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The year in sport: A fond farewell for some, a glimpse of the future for ot

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5:50 am
December 24, 2022


firta

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Posts: 34

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An athlete, former jockey AP McCoy said earlier this year, is the only person who dies twice, such is the pain of walking away from the intoxicating, all-consuming nature of professional sport.

McCoy retired from his long, decorated racing career in 2015, and since then has had to learn, in his own words, how to “start again and have another life.”

Based on the past 12 months, there are some notable sports stars who might have been listening extra closely to McCoy’s experience of retirement – or indeed to anyone else who has spoken candidly about the difficulty of ending a successful sporting career.

Among them is Roger Federer, who called time on his trophy-laden tennis career at the Laver Cup in September after years spent trying to recover from two knee surgeries.

In the letter announcing his retirement, Federer, like McCoy, alluded to the heightened emotions of being a professional athlete and how they make saying goodbye so hard.

“I have laughed and cried, felt joy and pain, and most of all I have felt incredibly alive,” Federer wrote. “To the game of tennis,” he signed off the letter, “I love you and will never leave you.”

Those final words were reassuring for fans who have admired Federer’s career for so many years, but also spoke to another issue: namely, of how hard it can be to walk away entirely from professional sport after retirement.

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It remains to be seen exactly how Federer will remain involved in tennis moving forward, and the same can be said of Serena Williams, who announced she would “evolve away from tennis” ahead of this year’s US Open – but refused to say she was retiring.

On several occasions over the past three months, the 23-time grand slam champion has even teased fans about a potential return to tennis.

Lengthening careers
While Federer and Williams have stepped away from their careers as two of the greatest athletes of all time, other sports stars can’t seem to decide when, or how, to walk away.

Heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury has yo-yoed in and out of retirement this year, saying in October that he’s finding it “really hard to let this thing go.”

And earlier this year, Tom Brady announced he would be retiring from the NFL, leaving the sport as a seven-time Super Bowl champion and arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. the 45-year-old then reversed that decision and is still breaking records with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his 23rd season in the NFL.

However in September, Brady and Gisele Bündchen announced they were to divorce after 13 years of marriage.

“I think there is a lot of professionals in life that go through things that they deal with at work and they deal with at home,” the Bucs quarterback said on his weekly podcast a few days the couple’s divorce announcement.

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“Obviously, the good news is it’s a very amicable situation, and I’m really focused on two things: taking care of my family, and certainly my children, and secondly doing the best job I can to win football games. That’s what professionals do.”

Brady has redefined what most believed to be the average shelf-life of an athlete, and he’s not the only person refusing to let the light dim on his career.

LeBron James is about to turn 38 but is still setting records in the NBA – in February passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most combined regular season and postseason points in NBA history.

Federer’s rivals Rafael Nadal, 36, and Novak Djokovic, 35, meanwhile, have added to their grand slam tallies this year – the Mallorcan at the Australian Open and French Open, where he became the oldest men’s singles champion, and the Serbian at Wimbledon. Djokovic’s Wimbledon triumph moved him to within one grand slam title of Nadal’s men’s record of 22.

Having been deported from Australia over his vaccination status at the start of the year, Djokovic is set to compete at the Australian Open at the start of 2023 – a tournament he has won on nine previous occasions and is favorite to win again next year off the back of his recent ATP Finals victory.

For Nadal, his future in the sport rests on the amount of strain his injury-ravaged body can continue to withstand.


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