Sam Warburton announced his retirement from rugby on Wednesday, bringing to an end a glittering career with Cardiff Blues, Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
Warburton, just 29, had been expected to return from injury and star again for club and country, but he was not content with his progress after neck and knee surgery.
The Welsh great instead called time on his career and joined a series of elite sports stars to announce surprise early retirements.
We look at five other athletes who bowed out with a shock decision.
— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) July 18, 2018
Manchester United star Cantona went out at the very top, having just captained his side to consecutive Premier League titles. A controversial career ended at the age of 30, in 1997, and he went down as a club great for his role in building Alex Ferguson’s dynasty.
Another to go out at the top but another who, like Warburton, contended with injury issues before making her decision. Bartoli won her first and last grand slam at Wimbledon in 2013. A few weeks later, the Frenchwoman retired, saying, “My body just can’t do it anymore.” An attempted comeback failed this year.
A mon grand désarroi je dois malheureusement arrêter ma tentative de comeback. En effet l’augmentation nécessaire des doses d’entraînements pour tenter de retrouver mon meilleur niveau, entraînent des douleurs à nouveau à mon épaule droite pic.twitter.com/pFnubgrmTe
— Marion bartoli (@bartoli_marion) June 13, 2018
Stoner, unlike the others on this list, announced his retirement part way through a campaign, but it was no less of a shock. He had won a second MotoGP title in 2011, yet at the French Grand Prix the following year, he said, “This sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it.” Stoner completed the season and finished third overall.
A recent example of an elite star calling time on his career early came at the end of the 2016 Formula One season when Nico Rosberg retired after winning the drivers’ championship. Having twice finished as a runner-up previously, the German opted to go out at the pinnacle of his career.
— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) July 14, 2018
Tennis great Borg, like Warburton, had a spell on the sidelines, but his retirement still came as something of a shock. The Swede reached three grand slam finals in 1981 before hardly playing at all in the following season. Borg announced his decision in January 1983, having won 11 majors by the age of 26.
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