Everyone loves a comeback story! These seven sports stars sustained painful (and sometimes horrific) injuries but stepped into the limelight again with sensational victories. Tiger Woods kicks off our list, eleven years after his last major win. Tiger underwent his third back surgery in 2017. He is now fully recovered, after passing time playing mobile casino blackjack, and moved to the top of the Masters leaderboard on April 14th, 2019, with three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine. His story and others stir the imagination of sports fans around the world, reminding us why we play in the first place.
Tiger Woods (Golf)
Once a giant in the world of golf, more than a decade has passed since Tiger Woods won his first Masters in 2005 and the US Open in 2008. Since 2008, he has undergone four major surgeries and received criticism for his personal life.
But on April 14th he claimed the 2019 Masters title. Now the legend is back with one of the most incredible sports comebacks in history. This most recent Masters win is his 15th career major.
Brian O’Driscoll (Rugby)
Brian O’Driscoll is known for his hard-headed resolve to keep playing, regardless of injury. However, in 2005, he experienced a spear tackle during the Lions tour in New Zealand that ended his resilience.
The head-first impact dislocated his shoulder and forced him to undergo surgery, putting him out of the game for seven months. However, he returned to lead his Irish team in the 2006 Six Nations. The team won the Triple Crown that year. O’Driscoll was named Player of the Championship in 2006, 2007, and 2009.
Pelé is likely the finest soccer player in history. Born Edison Arantes do Nascimento, he had helped Brazil claim the World Cup trophy in both 1958 and 1962. They began to campaign for a third in England in 1966.
Once at England, Bulgarians continually fouled and kicked Pelé, injuring him to a point of excluding him from the match. He was not able to help his team win a World Cup that year and remains his most devastating moment.
Clint Malarchuk (Hockey)
Winning the “Most Gory” category, Clint Malarchuk had his throat slit by the skate of an opposing player. In 1989, Malarchuk was the Buffalo Sabres’ goalie in the National Hockey League. A collision led to the skate’s blade partially severing his jugular vein.
Jim Pizzutelli, Malarchuk’s team trainer, rushed across the ice and stopped the bleeding, saving his life. Once in the hospital, the doctors told Clint to take the season off, but he was back on the ice four days later like the champion he is.
Niki Lauda (Formula One)
A fiery car crash in 1976 at the German Grand Prix could have sealed Niki Lauda’s fate, but his drive to win kept him reaching for the finish line. Engulfed in flames, Niki suffered severe burns on his head, lost most of his right ear, and slipped into a coma.
Yet, less than six weeks after the crash, he returned to the track for the Italian Grand Prix and finished fourth. He had already won the title in 1975, missed it by a point in 1976, and continued to win it again in ’77 and ’84.
Monica Seles (Tennis)
In 1993 Monica Seles experienced her worst nightmare when a Steffi Graf fan stabbed her in the back with a knife. This put Seles out of tennis until 1995. Up until the stabbing, Seles had won eight Grand Slam titles before turning 20 and was number one in the world. These titles included the French Open, which she scored when she was 16.
Fully recovered by 1996, she came back and won the Australian open. In 2009, she was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame.
Bethany Hamilton (Surfing)
While most people might consider a vicious shark attack a significant setback, Hamilton has merely focused on becoming a champion. After the 2003 attack severed her left arm, she returned to her professional surfing career the following year. A movie, Soul Surfer, was made about her life in 2011.
Not viewing her lack of an arm as an impediment, Bethany has enjoyed incredible success, including placing third in the Fiji Women’s Pro Competition in May of 2016, during which she beat six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and top-ranked competitor Tyler Wright.