The Fastest Man on the Pitch

After successful trials at various levels of professional soccer, Usain Bolt is making a name for himself.

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Back in 2017, Usain Bolt was on top of the world. Having blown out the competition at the Rio Olympics a year ago, Bolt was riding a wave of confidence which could have, in theory, sustained him for a few more years.

But much like a balding man who decides to shave his head clean, Bolt saw the end of his professional career coming and decided to retire. He released a statement that the 2017 IAAF Championships would be his last running event.

Though many questioned Bolt’s decision to retire at just 30, I find it understandable. His numbers were gradually losing their edge. Though his 100-meter record of 9.58 seconds has remained untouched, he was not at his best in Rio, clocking a 9.81. His career also ended with a defeat in his final race to Justin Gatlin, a race that saw him limp off the track with the help of his teammates. So while he could have continued for a few more years, to protect his legacy, Bolt made the right decision retiring because he retired as a legend instead of a washed up runner.

Understandably, a competitive athlete like Bolt was not going to become a couch potato overnight, and he branched out to other sports. He instantly gravitated towards soccer, a sport he played extensively as a child before committing to track and field. After a training session with European juggernauts Borussia Dortmund, Bolt realized that he did not have what it took to make it in the big leagues. His highlights were composed of some poor first touches, not agile runs with the ball, and poor shots.

But what was clear was that Bolt had a passion for soccer and would play it at any level he could. After playing in Germany did not pan out, he took part in charity matches against retired soccer legends, games that he played well in. After these good performances, Bolt tried his luck in the land down under, getting a trial with the Central Coast Mariners. He trained with the Mariners for a few months before playing a friendly where he did not score. He was, however, much better than he was at the Dortmund trial. The hype behind him was obvious, with even the simplest of touches drawing a huge cheer from the fans. But he was a changed player. His touches were better, he ran well with the ball at his feet, and he had a better overall understanding of the game. He was also much faster than anyone on the pitch, but that was expected. This sudden uptick in good form did not come out of the blue. The fact that he played and trained with one of the best teams in Europe gave him a huge advantage over many other players. To be the best you must train with the best and use the best equipment. Bolt had that for a few weeks in Germany and he is better off with it. Now, he can hone those skills and gradually learn how to effectively use his speed. For such an old player, the man has oodles of potential.

Bolt began to realize that potential a few weeks later, when the Mariners played another trial match, one that Bolt admitted could be key to the Mariners offering him a contract. The fans’ support was endless and Bolt gave them what they came for, scoring two goals. His first was a header and the second came after Bolt placed the ball past the goalkeeper after beating his man. The second goal shows just how far he has come as a player with a great use of pace before a tidy finish, something Bolt would have struggled to do in training let alone a competitive math in front of thousands just a few months earlier.

The Mariners will likely offer him contract after that performance, but Bolt may already be on to bigger and better things, as his performances have caught the eye of many European clubs. Bolt will hope that this is a beginning of an exciting new chapter in his life that could be as fruitful as his running career. Maybe one day, Bolt will be running circles around defenders instead of other runners.