MELBOURNE • It began as a seemingly impossible dream - a change of sporting career for the world's fastest man at the unlikely age of 32.
But, having somehow got to within touching distance of a deal, Usain Bolt's quest to become a professional footballer in Australia ended yesterday when the Olympic sprint champion officially turned down the Central Coast Mariners' offer of an A-League contract.
The Mariners announced that, despite having been in discussions with several "promising" potential commercial partners, the club and Bolt had amicably concluded a deal would not be struck.
"Despite the fact that we could not come to an agreement that would continue Usain Bolt's football journey with the Central Coast Mariners, we've been thrilled to have the Olympic champion sprinter and world-record holder as part of our club for these past eight weeks," said Mike Charlesworth, the owner of the Mariners. "For the Mariners, it's been a pleasure to work with Usain as he pursued his desire to become a professional football player."
Having trained with the Mariners since mid-August, the eight-time Olympic gold medallist had been excluded from team sessions for the past two weeks as they sought to escape any distraction caused by speculation over his future.
Bolt, meanwhile, was passing up an offer of a reported US$150,000 deal (S$205,990) - way short of the US$3 million he was said to be expecting.
"I would like to thank the Central Coast Mariners owners, management, staff, players and fans for making me feel so welcome during my time there," he said. "I wish the club success for the season ahead."
The retired track star debuted for the Mariners over two months ago but, despite scoring twice in his second trial match, serious questions remained over his general play and ability to turn into an elite athlete in a second sport.
Football Federation Australia had been adamant that it would not dip into the marquee player fund to finance the Bolt deal and, with what was effectively a training contract offered - and no third-party sponsor willing to top that up to a level the Jamaican's camp was happy with - the deal was doomed.