Eight-time Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt is struggling to keep pace at the Central Coast Mariners training sessions admits to nerves ahead of his first practice match with the club.
All eyes were on Bolt as the 32-year-old Jamacian ran out for his first full A-League training session on Tuesday.
However, Bolt’s undeniable speed is yet to transfer to the soccer field, with Mariners coach Mike Mulvey asking the world’s fastest man to “do it at the speed we need”.
“The thing he is struggling with more than anything now is getting used to the football fitness,” Mulvey said on Tuesday.
“When you do track and field it’s virtually a straight line, and a track coach will never ask you to decelerate or accelerate the way that we do.
“He is doing okay, he has rudimentary skills — it’s about doing it at the speed we need.”
Bolt was benched for the Mariners’ pre-season match against the Newcastle Jets at the weekend, but is expected to get some game time on the wing this Friday during a friendly against the Central Coast Select – a team of players from the Central Coast Premier League.
The Olympic track great has been training on the left wing since beginning his trial with the club last week and says he hopes to play about 15-20 minutes against a Central Coast amateur selection in Gosford.
Mariners officials are predicting a crowd of about 12,000.
And while Bolt has certainly performed in front of greater audiences, he says he’s not immune to first-game jitters.
“There definitely will be nerves, it’s not like it’s a charity game anymore,” he said.
“I expect to make mistakes but I also expect to go out there, make myself proud and to push myself.
“I know I’m not going to have a perfect game.”
Bolt appeared to struggle with his first full training session with the Mariners, seen on his haunches and sitting on a cooler box at stages during the session.
He admitted there hadn’t been a lot of improvement in that since last week but he felt there had been some.
“For me, it’s the stop and go’s, the tick-tacks. Because I’m not used to picking up speed, going back down, up and down, up and down, back and forth, that’s the most challenging.
“The season doesn’t start until the end of October so I have time.”
When asked if he was far from being at the required level for Friday’s hit-out, Bolt said: “I wouldn’t say far, it’s just time.
“I don’t know how my body is going to feel. I know when I’m on the field, I’m always going to push myself.”