FanDuel - WFBC

September 06, 2010

Usain Bolt Wants to Play Soccer: World champion Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt said that when his track career ends he'll attempt to play professional soccer. "I always watch those guys and I think I could be a professional footballer," said Bolt, who believes he has four more years in his current sport. "I'm definitely a good player - a defensive or attacking midfielder."

posted by rcade to olympics at 01:41 PM - 21 comments

If my math is correct he'll be around 28-29 in 4 years. Old for a midfielder.

posted by scully at 01:14 PM on September 06

I heard that the other day in an interview he was giving to the BBC. I thought it sounded pretty cool until he stated that he was a hardcore ManU fan.

posted by Ufez Jones at 01:35 PM on September 06

Not wanting to knock the big man - I'm a fan - but is there an example in any sport of someone from the upper echelons of one game taking up another with any degree of success? I can't think of one. On topic, the problem tall midfielders (Vieira, Gerrard, Lamps) tend to have is that the legs just go. I suspect that even in four years time, he'll still have pace to burn compared to most.

posted by JJ at 03:53 PM on September 06

an example in any sport of someone from the upper echelons of one game taking up another with any degree of success?

One's opinion of "degree of success" may differ but:
Tony Gwynn - baseball HOF; also got drafted out of college in basketball
Bo Jackson - football and baseball
Deion Sanders - football and baseball
Dave Winfield - drafted out of college by one baseball team, two basketball teams, and a football team.

But, none of those are guys who were playing one sport, stopped, and then picked up another. They generally played all the sports they did well at until forced to choose (or not) at the pro level.

posted by LionIndex at 04:30 PM on September 06

I would assume Bolt has played soccer at some level before. This probably isn't a case of him just picking it up.

posted by Ricardo at 05:54 PM on September 06

Agreed, but there's a world of difference between "playing at some level" and playing at the top level. I imagine there's a physical intelligence that almost must come from childhood. And almost by extension that specialisation is a one way street with no side roads to a different one.

posted by JJ at 06:29 PM on September 06

... is there an example in any sport of someone from the upper echelons of one game taking up another with any degree of success?

NFL quarterback John Brodie may be the best example. He won a Senior PGA tournament and contended for other titles.

posted by rcade at 06:54 PM on September 06

I have done some ragging on Ochocinco in the past, but I loved his turn at PK last year, and if he says he loves soccer that much and wanted to give it a shot, I'd enjoy seeing what he could do. I'd like to think it would be fun to watch.

posted by beaverboard at 08:20 PM on September 06

Not wanting to knock the big man - I'm a fan - but is there an example in any sport of someone from the upper echelons of one game taking up another with any degree of success?

Jeff "Goldie" Wilson played top level (one day) cricket and rugby for New Zealand (at the same time, no less - summer playing cricket, winter playing rugby), although he did that concurrently.

There a lot of crossovers from rugby league to rugby union and vice versa, although that's a much smaller move than from track and field to football.

I recall seeing a stat that the average top-flight midfielder can cover 12km during a match. I wonder how that dovetails with the abilities Bolt has.

posted by rodgerd at 08:27 PM on September 06

but is there an example in any sport of someone from the upper echelons of one game taking up another with any degree of success?

I think the on-point example in this case is Bob Hayes.

Hayes is the only man to win both an Olympic gold medal (as a sprinter) and a Super Bowl ring.

posted by cjets at 08:46 PM on September 06

Lionel Conacher meets the criteria, I believe.

posted by tommytrump at 09:27 PM on September 06

is there an example in any sport of someone from the upper echelons of one game taking up another with any degree of success?

Outside the US, a lot of the examples go back quite a bit to the "gentlemen & players" era: S.M. Hadi, for instance.

In the modern era, there have been elite speed-skaters who were successful cyclists: Eric Heiden is a good example; Denny Morrison is contemplating the switch. The physical demands of both disciplines are very similar: most skaters cycle in the off-season to stay in shape. Thinking of cycling, you have Rebecca Romero, who was a world champion and Olympic silver medallist at quad sculls (rowing) then switched to cycling and won the world championship and Olympic gold.

It's a fair assumption that Steve Nash could have made it as a professional footballer had he chosen that path, though the opportunities and scouting weren't as prevalent in the late 1980s than they are now.

I'm not sure that Bolt fits that kind of career trajectory, but Jamaica has a fairly small international squad right now, and he might make for a fun ringer.

posted by etagloh at 11:09 PM on September 06

I recall seeing a stat that the average top-flight midfielder can cover 12km during a match. I wonder how that dovetails with the abilities Bolt has.

I'm far from an expert, but this would seem to be a big hurdle to me. When I ran track, the short distance runners didn't run for distance. Their workout usually tended along the 60-400 yard runs; rarely did they run more than 800 yards for a workout sprint. That creates an entirely different physiological and muscle makeup- one not exactly tailor made for running a fairly solid 90 minutes a game.

posted by jmd82 at 11:18 PM on September 06

Clara Hughes is the only person in history to win multiple medals in the Summer Olympics and in the Winter Olympics.

She took up cycling and won two bronzes in the Summer Olympics in 1996.
She then gave that up and took up speed skating, and won four medals over 3 Winter Olympics (2002/2006/2010).

posted by grum@work at 12:19 AM on September 07

an example in any sport of someone from the upper echelons of one game taking up another with any degree of success?

Jim Thorpe - pentathlon and decathlon gold medalist, NFL, MLB and some basketball.

posted by bobfoot at 12:25 AM on September 07

Chuck Connors, Boston Celtic, Chicago Cub, and drafted by the Chicago Bears (although he never played). Not to mention expert rifleman.

posted by Ricardo at 12:55 AM on September 07

Bo Jackson could have done it.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:01 AM on September 07

There were rumours that England rugby star Dan Ciprian was going to switch to football. He even played a pre-season game for QPR while trying to gain fitness.

posted by salmacis at 07:00 AM on September 08

I agree with cjets example. Granted, he has no experience, but his freakish combination of speed and size would make me salivate at the prospect of training him up to be a wide receiver.

posted by Bonkers at 11:28 PM on September 08

I hope he tries...it will be some good publicity for soccer in the US.

And please, NO ONE compare someone playing a real sport and then going to be successful at golf, thats just a joke.

posted by StarFucker at 08:53 PM on September 09

"If my math is correct he'll be around 28-29 in 4 years. Old for a midfielder."

No, that really isn't that old. That's typically the peak of a player's career; the downward slope is in sight but it isn't quite there yet.

However, good 28-29 year old players have spent the previous ten years playing top level competitive matches, and the ten years prior to that playing with reserve teams and academy teams and youth teams.

Trying to come in at age 28-29, without that previous 20+ years of experience, and join a competitive squad at anything above the amateur level, is tough.

posted by dave2007 at 06:46 AM on September 12

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