There’s no shortage of remarkable sporting comebacks and come-from-behind stories in the history books. Teams and individuals who fall so far behind at one point that it appears impossible for them to win, yet do so through luck and determination, continue to inspire us and are the underlying theme of both movies and myth. We love the underdog.
In the 1999 Rugby World Cup semifinal, the French overran a powerful New Zealand side that included the seemingly unstoppable Jonah Lomu. Though France was down 10–24 in the second half, in 30 minutes they scored 33 points, taking the game 43-31.
Better fortunes were had by the All Blacks back in a 1996 Tri Nations match against the Wallabies. Australia were in a somewhat commanding position soon after halftime (22–9), but an impressive New Zealand side brought home a 32–25 victory in the last moments of the match.
The 2002 World Basketball Championships saw the New Zealand Tall Blacks trailing China (who had future NBA superstar Yao Ming) by 22 points. However, they managed to claw their way back to win 94–88 on their way to the semi-finals.
After fighting testicular cancer, which spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain in 1996, Lance Armstrong (pictured) came back to compete in the 1999 Tour de France, going on to win seven consecutive Tours before retiring in 2005. In 2009, he came out of retirement and in his return to the Tour de France, finished third in the gruelling event.
In 1984, Mark Occhilupo was riding high at the top of the Association of Surfing Professionals ratings as a 17-year-old. But by 1988 he had turned to drugs and alcohol, as he battled weight gain and depression. His gradual decline saw him retire from professional surfing in the early 1990s. However, in 1995, he turned his life around, lost some 30 kilograms, re-entered the surfing arena and took out the 1999 world title at the age of 33.
One of the greatest celebrated comebacks in Australian history was when they broke America’s 132-year winning streak in the 1983 America’s Cup challenge. Though ailing at 3-1 down, and with history fiercely against them, the Australia II crew won the final three races to be the first to win the cup from the Americans.
My all-time favourite against-the-odds win however is by Australian Steven Bradbury at the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, USA (pictured right). After convincingly winning his 1000 metres short-track speed skating heat, he needed to finish in the top two in the quarter-final race, which included the local favourite and the defending world champion.
While Bradbury only managed to finish third, one of the participants was disqualified for obstructing another racer, so Bradbury advanced to the semi-final instead.
Bradbury again needed to finish in the top two in the semi-final, but against much faster contestants this time. While Bradbury was skating in last place, three of the other competitors ahead of him—including the defending champion and a multiple Olympic medallist—crashed. This meant Bradbury finished in second place and went through to the final.
In the final, Bradbury needed “only” a third miracle to win a medal. And that’s exactly what happened—all four of the other competitors, way out in front of him, crashed in the final corner. Bradbury glided through the final 50 metres for one of sport’s most unbelievable journeys to a gold medal.
The greatest ever sporting comeback
All these sporting comebacks are awesome in their own right, unless of course you were following the team that was overrun. However, it seems Jesus is going to lead the greatest ever sporting comeback.
No, I don’t mean sporting as in Jesus is going to don a basketball jersey and become “Air Jesus” or something. I mean sporting as in “generous” and comeback as in “returning” and “coming from behind to win.”
If the prophecies of the second coming of Jesus play out as stated in Bible texts such as Matthew 24:30: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory,” it will be a game turnaround far more monumental than any of the comebacks we’ve just looked at.
You could easily argue that Satan, captain of the opposing team, has taken a hefty lead in the score of life on earth to date. Just look around or read a newspaper.
And you don’t have to watch television for long to see that Christians are the current underdogs in life—whether it be a movie that breaks all 10 of the Commandments before the opening credits have finished, a documentary which claims an authoritative godless explanation of life, to a comedian, complete with laughing audience, who makes a mockery of the Bible.
But the game isn’t yet over. And it doesn’t matter who’s winning in the final seconds (as evidenced by Bradbury), it’s who’s winning when the final buzzer, or shall we say, final trumpet (see Matthew 24:31) sounds, which locks in the game’s score for eternity.
The Bible actually predicts this mid-game slump: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11,12) and that “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).
For those who study the Bible, especially the meanings of the symbolism in Revelation, one thing is obvious, when that final trumpet does sound, it will be too late to switch teams, and you don’t want to be on the losing side, not only out of fear of receiving the consequences, but also the tragedy of missing the eternal post-game party for the winners.
Additional photos: Just forever—Dreamstime.com