World number 111 Darren Clarke was nobody's favourite going into the 2011 Open at Sandwich, but managed to surprise the golfing world and fulfil some of the potential that he had long hinted at.
There are plenty of sad cases where talented sportsmen never achieve the successes that look like their destiny. But Clarke's triumph, aged 42, put The Rundown in mind of a number of sportsmen who left it late to make their mark.
Northern Irishman Clarke was playing his 54th
Major and his 20th Open when he finally broke his Major duck. The champion at
Sandwich had had a long and successful career, winning tournaments in Europe
and Stateside, and been a star of victorious European Ryder Cup teams, but it
looked as if Major glory had passed him by. Now, with one in the bag, Clarke
says there's no reason he can't win again.
It looked as if Mansell, one of Formula One's
great racers, would be muscled out of titles. In 1986 and 1987 he came
tantalisingly close to the crown, in 1986 losing his championship lead in the
final race after his left-rear tyre exploded, but less successful times with
Ferrari followed. In 1991 he made a return to the Williams team, only to finish
second in the championship to Ayrton Senna. But in 1992, with the Williams
untouchable, Mansell finally won the F1 driver's title at the age of 39 - and
then followed up with the IndyCar series title the following year for good
Ivanisevic lived and breathed Wimbledon, but
it looked like the left-handed Croat with an enormous service would go his
career at SW19 without victory. Three times he reached the final - and three
times he was beaten - once at the hands of Andre Agassi, twice by Pete Sampras.
Nine years after his first final and two months short of his 30th birthday,
Ivansevic was handed a wildcard to play Wimbledon. And the world number 125
took full advantage, stunning Pat Rafter of Australia 9-7 in the fifth set to
win a memorable Monday final.
The Welsh snooker player dominated the sport
in the 1970s, but it took until 1970 for him to win the first of his six world
titles. Reardon eventually overcame the challenge of veteran John Pulman, then
aged all of 46, in a 37-33 tussle, to become the world champion for the first
time at the age of 38.
A hugely talented and powerful
middle-distance runner, it looked as if a combination of injuries and bad luck
would leave Kelly Holmes' career unfulfilled. She had picked up silver and bronze
medals at European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games over
the previous decade, but the Athens Olympics of 2004 changed her fortunes
completely. Two stirring race wins later, she bowed out of serious competition
a national hero and a Dame aged 34.
'Wolfie' Adams only made his debut at the BDO's World Championship at Frimley
Green at the age of 37. Thereafter he was a perennial nearly man. It took him 12 attempts to reach the final, and
a 14th try to win the event, aged 50. Plenty have played down his achievements
since, with Adams winning three tournaments in 2007, 2010 and 2011 in a field
which has seen numerous defections to the rival PDC version of the World
Elway looked set to be the bridesmaid of the Super Bowl. In 1987 he led the
Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl final, only to lose. The same happened a year later,
then again in 1990. As the Broncos went into a period of decline, and
quarter-back Elway grew older, it appeared that his best chances of winning the
crown were behind him. But in 1997, a rejuvenated Broncos shaded the Green Bay
Packers 31-24 with Elway pulling the strings, and taking the title at the age
of 36. For good measure, he and the Broncos repeated the feat a year later
before his retirement.
tends to be a young man's game, which makes Leslie Compton's achievement worthy
of a special mention. Brother of Dennis, who rather stole the glory in his
family by playing cricket for England and representing Arsenal in the top
flight for more than a decade, Leslie had a long wait for his chance of
shining. At the age of 38, Leslie finally made his debut for England, and
became the nation's oldest outfield debutant in the process. He was part of the
side's 4-2 victory over Wales in the 1950 Home International Championship, and
played another match for his country before hanging up his boots.
's career as a point guard in the NBA was destined for greatness from the
moment he was a second draft pick in 1994. After two years with the Dallas
Mavericks, Kidd moved to the Phoenix Suns, and then on to the New Jersey Nets.
Here Kidd twice went to the NBA finals, but in 2002 and 2003 he ended up on the
losing side. A homecoming to Dallas in the twilight of his career sparked an Kidd's
Indian summer, and together with Dirk Nowitzki, another great talent in the
sport without an NBA ring, the duo helped the Mavs to victory over the star
names of the Miami Heat earlier this year.
A first Test century is a remarkable
achievement - but waiting nearly two decades to get there is something else altogether. Born in England, Nourse bucked a modern-day trend and went to
South Africa where he went on to play Test cricket for his adopted nation. When
he retired he had a record number of first-class runs in South African cricket
to his name with 38 centuries, but 19 years into his Test career, he had yet to
score one at international level. However, his 111 against Australia in Johannesburg
in the 1921-22 series finally got him to the landmark.