Going down in a blaze of mediocrity: Sport’s worst finales

Eurosport | The Rundown, Yahoo!7 December 5, 2012, 10:58 am


Ricky Ponting has long been established as one of the greatest cricketers ever to pick up a bat, but on Monday his Test career ended in pure ignominy.

He was bowled out for just eight runs in his final innings as Australia slumped to a 309-run defeat against South Africa, a result which saw the once unbeatable Aussies lose the series.

The veteran of 168 Tests was welcomed onto the pitch for his last hurrah by an honour guard of applauding South African players (a gesture Ponting said "would live with me forever"), but he lasted just 23 balls before he was sent back to the pavilion.

"I probably had in mind a bit more of a fairytale ending," admitted the former Australia skipper, whose 41 Test centuries is a record bettered only by Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis.

Ponting is not the first legend of his sport to end his career on a sour note, however - and many others have fared even worse in their swansong. Here's our pick of the stars who went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

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Nigel Mansell's F1 career ends in 'Fat McLaren'


After a series of incredible misfortunes which cost him two world titles in the 1980s (most memorably in 1986, when a blow-out 19 laps from the end cost him the championship) Mansell was finally crowned champion in 1992 after a season in which he won a then-record nine races.

He even followed that up with two potentially perfect motor racing swansongs. In 1993, he headed to the Indycar series in America where he won the title; then a year later he made a brief - and emotional - cameo back in F1 for Williams to replace Ayrton Senna, who had been tragically killed during the season. Mansell won his final Grand Prix, at Adelaide, for the team who had made him a household name.

If only he'd left it there. Instead, Mansell returned to F1 in 1995 to drive for McLaren. The car had to be specially widened to cater to his by-then-ample frame (earning it the unfortunate nickname of the "Fat McLaren"), with the time-consuming re-design causing him to miss the first two races of the season. He was then comfortably outdriven by team-mate Mika Hakkinen and, after just two races, Mansell quit the sport with his reputation distinctly sullied.

Ed Moses comes in third in final race

The legendary American 400m hurdler changed the face of his event as he went 122 races unbeaten in the 1970s and 1980s, collecting two Olympic gold medals and being denied a third only by the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games.

Though he'd lost his unbeaten record in a race in 1987, Moses was determined to collect that elusive third gold medal at Seoul in 1988 and turned up having won a further consecutive 10 races - among them a World Championship gold. But the unthinkable happened on the South Korean track: despite having a perfect draw in lane three and getting a perfect start, the 32-year-old was beaten by both America's Andre Phillips and Senegal's Amadou Dia Bia. He collected bronze that was a scant consolation, and never ran again.

Donald Bradman denied 100 average with final innings duck


The Australian cricketer, generally regarded as the greatest batsman of all time, walked out to the middle in the first innings of his final Test match looking certain to end his career with a batting average of over 100. Indeed, as he took to the field his average was just over 101.

A seemingly endless ovation reverberated around the ground for the great man, and even the England side who were Bradman's opponents that day gave a spontaneous "Three cheers for the Don!" as he approached the wicket, led by England captain Norman Yardley, who warmly shook Bradman's hand.

Moments later, England's Eric Hollies had soured Bradman's final moment for good. His first ball from the Vauxhall end at the Oval was pushed gently to a silly mid-off; his second was a googly that clean bowled Bradman for a duck.

The BBC's commentator John Arlott wondered if Bradman even saw the ball through the tears in his eyes, for he never got near it, was miles down the crease and would likely have been stumped even if it had missed.

Bradman was clapped off the field, and with 6,996 runs in 70 Test innings his average had dipped to 99.94.

Yet all was not lost: there was still the Australians' second innings to come, and given that the Oval had been one of Bradman's happiest hunting grounds over the years he had every chance of making the runs he needed to push his average back up over the magic mark.

