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Comebacks, Setbacks and Adversity

“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”

The famous words uttered by Hall of Fame coach, Rudy Tomjanovich, upon winning the second of back-to-back championships with the Houston Rockets in 1995, is one of the most famous sporting quotes of all-time. And, this was on full display last weekend at the Sachsenring in Germany, as 8-time motorcycle Grand Prix world champion, Marc Marquez, road to his first victory since returning from a near career-ending broken arm last year.

It was an emotional win, understandably, for the 28-year-old Catalan kamikaze, who maintained his perfect record at his beloved circuit, making it 11 wins in a row across all classes – including 9 straight in the MotoGP class. Despite still being ailed by his right arm injury and clearly not at full strength – which has been the case all season so far – Marquez continued his dominance at the German circuit, leading for most of the race before taking the chequered flag, much to the respect of his peers and adulation of the sporting world and fans everywhere.

“There’s a reason why he is ‘The King of Ring’, he comes back here with one arm and still smokes us!” – Jack Miller, Ducati MotoGP rider

The comeback road has not been easy for Marc Marquez, and it’s certainly not complete just yet, but it’s a huge step in the right direction, a relief, and this win will do him the world of confidence and lift a massive weight off his shoulders. I speculate that at some point he would have genuinely entertained the idea that he may never race again let alone win a race.

Returning to the sport he knows and loves after nine months out of the seat was going to be no mean feat for the 6-time MotoGP champion. Having won four titles on the trot, it seemed the only thing that could stop Marquez was himself. Marc’s massive highside crash in the opening race of last season at Jerez, Spain in July, 2020, was insane – perhaps even more insane was that he tried to race the following weekend, just days after surgery, which he later admitted was a mistake.

Marquez had a number of setbacks in his recovery, requiring multiple surgeries to fix/strengthen/heal the break along with a longer-than-expected rehabilitation period. The ongoing adversity is challenging as well, with Marc and Honda still nursing their problems. The RC213V Honda machine is not really a competitive bike at the moment (struggling with settings/adjustments) nor has the change/reduction in compounds to the Michelin front tyres helped the situation either, affecting such things as braking stability and turning. Add in Marc’s continuing physical rehabilitation, and it feels more like a road to perdition than success.

Racing again this weekend at Assen for the Dutch GP before the 5-week European summer mid-season break – which I’m sure Marc is looking forward to – there is no rest for the wicked as Marquez will be tested on the fast and flowing circuit where he had his famous (infamous?) duel with Valentino Rossi in 2015. Marquez will be aiming to carry his confidence across and hope for another good result, but understands that the situation is different now than the past, “so we will keep working to improve our situation and see what’s possible.”

Sports history is littered with moments of great comebacks, setbacks and adversity – such as Michael Jordan coming out of retirement and winning his second 3-peat with the Bulls or Cathy Freeman at the 2000 Sydney Olympics – Marc Marquez is another person to add to the list. Sports provide a great chance to see what human beings are capable of and offers a slice of hope and inspiration to us mere mortals who worship these modern gods with their courageous acts. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be sport where we find these examples, there are plenty of other life avenues where inspirational comebacks and overcoming setbacks and adversity take place – just it can be easier to see or find (examples in sport) for a large public audience.

I was in tears as Marquez crossed the line, a truly heroic achievement from a man who is still broken. I empathised with what he had gone through, to be threatened with taking one’s life energy away from them is a horrendous idea to entertain. He may not be the Marc Marquez of old just yet, but it is a start – and he has shown to the world and more importantly to himself, that he can still do it.

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