From disastrous blunders to unforeseen injuries to impossible odds, some of these all-star athletes never thought they'd get a chance at an Olympic win. But just when everyone thought these athletes didn't stand a chance, they made some pretty incredible and utterly epic comebacks that shocked the world.
After taking home the gold in the Summer Olympics of 2004 in Athens, Greece, Dominican Republic native Felix Sanchez hit a bad luck streak—for eight years! The athlete suffered injury after injury, leading the athletic community to believe this runner’s days were over. Slowly fighting his way back to the Olympics, he ranked seventh in the world at the 2012 London Olympics. No one expected him to get anywhere close to a win. Somehow, Sanchez shocked the world by taking home the gold for a second time, nearly a decade after his initial win.
Known as the “Golden Girl of Australia," Cuthbert had won a golden triple: the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m. The last piece of the puzzle for her was to make it to the 1960 Rome Olympics and win the gold. Tragically, Cuthbert was injured and would never make it to the games. She then retired from the sport altogether. After some time recovering, she reversed her retirement and try again. She qualified for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and brought home the gold for the 400m sprint. This win made her the first athlete in Olympic history to win 100m, 200m, and 400m individual titles.
This Canadian skating pair took a two-year break from skating after winning double silver medals in the 2014 Sochi Games. But the desire to bring home the gold was still there, and the duo got back to the games. When the world thought they had seen the last of this skating pair, they came back to bring home double gold medals.
In the Rome 1960 Olympics, Jerome suffered a major setback when he tore his hamstring during the 100m semifinals. The media called him a quitter for not finishing the race, despite his obvious injury. Things went from bad to worse when he tore his entire left quadriceps in 1962. He needed surgery to repair the injury and months of rehabilitation. For an athlete, this appears to be the end of the line, but not for Jerome. He pushed his way forward and made it to the 1964 games and took home a bronze medal. Silencing his critics once and for all, he proved anyone can come back from anything if they want it badly enough.
This two-time gold medalist made a comeback like no other. Winning the gold in 1984 for the 3m springboard and the 10m platform events made him the first athlete in 56 years to accomplish such a feat. In 1988, he returned to defend his title. During the event, Louganis accidentally hit his head on the diving board during preliminary rounds—shocking the crowd. Louganis suffered a concussion and received four stitches. Just 35 minutes later, he was back on the springboard and earned a gold medal by 25 points over his competitors!
In 1980, the USA’s hockey team comprised nothing but amateur players—the youngest in USA national team history. Up against the six-time gold-winning Soviet Union, the USA team were underdogs during the semifinals. Without a shred of hope on their side, this team beat the former champions and made it to the finals where they won against Finland and brought home the gold. The media dubbed the team the “Miracle on Ice” for their unprecedented and completely unexpected win.
A previous bronze medalist, Hughes was far from a favorite at the games. She was up against Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya—both four-time world champions. At just 16 years old, the skater found herself in fourth place and somehow pushed herself to the number one spot. She won the gold medal, leaving her champion opponents stunned.
During the 4x100-meter freestyle event, the swimmer started out strong but somehow fell behind in the third leg. He dove in for his last leg and had to beat world champion, Alain Bernard of France. Lezak miraculously won the event despite being so far behind mid-race and even made history as making the fastest ever split in the event's history.
Growing up, Shields lived an impoverished life. Her biological father spent most of his life behind bars and her mother was a drug addict. She wasn’t able to even begin boxing until she was 11 years old as her father didn’t allow her to take part in an activity he deemed suitable for men only. When her father's next arrest, she began boxing. Her coach then took her in, after having lived in 12 different homes already. She won the gold for boxing at both Olympic games, making her the first boxer ever to win two consecutive gold medals for boxing—male or female!
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