Usain Bolt broke the Olympic record on August 5 with a remarkable stint of 9.63 seconds – up only 5/100ths of a second from his previously broken world record. And just two days after claiming yet another gold medal in the 100-meter dash, Bolt made it known to the world that he would be putting his legs to use once again – just not on the Olympic track.
Two years ago, the Olympic champion told the New York Times that he would attempt a career at professional soccer once he retires from track and field. Bolt revealed that he had four years left in track and that he would pursue his calling to soccer afterwards. Two years prior, the Jamaican sprinter trained with Real Madrid in an effort to augment the pace of their players. This, of course, occurred after Bolt had set three world records and obtained three gold medals at the games in Beijing.
Though Bolt has promised to appear in Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games, nothing is stopping him from pursuing his childhood dream of playing professional soccer. When Bolt published a video on YouTube last month showing off his soccer skills and expressing the long-held desire to play on his favorite club team, Manchester United, many people joked at his ambition. Comments posted included “stick to running pal,” and “you aren’t meant to play football.”
Many even speculated how amazing it would be to watch the fastest man in history don the Red Devils strip at some point in the near future. This week, the Olympic champion told British newspaper The Sun that he’s serious about his soccer ambitions.
“People think I am joking. But if Alex Ferguson (manager of Manchester United) called me up and said, ‘OK let’s do this, come and have a trial,’ it would be impossible for me to say ‘no.’ I would not take up the challenge if I didn’t think I was good enough. I am a very accomplished player and know I could make a difference. I would be the fastest player in the team – but I can play as well.”
Bolt then reaffirmed his statement by making himself available for contact from Ferguson.
“I am in Britain for a few more days. If Alex Ferguson wants to give me a call he knows where I am.”
Though it seems too good to be true, Bolt’s wishes were answered Tuesday morning when Manchester centre-back Rio Ferdinand tweeted the Jamaican sprinter.
“If you want that trial at Manchester United, shout me. I’ll speak to the boss!! Well done in 100m, waiting for you to smash the 200m now!”
Much to his delight, Bolt instantly replied to Ferdinand by affirming his commitment.
“After the Olympics, we (will) work on that.”
After Bolt alleged recently that he “could step up to the Rooneys,” many fans began supporting his decision. A spokesperson for Manchester United reaffirmed Bolt’s beliefs when asked about the possibility of the Olympic champion playing football in the future.
“As the fastest man on Earth, he would undoubtedly add speed to the team.”
Manchester United has responded to Bolt’s plea by allowing him the chance to prove his talents following the Olympic Games. According to a United spokesperson, Bolt will be invited to the team’s training base in Carrington, a district of Manchester.
“We would welcome him with open arms, and it would certainly make all the boys and the coaching staff pretty excited to meet him and see his skills. They would love to see what he has got with the ball.”
Bolt has tried his luck on the football field before – the one that we, Americans, are accustomed to. After breaking records in Beijing, Bolt suited up and stepped onto the gridiron donning the gear of the New York Giants. But he certainly didn’t live up to our expectations. As fast as Bolt is, he was able to catch up to Manning’s passes only once or twice out of the whole training session.
Though Bolt nearly embarrassed himself in his undertaking of American football, there is precedence for sprinters transitioning to other athletic fields. A former world record holder and gold medalist in the 100-meter dash at the 1964 Tokyo Games, “Bullet” Bob Hayes went on to pursue a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys. Another example would be former Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders wide receiver Willie Gault, who went on to become part of Team USA’s record-breaking 4×100 relay team, but who missed out on his 15 minutes of fame when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Games in Moscow.
A study released by Duke University two years ago explained why the world’s swiftest sprinters tend to be successful when it comes to exercises using mostly the bottom half of the body. By using laws of locomotion, researchers at Duke found that sprinters, such as Bolt and Johnson, have a 0.15 second advantage over other athletes because they have a higher center of gravity, which means that their feet touch the ground more quickly between each stride. Duke professor Adrian Bejan, who published his research in the International Journal of Design, Nature and Ecodynamics, stated that runners “tend to have longer limbs with smaller circumferences, meaning that their centers of gravity are higher” than their athlete counterparts.
Considering that soccer is a sport that utilizes the bottom half of the body more than anything else, Bolt could potentially excel on the field as a result of this “higher center of gravity” Although I am looking forward to Bolt getting a chance to play for Manchester United, I can’t fathom the idea of him practicing and playing with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Bebe, and Chicarito Hernandez. It’s just too unpredictable and, in my opinion, too good to be true. For the benefit of both parties, I believe that Bolt should keep his feet on the track. Sure, the thought of the imminent accomplishments as a result of Bolt’s speed is mind boggling, but there is obviously a clear difference between freely running on the gravel and maintaining the pitch with a ball at his feet.
Being a runner myself, I absolutely adore Usain Bolt; however, my bias in support of Manchester United leads me to assume that Bolt will need years of practice before he is able to take the field with such legends. But who knows? Maybe I could be wrong. Maybe Bolt could do a decent job at mid-field. However, I have to come to realize that this is more of a public relations move for Manchester United than anything else. Who can comprehend the aptitude of the income obtained from ticket sales and future jersey sales with Bolt’s presence?
Or maybe I could be wrong once again. Bearing in mind the fact that United will be trying to regain the championship from Manchester City in the upcoming season, why not enhance the team with motivation and special skills that could only be obtained through the likes of an Olympic athlete?
I’m sure we can all visualize Bolt accepting a pass from midfielder Ryan Giggs and taking the ball up the side to eventually come face to face with the opposing goalie, but quite honestly – our conceptions are nothing short of fiction. We all want Bolt to don the jersey of the Red Devils, but can it really all happen so soon – so easily?
It’ll take time, but I have high hopes for Bolt. You never know. Maybe one day he’ll hang up a red jersey to go along with all of his gold medals.