Strange as it may sound, Usain Bolt – the Fastest Man Alive™ – is struggling to keep pace with his Central Coast Mariners teammates as the ex-Olympic sprinter continues in his attempts to earn a full professional football contract.
Bolt is currently training with the Mariners in open-ended fashion as the A-League side suss whether it’s worth taking the Jamaican athlete on a season-long deal.
Alas, it doesn’t look like things are progressing all that smoothly, with Bolt himself admitting that he is tiring quickly and having to rest more than his teammates during sessions.
Speaking to Fox Sports, Bolt said:
The most challenging thing for me is the stop and go because I’m not used to picking up speed, going back down, then back again.
It’s all about practising and getting used to the system. I have time so will just learn the ways and keep pushing.
For me it’s about just getting fit and as many touches of the ball that I can. The more I play the more comfortable I get.
It’s all about being focused, taking my time and being smart and pushing myself to get to the level I need to be at to be in the starting XI.
Mariners coach Mike Mulvey has revealed that while Bolt is “doing okay” and has “rudimentary” football skills, there are still issues with his movement and grasp of professional tactical orders:
The things we are asking him to do are things that he hasn’t done for quite some years.
He has played football as an athlete in between athletic meets so he has rudimentary skills.
There’s no problem about that. It’s about being able to do it at the speed that we do it. It takes time to adjust.
That said, the Australian side have a pre-season friendly coming up this week and Mulvey is fairly certain that Bolt will be getting his first taste of semi-competitive action, though it may be limited to “a few minutes” as a late substitute.
Of course, there’s an obvious irony in a world record sprinter not being able to keep up with A-League players, but we’re talking about Bolt having to physically override a lifetime of ‘explosive’ sprint conditioning while also re-educating himself as a footballer.
It might take longer than six weeks… and awful lot longer by the sound of things.
Just depends if Mariners are prepared to dedicate all that time and energy to a 32-year-old novelty project.