Could Usain Bolt Become a Soccer Star?

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Usain Bolt, the two-time reigning Olympic champion over 100 and 200m, plays foovolley at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 30, 2013.Christophe Simon / AFP / Getty Images

Usain Bolt has dominated the world of competitive running for nearly a decade, and now, with his final race on the horizon, he’s setting his sights on another sport.

“I have been playing football my whole life and I feel the pull to be on that field now,” Bolt said during a campaign tour for Mumm champagne. “I am grateful that I have been able to turn my dream of racing into a reality, and now it is time to move onto the next dream.”

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From the outside looking in, switching arenas may seem like an out-of-the-blue decision at this point in his career. But while speaking with Bolt it quickly becomes clear that this is far more than a flight of fancy.

You’ve been talking about switching sports for a few months. How did you decide on trying soccer?

I have always played football, and have always loved the sport. Lately I have been watching these guys in the professional matches in action and thinking to myself, “I think I can do this.” It is a challenge that I always wanted to try, getting to do something different. So now I am going to do it, because really there is nothing to lose. So why not try?

How often do you play soccer now?

I play a regular six-on-six game with my friends twice a week, and I have been doing that for a while. I really enjoy it, and it gives me a lot of cardio on top of my race training. I do pretty well against my friends. [laughs] We play for bragging rights.

Do you have a position in mind that you would like to play?

I wanted to be a winger, but I have recently been talking to a few coaches back in Jamaica, and one of my good friends is Bibi Gardner. He told me that there is no way they are going to put me on the wing. He thinks I’m going to be better up front, because I’m tall and quick. You know, it’s funny, when I started playing as a kid, I was a goalkeeper. Then they put me at defense. The faster I got, the farther down the field I started.

So when are you going to seriously start the process?

Once my running season is finished, I am going to go to Dartmouth for a week. That experience will determine if I am going to go on to play football.

Where would you like to end up?

My dream would be to play for Manchester United. They have such a beautiful atmosphere and fans. But I am taking it step-by-step these days.

There have been other athletes who have switched up sports. Did you find inspiration from any of their stories?

I am just doing this for me. I haven’t really put much thought into other athletes that have tried to switch. I have been thinking about it for a long time, and this chapter in my life is coming to an end.

Speaking of that, how does it feel to be returning to Jamaica for your last race?

I think it will be an emotional experience. It is likely going to be my last time competing in front of my hometown crowd. The tickets are pretty much gone already.

Do you think you will miss it?

I know it is not going to be easy. But I have conquered the sport. I am going to miss the competition and the crowd. That is another reason I want to play football, so that I can be back in a stadium with the people. 

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