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When the Doctor returns from hospital

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Jennie Gow | 12:58 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

I was reading on the plane as we made our way to Germany for this weekend's GP that the UK is the most sickly place in Europe. We take more days off work than any other country in the EU, a staggering 180 million last year, claiming all sorts of ailments from colds to man flu, broken nails to poorly pets.

Italians must be made of tougher stuff - well, one of them is that's for sure. After just six weeks on the sidelines, reigning MotoGP world champ Valentino Rossi has decided he's had enough of watching the Italian equivalent of Jeremy Kyle and This Morning on TV and will be back at this weekend's race.

Valentino Rossi practices on the Brno Masaryk circuit
Rossi was at the Brno Masaryk circuit this week to assess his form

When Rossi was dumped so ungraciously from his Yamaha YZR-M1 at the beginning of June, smashing his tibia in the process, we all feared the worst. Would he ever ride again?

Those fears were unfounded but as reports came back from Florence, it looked like it would be up to six months before we saw Rossi back at a GP circuit.

Now, however, just 40 days after he was air lifted away from the Mugello circuit, 'The Doctor' is back looking relaxed, tanned and healthy. Quite incredible!

So what makes a man who is a millionaire many times over and a multiple world champion rush back to a sport which is one of the most physically demanding and potentially dangerous around? Well, it's not for the money or the fear that he could find himself without a ride at the end of the season, that's for sure.

Personally, I think Rossi's return has more to do with grit, determination and passion than a compulsion to perform. He could quite easily have written this season off, curled up under a duvet at home, stuffed his face with chocolate and cake and had an easy time over the next few months. But some people aren't made that way and in the pre-event press conference when asked if he was 'crazy' for returning so soon, he laughed and said five-month recoveries were for footballers not MotoGP riders.

Rossi returning to racing so soon is almost miraculous and his courage and dedication to the sport should be admired - but I say almost because he's not the first man to call on superhuman strength and courage to take to the track against all the odds.

In 1992, Mick Doohan almost lost his right leg at the Dutch TT when leading the championship by 65 points. He took eight weeks to recover and came back for the final two races of the season but lost out on the title to Yamaha rider Wayne Rainey. Two years later he won the title and kept it for five years. Some argue Doohan's injury and subsequent fight to return to action made him stronger and led him to those titles.

This is the first time in his illustrious career that Valentino Rossi has had a serious injury and it's too early to tell how his body will take to riding but if he responds the way Doohan did, he could come back better than ever - a scary thought for the rest of the MotoGP paddock.

Sure, 104 points is a massive gap to concede to your main rival, team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who has won the last three races almost unchallenged and heads the championship standings, but Rossi is a man who has probably never pulled a sickie in his life and you'd be crazy to write him off with 11 races still to go this season.

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