The eight-time World Champion has followed in the footsteps of some of the greatest athletes in history by overcoming serious injury
It has finally happened: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has been given the green light to get back on his RC213V this weekend at the Autódromo Internacional del Algarve. The Grande Prémio 888 de Portugal, the third round of the 2021 MotoGP™ World Championship, will no doubt go down in history as the moment the eight-time World Champion stepped back into the spotlight after nine months away.
It’s a moment that has been highly anticipated by MotoGP™ fans around the world but also by lovers of sport. It evokes memories of other great sporting heroes making their return after battling against serious, sometimes career-threatening, injuries. All of whom would return to the absolute pinnacle of their sport, as Marquez will seek to replicate.
MotoGP™ Legends on what it takes to overcome injuries
Marc’s return can be compared to that of other former premier class riders, such as MotoGP™ Legend Mick Doohan. The Australian nearly lost his right leg in 1992, after a serious crash at Assen that led to a dangerous infection. A spectacular recovery, missing just four races, would see him try to clinch the title in the final two rounds in Brazil and South Africa. It sadly wasn’t enough, with the crown going to Wayne Rainey by just four points. Despite the fact that he could not manage to clinch the title that year, he would go on to conquer premier class racing for the remainder of the decade, taking an incredible five titles from 1994 to 1998.
If we look beyond MotoGP™, the examples are numerous. In motorsport in particular, we have some iconic comebacks. First and foremost, we must remember the late, great Niki Lauda and his ability to recover from the injuries sustained after an accident at the 1976 F1 German Grand Prix. Despite receiving serious burns in the horror crash, he would return to the fray just 6 weeks later; a true hero. He was runner-up that year but would win his second title a year later before then taking his final world crown in 1984. We must also remember Michael Schumacher’s accident at the 1999 British GP, in which he fractured his leg and would miss the next six races. He would return stronger than ever, though, winning the world title from 2000 to 2004 in an iconic partnership with Ferrari.
Alex Zanardi is another inspiring sporting comeback. In 2001, he suffered a terrible accident at EuroSpeedway Lausitz whereby he lost both legs. His grit, determination and reluctance to take the news lying down is inspiring to many. He would compete again just two years later in Touring Cars, adding victories in following years, although his greatest reward would come in the form of medals at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Another example would be the return of Poland’s Robert Kubica. A serious accident during a rally on Italian soil in 2011 almost cost him the amputation of his right hand. He would recover, however, to return to competing at the pinnacle of rallying, before then making his long-awaited return to F1 in 2019.
Marc Marquez’s race to be fit progresses in Portimao
In the world of football, we’ve seen some of the sport’s greatest players return from major injuries, such as Ronaldo Nazario and Diego Maradona. The former overcame a number of serious knee injuries, one of which was just before the 2002 World Cup – a competition he helped his country win for a record fifth time. In the case of the late, great Maradona, the famous Argentinian number 10 overcame a serious ankle injury while playing for FC Barcelona. He went onto win the World Cup in Mexico 1986, and eight years later, Maradona would star in the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Two of football’s most treasured athletes.
Next we’ll come to basketball and world-famous superstar Michael Jordan had to return to the court following numerous injury setbacks. More recently, we can’t forget the late, great Kobe Bryant’s Achilles comeback. The ‘Black Mamba’ scored two free throws for the LA Lakers in the 2013 playoffs, before heading off the changing room as nearly a year away from the courts faced him. Bryant didn’t throw in the towel though, at 35 years of age, Bryant showed his prowess and returned as competitive as ever to post unbelievable statistics in his last two seasons with the Lakers.
Tennis has also seen its fair share of major injury comebacks. The three most successful male players of all time – Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic – have all been hit by injury during their illustrious careers. However, the story of Monica Seles is one to tell. In 1993 at just 19-years-old, she amazed the world by winning her eighth Grand Slam title, three years on from becoming the youngest-ever French Open winner at 16. However, in 1993, she was a victim of an on-court attack after a man stabbed her in the back. Understandably, it was something that saw Seles unable to return to the court for two years, but she did come back to win her fourth Australian Open in 1996 – her ninth Grand Slam. In addition, she claimed bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and helped the US Team to win the Federation Cup three times.
Tiger Woods’ victory at The Masters is one of the great sporting comebacks. Suffering from long term back problems, the American became the oldest golfer to win The Masters since 1986. This was his fifth Masters title and 15th major overall. Fellow American Payton Manning, NFL’s legendary Quarterback, saw his time with the Indianapolis Colts end in 2011 after neck problems saw him go under the knife four times. He signed with the Denver Broncos, with whom he would play his last four seasons as a professional, saying goodbye in style with his second Super Bowl title in 2015.
The story of cycling’s Greg LeMond is also famous. A year after winning the Tour de France in 1986, LeMond suffered a hunting accident in California that saw him get shot in the back. Nearly costing him his life, the incident ruined his 1987 campaign and the following year saw a fresh injury arise. However, LeMond returned and won the 1989 and 1990 Tour de France races.
As we can see, we’ve witnessed some incredible sporting comebacks. We now wait and see what Marc Marquez can do after nine months on the sidelines. Three surgeries and a painful time away from the motorcycle, the number 93 is ready to compete again in 2021.