FOR once, the world’s fastest man is prepared to take things slowly.
Usain Bolt, an eight-time Olympic gold medallist, took the first tentative steps towards earning an A-League contract with the Central Coast Mariners on Tuesday.
In front of a throng of media and with the world watching, the sprint king joined his new teammates for a maiden training session.
The Jamaican may have been celebrating his 32nd birthday, but he has not put a time frame on his bid to become a professional footballer.
Bolt’s training period is open-ended and Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said it could be “12 months” before a decision is made.
“I’m not setting myself any targets,” Bolt said. “I’m just going to put in the work.
“This is my first chance playing, getting the chance to train and to get to a level to play as a professional footballer, so I don’t know what to expect.
“I’m just here to push myself [and] learn as much as possible.”
Bolt is highly unlikely to play for the Mariners in a friendly against the Newcastle Jets at Maitland Sportsground on Saturday, but may travel with the squad.
Mulvey has earmarked a hit out against a Central Coast select side on Friday week at Central Coast Stadium as Bolt’s likely debut.
The self-confessed Manchester United fanatic has previously trained with German club Borussia Dortmund and in South Africa.
He had opportunities to trial in France and Spain, but believed Australia and the Mariners was the best environment to realise his dream.
The Jamaican stressed that he does not expect any favours from Mulvey and wants to be treated as “one of the boys”.
“It’s been a warm welcome, everybody has given me a lot of love, respect and I really enjoy that,” Bolt said.
“The coach has explained to me that there won’t be any special treatment, they’ll treat me just like a footballer should be treated. I expect nothing but that. I want to be treated as one of the boys.
“I don’t want to be treated like I am the world’s fastest man, I want to be treated as a footballer because that’s what I want to be.”
Bolt hopes to play in the A-League this season but will have no qualms if told that he does not have what it takes.
“What I want to stress in this is we’ve not got to make a decision tomorrow or the next day,” Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said.
“We’re absolutely delighted that Usain has chosen our club, this great community of the Central Coast, to actually further his ambition.
“So if it takes 12 months, and I’ll say that out loud, I’m happy for him to be here.”
Bolt stayed close to Mariners veterans Matt Simon and Kalifa Cissé during Tuesday’s session, having met the pair on his first night in Australia on Saturday.
He completed some light conditioning work and ball skills before sitting out an opposed contest.
And while he later confessed to being outside his comfort zone, Bolt believes he can bring more than just pace to the Mariners.
He said his coolness under pressure and his ability to control the ball were his greatest strengths, and Mulvey, who is in his first year at the club, agreed there was plenty Bolt could add.
“Someone asked me is Usain would be a distraction. Well, you don’t lower your training standards when Usain Bolt walks in the door,” he said.
“This guy is a winner… eight gold medals in the Olympics. You don’t do that just by having great ability, you do it by having great mental capacity.
“If he can pass on a little bit of that onto my players, who I’m saying are coming from the cellar to try and get to the top, this could be great for any of our young lads.”