March 5, 2013
A great sport comeback story can be the most dramatic thing you’ve ever heard. Just think of all the great sport films that show someone at the brink of defeat, only to find new strength and finally triumph against all the odds.
It’s for this reason the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award is always a particularly special one.
Comeback Nominees are of course chosen for their sporting achievements just like the Sportsman and Sportswoman hopefuls, but another very important factor is also taken into account.
And that factor is the courage, commitment and, as is particularly the case this year, the bravery that it took for these sportspeople to get back to the top of their game once again.
Because of that, all the Nominees this year truly deserve recognition for their achievements, but whose do you think are the most inspiring and worthy of success on Awards night?
Here are all the hopeful Nominees and a brief insight into the remarkable lengths they went to in the pursuit of finding sporting success once again.
Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) Athletics
Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba joined an elite group of seven Olympians who have won three individual track gold medals when she won the 10,000 metres in London. It was a heroic effort from Dibaba who has had to fight back from a series of injuries after her Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres double in Beijing in 2008. She was out of competition for 16 months and only returned at the beginning of 2012. She announced she was back by winning the 10,000 metres at the Prefontaine Classic in June which set her up for her moment of glory in London.
Ernie Els (South Africa) Golf
Having failed to qualify for the US Masters for the first time since 1993, South African golfer Ernie Els, at 42, bounced back in the most dramatic way with his fourth Major Championship victory at The Open at Lytham. In one of the most surprising turn-rounds in golf, he started the final day six shots behind Australia’s Adam Scott and ended winning by one – ten years after he had won his last Major Championship. Els birdied the 18th hole to finish on seven-under-par, scoring 68 to Scott’s 75. Els, the 2002 Open champion and the 1994 and 1997 US Open champion, had dropped to 65th in the world rankings earlier in the year. He said: ‘A lot of people never thought I would win, but I started believing this year, getting a lot of help from my family and the professionals around me.’
European Ryder Cup Team - Golf
Under the inspirational captaincy of Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe produced a stunning final-day fightback to win the Ryder Cup in Chicago. The United States needed only 4½ points from 12 singles matches to win, but it was the Europeans who won eight matches and halved another to secure a historic 14½-13½ win. The match came down to a thrilling climax when Martin Kaymer sank a five-foot putt on the 18th green to get his team to the 14 points needed to retain the trophy. Then a Tiger Woods bogey against Francesco Molinari gifted Europe a half point to clinch overall victory. It was a fitting tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros, the man who did so much to reinvigorate the event and whose trademark navy blue and white the European side wore on the final day. Top performers were Ian Poulter, who won all four matches he played, and Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, who each won three matches.
Germany Men’s Olympic Eights Team – Rowing
Germany's eight-man rowing team came back after 20 years of disappointment to win the Olympic gold medal in London for the first time since 1988. On their way to a memorable victory the team climbed an enormous mountain, beating a British squad that has done consistently well in the World Cup and was rowing on home water and a Canadian team which set a world best time at a World Cup event in Lucerne in May. Crew members attributed their success since 2009 to coach Ralf Holtmeyer, who has led them to their last three world championships.
Anna Meares (Australia) Cycling
Anna Meares' sprint success in the London Olympic velodrome was a moment of immense celebration for herself and Australia as she beat her principal rival Victoria Pendleton of Britain on home territory. She also won bronze in the women’s team sprint. Her triumph in London marked the end of an amazing journey that started in January 2008 when she broke her neck in a cycling accident. Amazingly she fought her way back for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won silver. Four years later the gold medal she won justified all her efforts. She said: ‘It's been such a difficult challenge. I've tried so much and worked so hard for a long period of time.’ In 2012 she also won world championship gold medals in the keirin and time trial in Melbourne.
Check out our interview with Anna here.
Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic) Athletics
Two weeks before his 35th birthday, Felix Sanchez amazingly won the 400 metres hurdles gold medal in London, repeating his achievement in Athens in 2004. His winning time of 47.63 secs, was exactly the same as in 2004 and was his fastest run for eight years. For one of the most exhausting events on the track, Sanchez’s performance at his age was truly remarkable. In between 2004 and 2012 his only global highlight was a silver medal in the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. His second gold medal meant he joined Edwin Moses and Angelo Taylor as hurdlers who won their second Olympic title eight years after their first.