Steve Hepburn identifies five sports people who hung
around too long, and five who timed their exit to
Should have quit sooner
The most famous athlete in the world but one who did not know
when to quit. Had three retirements and his last comeback, an
ill-fated one against Larry Holmes, ended in embarrassment.
At his peak, for the 1986 World Cup, was absolutely
outstanding and won the World Cup for his beloved Argentina.
Then led Italian club side Napoli to glory. But it all
unravelled in the 1990s as injuries caught up with him, along
with dodgy dealings off the field. Kicked out of the 1994
World Cup after failing a drugs test.
Was a top forward at the 1987 Rugby World Cup but part of the
Auckland mafia in 1991 that was too slow at the next World
Cup and was left behind by the Australians. Played on the
next year but new All Blacks coach Laurie Mains had no
interest in him.
Started out with the Green Bay Packers and led the side to a
Super Bowl and a solid run of results. Had a superb arm and
temperament. But in the later stages of his career was never
far away from retirement. Eventually quit Green Bay but a few
months later wanted to come back. Green Bay did not want him,
so he ended up at the New York Jets. Then went to the
Minnesota Vikings for two seasons before his body wore out on
him. Was a grandfather by the time he quit.
Is New Zealand's greatest swimmer but should have quit a few
years before he did. Once he won those two golds at the
Atlanta Olympics, he should have hung up his togs and walked
away. Instead, he hung around and went to the 1998
Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, where he won a relay
bronze. Retired when he ran out of motivation in the lead-up
to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Still remembered for those two
golds and deservedly so.
The perfect farewell
Totally dominated for almost a decade. Devoy won eight
British Open titles and four world titles. Her last world
title was in 1992 and in her victory speech she caught
everyone by surprise by saying she was retiring. But that was
Devoy - always blunt and straight to the point. When she
retired, she had done it all. At the time she was Australian,
British, French, Hong Kong, Irish, New Zealand, Scottish,
Swedish and World Open champion.
Paddles loved his statistics and he would have loved the fact
that in his final test he took a wicket with his final ball.
Sure, it was only English bunny Devon Malcolm, but what a
great way to go out. Hadlee just kept getting better the
older he got, and may have been tempted to keep going even
though he was nearly 40. He was (is) New Zealand's greatest
cricketer by a fair distance.
When Umaga hung up his boots at the end of the 2005 grand
slam tour, he was the All Black captain and was playing as
well as ever. But he did not think he could last another two
years to the next World Cup. So, with the team in mind, he
stood aside, although he played domestically for another
year. Is now a promising coach with Counties-Manukau.
He was never beaten at a major meeting and won an Olympic
gold medal, aged 22, at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Elliot was
one of the greatest middle-distance runners, winning two
Commonwealth Games medals. Went to Cambridge, ran a race for
the university and then retired, not yet 25.
It is unlikely Johnson will be remembered warmly for his
coaching but he was one of England's greatest players. First
played for England in 1993 when he was called in at the last
minute for Wade Dooley. He was a cornerstone of the English
pack for the next decade as the English side gradually grew
in ability and toughness. By 2003, the side was at its peak
and won the World Cup, thanks in no small part to Johnson,
who drove his team to victory. Quit international rugby a few
months afterwards, his last game in the England jersey being
that World Cup win.