Media were on hand to get their first glimpse of the great Jamaican sprinter in his new guise as a soccer pro as he trained with the Central Coast Mariners.
The team was doing a light training session at Central Coast Stadium as they recovered from a pre-season fixture. Wearing a training shirt and tracksuit pants, Bolt looked fit and seemed his usual relaxed self even in his new surrounds.
After the training run, Central Coast coach Mike Mulvey said the team would give its high-profile new signing plenty of time to adjust to his new sport. Bolt has joined the Mariners on a trial basis and it is not yet guaranteed he will get playing time or remain with the team long-term.
“I want to stress is this is not a decision we have to make tomorrow or the next day.” Mulvey said.
— Central Coast Mariners (@CCMariners) August 20, 2018
“We are absolutely delighted that Usain has chosen our club, this great community on the Central Coast, to actually further his ambition.
“If it takes 12 months for him to get ready, I’m happy to wait that long.”
Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp said the team was easing Bolt in as he has just arrived from his native Jamaica and was still jetlagged.
“It’s really been about making sure his sleeping patterns are in order,” he said.
“It’s the first time he’s really stretched out the legs a little bit and we’ll go forward from there.”
— ABC Grandstand (@abcgrandstand) August 21, 2018
Bolt himself has previously said he had offers to play football in Spain and France but chose Australia as it has no language barrier and is a country he has enjoyed visiting.
“The Mariners decided to give me an opportunity and I’m very grateful,” he said.
“I’m not setting myself any targets to say, ‘This is what I’m going to do’,” Bolt said.
“I’m just going to put in the work. This is my first chance. I have to work on the basic skills … there’s things that I need to learn, that’s why I’m here. But I’m excited for the opportunity.”
'I'm cool under pressure': Usain Bolt takes A-League training bow | Naaman Zhou https://t.co/5VQfWchVv9
— Guardian Australia (@GuardianAus) August 21, 2018
Bolt trying his hand at football after phenomenal success as a sprinter
Bolt joins the sport after an athletics career that captivated the sporting world and at times defied belief. He won nine Olympic gold medals, collecting first place in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay in three successive Olympic Games. He is widely considered the greatest sprinter of all time.
Beyond his staggering consistency as a competitor, Bolt was the greatest show in sports during his time at the top. A shameless showboater with rock star charisma, he regularly slowed down towards the end of races or celebrated before the finish line.
The formula for a Bolt race was always the same: endure a relatively sluggish start, appear to be off the pace, then explode with such velocity that the other elite sprinters in the race looked to be almost stationary, taper off near the end as though an Olympic final was a casual jog around the block and then strike his famous ‘bolting’ pose.
It never got old and when it mattered, Bolt never got beaten.
— The Age Sport (@theagesport) August 21, 2018
Bolt has long harboured ambitions of playing professional soccer and has said playing for Manchester United is his dream. He has been adamant he has not joined the A-League as a stunt or as a post-career lark but to learn his craft as a footballer and make his way into the sport.
Many have been sceptical that Bolt, who turned 32 today, will be able to pick up the finer points of the game quickly enough to have any impact as a professional. While nobody in the A-League will be able to vaguely hold a candle to him speed wise, it is not clear how useful his pace alone will be if he lacks the dribbling skills and off-ball movement to get himself into open space.
Yet after a career based on making the miraculous look easy, it would seem churlish to assume Bolt’s new adventure won’t produce at least a couple more show-stopping moments.