To some it is a dream run of long careers and to others it is a short aborted career, but for many, it is a vanishing act at some point of time – only to return from exile and extend their careers.
The world of sports has witnessed great comebacks from tennis players such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Kim Clijsters and Mirjana Lucic Baroni [current sensation].
Mohinder Amarnath a former Indian cricketer was famous for his comebacks. Yuvraj Singh is another currently making news after his sensational comeback during the last few weeks. Likewise, there are a few other athletes from other games too, who have returned successfully to competitive sports after long layoffs.
Of course all comebacks have not been great, it has given heart breaks to a few such as Bjorn Borg and Justine Henin [tennis], Mark Spitz and Ian Thorpe [swimming], Mohamed Ali [boxing], Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson [basketball] Mike Powell [athletics- track & field] and Michael Schumacher [formula one racing].
January 2017 has witnessed two sensational comebacks in cricketer Yuvraj Singh and tennis player Mirjana Lucic Baroni. Yuvraj, now 35 years of age, scored 150 in the second one-dayer and 45 in the third one-dayer against England, while Mirjana 34, has made it to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open 2017.
Both players are known for their never-say-die attitude, mental strength and optimism. They faced strict, demanding and ill-tempered fathers during their younger days. While Yuvraj survived a cancer scare after 2011, Mirjana’s life was riddled with personal trauma, financial constraints and injuries.
Ever since his return to the Indian team, the dashing all-rounder’s tenure in the Indian team has been a roller coaster ride: he has seen himself frequently in and out of the Indian team. It has been 18 years since Mirjana has made it to the quarter finals of a major tournament [as on 24/1/17]. As a 15-year-old teenage prodigy, she won a WTA tour title and also the junior girls’ singles at the Australian open. She then teamed up with the young Martina Hingis to win the doubles title in 1998.
Her life has been a fight against adversities, financial constraints and frustration due to disappointing performances. In fact, Yuvraj Singh was thinking of retirement at a time when he was recovering from cancer and struggling with his fitness. But, he shelved his plans of retirement and challenged himself to get back into the team.
Yuvraj is always known to be a tough cookie- he still had a lot of cricket left in him and a burning desire to get back to International cricket. He proved himself in the domestic circuit scoring 672 runs in five games that forced the selectors to impose faith in him and paved the way for return against England. The rest is history.
Mirjana’s performance in the ongoing Australian open is highly impressive as she has beaten the likes of Agnieska Radwanska and Jennifer Brady on her way to the quarters.
Sporting history has long brought to light instances of elite sportspersons having retired early with a lot of game still left in them and then trying to forge their way back to competitive sports: the results have been a mixed bag of success and failure.
Elite athletes retire early for different reasons:
- They may have reached their pinnacle and achieved the highest: as a result there is no motivation to achieve
- Adversities of different kind, such as the loss of a loved one, accidents and serious injuries.
- Relationship issues
- As victims of substance abuse
- Sudden slump in performance etc. There are several instances when they have been left out of their national teams due to poor performances: this is when they try to force a comeback.
Why it is a mixed bag in the form of results when they make such comebacks?
Competitive sports is a hard uncompromising arena where lots of hard work, sacrifice, sweat and tears goes into the making of champions, coupled with a burning drive to succeed.
When a person goes into complete retirement and a long layoff follows, the intensity in the feelings that bring about success takes a plummet and it is extremely difficult to derive the same psychological mindset that once made them a champion.
There is a huge physiological impact also with the body becoming slow and muscles not getting the exercise they need to stay in shape. Bjorn Borg, Mark Spitz, Ian Thorpe and Mike Powell made unsuccessful comebacks after a long cooling period from their game.
It is possible for a player, who, at his peak was forced in to oblivion to stage a comeback if he continues to put in the necessary efforts and associate himself with the cutting knife competition of the modern era, even it were at a lower level. The athlete needs to adapt himself to the changing scenario mentally, physically and strategically with his advancing age and mind.
It is a miracle to get back to your winning ways after your farewell, so think twice before you want to return because it takes a lot from you to do so.