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REUTERS/David Gray
“This is going on much longer than 9.58 seconds.”
LIGHTNING GOALS

Usain Bolt is slowly but surely becoming a soccer player

By Kabir Chibber

Usain Bolt has scored his first goals for a professional soccer team. And they were not bad at all.

The Jamaican has been “indefinitely training” with the Australian A-League’s Central Coast Mariners since August after training spells with teams in Germany, South Africa, and Norway. The publicity-hungry Mariners have promised Bolt nothing except the chance at a professional contract; the Australian season starts Oct. 19 and they have not confirmed they will offer him one yet.

Bolt retired from athletics in 2017 after winning an unprecedented “triple triple” at successive Summer Olympics—three gold medals in three consecutive games in 2008, 2012, and 2016. (One medal, for a relay at the Rio games, was taken away after a teammate tested positive for drugs, leaving Bolt with just the eight golds.) He is still the world-record holder for the 100m and 200m sprints.

His entry into the world soccer has not been as rapid-fire as his sprints. The body mechanics of the two sports, for one, are very different. Footage of him playing showed a talented athlete struggling with the hand-eye-foot coordination necessary to control the ball and to cope with the pressure from other (smaller and more nimble) players.

“I think he is talented, but when he wants to play at a higher level, he clearly has a lot of work to do,” said Borussia Dortmund’s then-coach Peter Stoger after Bolt’s trial with his team. “The physique he needs for his other sport is completely different from what he needs for football, but it was really fun for us.” The Australian league is miles below the Bundesliga and these goals are evidence that Bolt may have found his level and his efforts are paying off.

If Bolt is offered a contract and starts to play pro soccer at the age of 32—the age many of the best think of retiring, one year younger than Cristiano Ronaldo is now—it would be another remarkable chapter in the career of a man who has only done remarkable things. Perhaps the last person at his level to try this kind of switch was Michael Jordan, who retired (for the first of three times) from the pinnacle of basketball in 1994 and became a minor-league baseball player. That run lasted about a year.