Tyson Fury, Tiger Woods, Georges St-Pierre: The greatest sporting comebacks

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British track cyclist and six-time Olympic gold medal winner Jason Kenny joined presenters Jake Humhprey and Damian Hughes on this week’s High Performance Podcast.

Kenny discussed a range of topics including what cycling gave to him, tips to stop worrying, trading feedback within a team and an interesting discussion over his return to the Olympics.

Kenny made the decision to retire from cycling after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games before returning to his beloved sport in late 2017.

During the interview, Hughes asked Kenny: “When you chose to come back for another Olympic cycle... Who did you go to for advice to bounce that commitment off?” To which he responded: “I didn’t, really. I’ve got Laura at home obviously, and that’s it really. That’s all I ever needed.”

Dubbed as one of the ultimate power couples in sport, Jason and wife Laura Kenny are essentially masters of their trade nowadays. With Jason being the most successful British male Olympian of all time and Laura owning the most golds for women (as well as being just one behind the total female medal record), they’re showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

He continued: “Laura was training anyway, she always intended on coming back after Albie (their son) so I just sort of joined in, out of boredom really. I enjoyed training.

“I’d done it for so long, and even though I’d taken breaks, I’d always had it in the back of my mind, when we come back I’m going to do this - so I’d never really totally switched off.”

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Jason then referenced how he was able to do things, such as walking/running with the dogs, that he wasn’t able to do prior to taking a break. 

When admiring the achievements of Kenny’s career pre and post-hiatus, it made us think of other highly successful athletes who have stepped down from the limelight for a while in their career before making their return.

Tyson Fury

Fury hung up the gloves for 925 days between his fight against Wladimir Klitschko and his win over Sefer Seferi. The ‘Gypsy King’ was praised over the conversation he sparked surrounding men’s mental health and the help he received. He claims his reasoning for his return in 2018 was to face Deontay Wilder, which would ultimately go in his favour, as the stats between the pair stand at a draw and a Fury win. 

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Tiger Woods

Hailed as one of the greatest golfers of all time, and already one of the most famous and successful athletes in history, Woods made the decision in 2009 to take an “indefinite” break from the sport in an attempt to save his marriage and reputation. This was due to widely reported scandals surrounding his name and marriage at the time. Woods returned in early April 2010 at the first Major of the year The Masters, finishing fourth. 11 years after his previous Major win, Woods won The Masters in 2019 in remarkable fashion.

Niki Lauda

The late Formula One driver, who unfortunately passed in May 2019, was a three-time F1 World Drivers’ Champion, as well as being the only driver to be crowned champion for both Ferrari and McLaren in F1 history. Lauda is hailed for completing one of sport’s greatest comebacks; in 1976 at the German Grand Prix, his Ferrari caught fire with the driver stuck in the car for almost a minute. The driver was left with third-degree burns, loss of his right ear and severe damage to his lungs. Remarkably, only six weeks after the incident, Lauda was driving again.

Jonas Gutierrez

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The Argentine midfielder currently plays in his home country for Banfield, however, he is more notably recognised for his seven-year career at Newcastle United. He won the Championship title with the club in 2010 and scored the goal which kept them in the Premier League in 2015. Gutierrez had to take a short hiatus from football after heartbreakingly being diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer. He made a full return to football for Newcastle against Manchester United, coming on as a substitute in the home game. 

George Foreman

“Big George” is remembered in boxing for being a two-time world heavyweight champion and an Olympic gold medalist. He took a 10-year hiatus from boxing in 1977 to become a reverend at a Houston Church and announced his return to the sport in 1987 - with his goal being to raise money for the youth centre he built.

Michael Jordan

Seen by many as the face of the NBA and basketball for many years, MJ retired three times from the sport throughout his professional career. He won six championships in 15 seasons whilst playing for the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, as well as winning two Olympic gold medals whilst representing the United States. His third and final retirement came with the Washington Wizards in 2003.

Michael Phelps

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The most successful Olympian of all time with a record 28 medals, Phelps is viewed as one of the greatest athletes to compete. He retired twice in his career, the first time following the 2012 London Olympics after winning four gold medals and two silver medals. He returned at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which would be his last, and ended his career with a team gold in the 4x100m relay.

Georges St-Pierre

The UFC legend is always rumoured to return, with fans - including Khabib Nurmagomedov - desperate to see the Canadian enter the cage again. St-Pierre took a break from fighting in 2017, vacating his middleweight title due to him suffering from ulcerative colitis. The Canadian fought and won at UFC 217 against Michael Bisping. He announced his official retirement from UFC in 2019, having still not fully recovered from the complications of the illness.

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