Most athletes often look forward to a fairy tale ending to their careers but not all do. For most of them, it wasn’t supposed to end this way. A run down here tells the story.
Mo Farah actually won the final track race of his career at the Diamond League in Zurich, where he took gold in the 5000m in August 2017, narrowly beating Ethiopian runner Muktar Edris.
That must have been some comfort, but it ultimately doesn’t alter the fact he had missed the opportunity to take a fifth consecutive major championship distance double just days earlier at the World Athletics Championship in London, where he was beaten to gold by that same opponent in the 5000m event.
To be fair, he did win gold in the 10,000m at the same championship, but anyone hoping for a repeat of London 2012, where Mo won two gold medals, will have felt disappointment on his befalf.
The 2017 World Championships was also the last chance for the world to see 19-time gold medallist Usain Bolt race on the big stage.
It was all set for a grand-stand finish until none-other than Athletics’ current pantomime villain, Justin Gatlin, went and rained on the parade by beating his rival Bolt in the men’s 100 metres. Gatlin, who was banned twice earlier in his career for doping offences, was booed by the London crowd both when he crossed the line and when he was awarded his gold medal.
Just a week later, Bolt pulled up injured just as he was hitting his top speed in the 4x100m relay.
There was plenty to cheer about for the home crowd as Great Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake pulled away from a stricken Bolt to win the event, but it was a less-than satisfactory ending to the most glorious of careers.
Legendary Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gigi Buffon said a rather sad farewell to his international career in 2017 with a chastening 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sweden, which saw Italy fail to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
He had previously confirmed he would retire after the 2018 World Cup, but it all ended in tears (literally) after a particularly torpid display against the Swedes.
Buffon made his Italy debut in October 1997 and earned 175 caps, over a 20-year international career. In that time, he was in the Italy squad that won the World Cup for the fourth time in 2006. He was also in the 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 squads.
An Olympic silver medal is not to be sniffed at, but it didn’t quite give the perfect, fairytale ending fans were hoping for when Jessica Ennis-Hill bowed out of the heptathlon at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
She missed out on retaining her Olympic title – which she’d won at London 2012 – by 35 points to Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam.
After London, in 2014 Ennis-Hill gave birth to her first child, Reggie, and took a break from the sport but just 13 months later she won her second world title, but couldn’t quite complete the remarkable circle in Rio and decided to hang up her spikes.
Zinedine Zidane was one of football’s greatest ever players. He was the inspiration for France’s 1998 World Cup win, and scored twice in the final against Brazil and then was instrumental in France’s Euro 2000 victory, where they beat Italy in the final. Zizou’s exit from the world stage was spectacularly dramatic, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons.
After coming out of international retirement for the 2006 World Cup In Germany, France progressed to the final where they faced Italy once again.
With the scores tied at 1-1 in an extra-time, Zidane was involved in a verbal exchange with Italy’s Marco Materazzi, he then turned around and launched a head butt at the Azzurri defender’s sternum.
He was dismissed in the 110th minute with a straight red and Italy won the game 5-3 on penalties.
Zidane had scored an audacious penalty in the first half, before a headed goal from Materazzi (oh, the irony) had brought things level.
Zidane walked from the pitch and down the tunnel, passing by football’s biggest prize as he went, and retired from professional football following the tournament.