It was not to be, however, as England had one more bitter part to play in the story: the hosts' second innings batting collapse handed Australia an innings victory, denying Bradman the chance to bat again and score the necessary runs he needed.


Linford Christie tests positive for Nandrolone


In his glory days the British sprinter became the first man to hold the World, Olympic, European and Commonwealth 100m title at the same time (though considering how few people fall into all four categories that's perhaps not so surprising), but his career finished in the worst possible way.

In 1999, while to all intents and purposes retired, he tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone at an indoor meeting in Dortmund. He denied doing anything wrong - as he had successfully done after an earlier positive test at the 1988 Olympics - but was handed a two-year ban by the IAAF, and a lifetime ban by the BOA.

Brian Clough ends career with relegation

One of the greatest managers the English game has ever known, Clough became synonymous with tactical brilliance and unequalled motivational skills as he led first Derby County and then Nottingham Forest to the old First Division title. He also led Forest to back-to-back European Cup victories.

And though his glory days were long behind him by the 1990s as his alcoholism took a firm and tragic grip on his life, Cloughie still had success, taking Forest to the FA Cup final in 1991 where he once again failed to win the only title that ever eluded him.

Two years later, however, he left the game with his tail between his legs. Forest came last in the inaugural season of the Premier League, and Clough left the job. Aged just 58, he never again managed a football club.

Zinedine Zidane goes out with a headbutt


The French superstar enjoyed a stellar career, winning league titles with Juventus and Real Madrid, lifting the Champions League trophy, and inspiring France to an incredible World Cup victory in 1998.

Eight years later, deep into extra time in the World Cup final, he looked likely to cap all those glories with a second World Cup victory. The unfancied French side were pushing Italy hard in the final, and Zidane had almost scored a decisive header.

But with 10 minutes left until a shootout, Marco Materazzi called his sister a whore, prompting Zidane to headbutt the Italian in the chest. Materazzi made the most of the blow, falling to the turf as if he'd been bullseyed by a sniper on the roof of Berlin's Olympiastadion, and the referee sent the Frenchman off. France went on to lose 5-3 on penalties.

Billy Casper shoots 106 at the Masters

The golfing great decided to play one last Masters at Augusta in 2005, a decision he took so that his grandchildren could see him on TV. It did not go well: he shot 106, which included a 14 on the par-3 16th hole. The three-times Major champion declined to officially return his card to the scorers, ensuring that his round avoided going down in the official record books as the worst ever in the event. The debacle caused huge controversy over younger players being denied a chance to take part, and tarnished the memory of one of the greatest players of the 1960s.

Michael Jordan returns with the Washington Wizards


Despite being the wealthiest and most dominant athlete on the planet after retiring from his second stint with the Chicago Bulls in 1999, Jordan was talked out of retirement two years later to join the recently-created Washington Wizards. Bad idea: Jordan wasn't bad exactly, but he was a shadow of his former self. Public pressure led to him being handed a starting spot on the All-Star team in his final year of 2003 (though only when Vince Carter was asked to step down), but it was more of an embarrassing pat on the back than a triumphant finale.

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4 Comments

  1. Doryn01:50pm Wednesday 05th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Michael Jordan was definitely a shadow of his former self when he played for the Washington Wizards. But that shadow was still longer than most players in the NBA at that time.

    Reply
  2. Jeffrey12:57pm Wednesday 05th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    The Don was hardly staying on too long- he scored over 500 runs in his last series and had a ( rare ) failure in his last innnings to average 99.94 overall which has never been beaten or even remotely approached......best ever batsman by far....

    Reply
  3. Toby speaks the truth!12:40pm Wednesday 05th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    jordan was still better than 90% of the nba league when he played for the wizards, he had several 40+ points games, even when he turned 40 years old. i dont think theres a basketball fan on the planet who regrets his return, i dont think he should b on this list

    Reply
  4. Phillip12:35pm Wednesday 05th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    The Washington Wizards have been in the NBA since 1961.

    Reply
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