Friday Top 5: Post-retirement comebacks

Friday Top 5: Post-retirement comebacks

Morning all, and welcome to Friday. Just a quick update on the cockroach morgue situation to which I have previously alluded. I found seven cadavers this morning. SEVEN. They were all lying belly-up on a patio floor that cannot be more than 3x3m. If anyone knows why this is happening and how to stop it, I urge you to please share your wisdom. I don’t like picking up dead things every morning before breakfast. Please make it stop.

Onto brighter things. Yesterday the snooker world awoke briefly from its off-season slumber with the news that Stephen Hendry, the seven time world champion, will be coming out of retirement this season. The Scot has accepted an invitation to rejoin the professional tour after an eight-year hiatus.

It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on. At 51 years old, Hendry’s certainly on the mature side for an athlete. But that’s actually not that old for a sport that involves about as much physical exertion as watering the plants (this man, for example, used to be in the top 10). Given his pedigree, and looking at the fact that 44-year-old Ronnie O’Sullivan just won the World Championship, it is not unreasonable for his fans to hope that he can be truly competitive again.

On the flip side, he hasn’t played any meaningful snooker for eight years. By his own admission, his domination of the sport in the 90s was built on unflinching dedication and hard work. Does he have the will to go through all that again? Is he going to make the necessary sacrifices to make the step up again? Time will tell, but my suspicion is no. Either way, it’ll be great to have him and his attacking playing style involved in the tournaments again.

The news also got me thinking about similar stories in the world of sport. So, this week’s Friday Top 5 looks at the best post-retirement comebacks I can remember. Such endeavours are not always a success – as Michael Shumacher will testify – but these athletes proved it can be done. Right, lets get into it.

Zinedine Zidane (France, 2006)

After France were dumped out of Euro 2004 by eventual champions Greece, Zidane announced his retirement from international football. But two years later, following the retirement of Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly and several other members of the Golden Generation, Zizou came back to lead his team at the 2006 World Cup. Having retired from club football that summer, the 1998 Ballon d’Or winner was oustanding in Germany. Goals against Spain in the second round and Portugal in the semifinals helped his team to the final. After seven minutes of the final match of his career, he put France ahead with a perfect Panenka penalty. Despite losing on penalties, he was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament. His headbutt of Marco Materazzi was slightly renegade, but, for me at least, only served to cement his legend.

Michael Phelps (Rio Olympics, 2016)

Phelps was already the most decorated Olympian of all time when he retired after the London 2012 games at the age of just 27. But that clearly wasn’t enough and two years later he was back in training and preparing for Rio 2016. In customary fashion, the “Baltimore Shark” dominated the nights at the pool, taking home a casual five gold medals and a silver to boot. The highlight was regaining his precious 200m butterfly title from rival Chad lo Clos, who had shocked everyone by beating Phelps in London. The American retired for a second time after the games, with no less than 28 Olympic medals, of which 23 are gold. To put those numbers into perspective, his nearest challenger is Larisa Latynina, the Soviet gymnast who won 18 medals (9 gold) during the 50s and 60s.

Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls, 1995)

Probably the most famous comeback on this list. I am by no means a basketball expert, and I am relying in no small part on the Netflix’s recent Last Dance documentary for context, but I do remember this happening (just about). I lived in the US as a toddler in the early 90s and my only sporting memories from that time are Barry Bonds smashing a home run at my first baseball game and the hysteria surrounding Michael Jordan’s comeback during the 1994-95 season. With the Bulls struggling, Jordan sensibly stopped playing baseball and led his team to its second “Three-Peat” from 1996-98, claiming the NBA finals MVP award each time.

Kim Clijsters (US Open, 2009)

OK, I know Clijsters isn’t quite in the same league as Jordan, Phelps or Zidane when it comes to sporting greats, but this comeback was pretty remarkable. After retiring in 2007 to start a family, the Belgian announced her comeback in late 2009 just in time to enter the US Open. Without as much as a ranking to her name, she somehow won the tournament, beating three top ten players – including both Williams sisters – on the way. After defending the title in 2010, the former world number number one then retired for the second time in 2012 before making another comeback this year. There would be no repeat fairytale ending this time round however; she lost in the first round of the US Open earlier this week.

Ronnie O’Sullivan (Snooker World Championships, 2013)

I know this shouldn’t really be in here as Ronnie didn’t officially retire, but I’m including it anyway because I loved it so much. After winning his fourth world title in 2012, Ronnie announced that he would take an extended break from the game to give his mind a rest. At the last minute, and having played just one competitive match all season, he decided to defend his title in 2013. He duly went on to win the tournament – and every single session – at a canter. That’s equivalent to Roger Federer rocking up at Wimbledon after a year at home eating fondue (or whatever he does in Switzerland) and taking the title without losing a set.

Righto, that’s about all for today. I’ve got some chips to make in my brand new shiny Air Fryer. Have yourselves a great weekend all, newsletter coming tomorrow in time for breakfast.