win at least 8 and a half of the remaining 12 points available. This was a tough, almost impossible, proposition against an extremely strong American side. It was the evening before that the European storm began to blow. The team came back into the clubhouse ‘buzzing’ after watching Ian Poulter birdie the last five holes to claim the spoils in his four-ball match alongside Rory McIlroy. This, according to the players is when the tide began to change. The atmosphere in the team room was transformed. They were technically further away points wise to the Americans – but they had belief!
That evening they had the shortest meeting of the week. Nothing was needed to be said. Everyone knew what they had to do and that was win their singles matches, not just for Team Europe but also for Seve Ballesteros, who died in May 2011. With the singles line up all confirmed, it was lights out and onto the final day. Jose Maria Olazabal, the captain, made it clear that they must win the first five games of the day to give the guys back in the hut a fighting chance to bring it home… 13 and a half plays 12 and a half as we come down to the second last pair on the 18thgreen. Martin Kaymer has a putt to ensure that Europe at least retain the trophy. The ball runs off the face of the putter and seemed to take forever to get to the hole. As the ball drops, I remember watching the relief on the skipper’s face, it was incredible.The weight and stress that it takes to orgainse and manage a winning Ryder Cup team could clearly be seen on Jose’s face. He was ecstatic! A few minutes later, Francsesco Molinari halved his match with Tiger meaning that Europe had just won the Ryder Cup and completed one of the most amazing come backs of all time.
1. Lasse Viren 10,000m Gold Medallist German Olympics 1972
Lasse was a 23-year-old Finnish policeman at the beginning of 1972 for the small village of Myrskyla. Come August 31sthe was lining up to run in the 10,000m final. Considering that the 10,000m heats were his Olympic debut, this was pretty good going for a policeman and a story in itself. The gun went off and the race began. As Lasse was approaching the 5000m mark he stumbled and fell taking out the Tunisian Mohammed Gammoudi, the winner of the 5000m in the previous Olympics. Mohammed pulled out two laps later of the 25-lap race. Many of the fans believed that Lasses’ chances of victory had tumbled and fallen flat with him. However, like in all the above cases, champions strive for more! He picked himself up off the track, got to his feet and ran his way back into contention. Lasse managed to pass all the rivalling pack, passing the likes of David Bedford of the UK, the long-time leader. Lasse managed to not only cross the finish line first and claim the gold medal, but he also set a world record of 27mins 38.4sec. This was an incredible race and a more incredible comeback from a man that started the year as a policeman and ended the year as the Olympic gold medallist and world record holder. Lasse, ten days later, went on to win the 5000m in an Olympic record time. He further went on to repeat this double in Montreal four years later in 1976. Yes, this comeback might not be as well-known as the others, but The S Word believes that it shows that even though everything might not go to plan, one needs to remain calm and pick themselves up and carry on. You never know what is achievable when you do.
Other very notable comebacks:
1. Austrian Niki Lauda coming back and getting behind the wheel to race at Monza just six weeks after his near-fatal accident at the Nurburgring in 1976.
2. Tiger Woods coming back from many a back surgery, relationship problems, drink driving incidents, mental health problems to win his 5th Masters in 2019.