3 Of The Greatest Comebacks In Sport History, ‘Cos We All Love A Return To Form

Community sport is back, baby! After almost two years of constant anxiousness and never knowing when I’d be able to verse my mates in a totally friendly (competitive) match of tennis – we are back. 

Now, I’m not the sportiest person out there, but I really loved being able to meet up with my mates at the pool and have a laugh between laps. But that pesky pandemic put a stop to that, halting all community sport for what felt like eons. I went from swimming a couple of times a week to flopping around in my bathtub just to feel something. True story.

Man oh man am I ready to make my comeback, so to celebrate, Nutri-Grain – breakfast of absolute champions – is reminding Aussies of everything they have loved and missed about community sport. They want you to get back out there, whatever that means for you. Amateur lawn bowls? Go for it! Cricket? Yes! Roller derby? Absolutely, ‘cos after being bogged down for so long, it’s time to dust ourselves off and return to the game stronger than ever.

If you’re feeling a wee bit uninspired though – fair enough! – we’ve pulled together three legendary comeback stories to reignite your passion for sport. From sickening injuries to pulling off four (4) comebacks, these three legends are the epitome of resilience, hard work, and never giving up. So they might just give you the push you need to pick up that ball, and hit the field.

Ali Day

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Image: Supplied

Presenting two-time Nutri-Grain Series champion and six-time Coolangatta Gold champion, Ali Day. I mean, with an introduction like that, there’s simply no doubting Day’s talent in the water. Hailing from the NSW south coast, Day first got involved with surf lifesaving when he was just nine years old, and went on to compete (and absolutely smash) just about every facet of surf sport competition.

But Day’s career didn’t come without its hurdles. In 2013, Day ended up missing an entire season due to a mystery illness. He didn’t let it beat him though, and went on to not only recover, but win his maiden Nutri-Grain title just a year later.

Then in 2019, at the peak of his ability, tragedy struck when Day shattered both his wrists in a freak accident. He was benched for 16 months, recovering from multiple surgeries that required 28 screws and pins.

Day could’ve thrown in the towel after a setback like that – no one would’ve blamed him, but Day was determined to get back into the water. And after missing the 2019/20 Nutri-Grain series, he returned and dominated the scene. Day went on to win every round of the Nutri-Grain Ironman Series – six whole wins – as well as the Australian Ironman title. Now that’s a clean sweep if I’ve ever seen one.

The Socceroos

Let me take you back to June 12, 2006. The Socceroos are losing 1-0 to Japan in their first game of that year’s World Cup in Germany after a controversial 26th-minute goal by Shunsuke Nakamura. Debate still rages over whether Aussie keeper Mark Schwarzer was fouled as the ball floated into an empty net, but the goal stood.

Before the tournament had even begun, basically every pundit had written off Australia. Drawn in a group alongside Asian powerhouses Japan, world champions Brazil, and European big dogs Croatia, no one expected Australia to qualify for the next round.

And so the stage was set for super-sub Tim Cahill to become a household name. The would-be Aussie legend immediately changed the flow of the game when he came on with just over half an hour to go, and it was he that scored the exhilarating equaliser at the 84th minute — Australia’s first-ever goal at a World Cup.

Timmy wasn’t done. With a minute to go the unthinkable happened, he scored again. Cue delirious celebration from the Aussie bench and fans in green and gold all around the world. With Japan desperately going all-out attack in search of an equalizer, John Aloisi sealed the deal making it 3-1 in added time with a brilliant counter attack goal, securing Australia’s first-ever win at a World Cup.

The Socceroos would go on make it through their group of death and qualify for the next round, only losing to eventual world champions Italy. In the process, they become the surprise team of the tournament, winning long sought-after respect across the footballing world. 

Kim Clijsters

Speaking of epic comebacks, we’ve got to talk about Kim Clijsters now. The former World Number 1 retired when she was just 23 – and at the top of her game – in May 2007. While her retirement had already been announced, Clijsters was scheduled to play for the whole season. So her sudden departure in the middle of the year stunned the tennis world.

Retired, Clijsters married basketball player Brian Lynch and gave birth to her daughter in early 2008. But in 2009, during an exhibition match, Clijsters decided to make a return.

She called it her “second career”.

One month (1) after returning to the sport, Clijsters just casually won the women’s singles title at the US Open, and she did it on a wild-card entry because she wasn’t even a ranked player anymore. Clijsters defeated both the Williams sisters on her way to glory, as well as Caroline Wozniacki in the final (7-5, 6-3).

To this day, Clijsters is still such an example of resilience and determination. Despite setbacks – read: the pandemic – Clijsters marked her fourth comeback this year when she entered the 2021 season, making her the indisputable queen of comebacks.

It’s been difficult training under such tight conditions, but Clijsters has pushed through it. As she always does.

Moral of the story? Never give up.