They say that within every great sportsperson there is a core of competitiveness that will always need an outlet. After all, to reach the peak of a particular sport it will have taken drive, dedication and persistence. But you can't remain at the pinnacle of your powers forever, and this is when many athletes start considering where their next challenge will lie. For some it's scaling the heights of TV punditry, for others it's building up a successful business but for a significant number it's switching sports, and here are five great examples.
Victoria Pendleton: Track Cycling to Horseracing
In 2015 the gold Olympic medal-winning track cyclist announced that she would be swapping one kind of saddle for another by going into training to become a National Hunt jockey. She got off to a flying start by coming second on her first outing. Within a year she had won her first race but the pinnacle of her career, according to Pendleton, was a fifth place in the 2016 Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham.
Petr Cech: Football to Ice Hockey
Two penalty saves ✅— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) October 13, 2019
Shoot-out win ✅
Man of the match ✅
Petr Cech had an ice hockey debut to remember. pic.twitter.com/r8NL0en8kE
In the UK, ice hockey is definitely a minority sport. For example if you wanted to bet on it you might have to look further afield to a site like https://www.sportsbettingcanada.org. But it's one that the ex-Chelsea keeper Cech played at home in the Czech Republic. So, when he left Stamford Bridge, he proceeded to join Guildford Phoenix, a young team that was delighted to benefit from his experience.
Freddie Flintoff: Cricket to Boxing
Today you'll find the former Lancashire and England all-rounder strutting his stuff at https://www.topgear.com, but there was a time when he was in the ring. Following his retirement from cricket, he was trained by Barry McGuigan for a four-round bout against American fighter Richard Dawson. It was a scrappy affair, but Flintoff won on points, vowing it would be his first, and last, experience of the sport.
Dwain Chambers: Athletics to NFL and Rugby League
Following the well-publicised controversy that ended his athletics career, the sprinter joined the Hamburg Sea Devils in the Europa NFL. However, the rigours of the sport meant that he was soon injured, so he decided that the marginally less violent sport of rugby could be an alternative. He joined the Castleford Tigers on a trial but, despite doing well in training, he failed to ever secure a first-team place.
Fabien Barthez: Football to Motorsports
Ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez went on to win France's GT motorsport. pic.twitter.com/Jw99wb3jrX— SPORTbible (@sportbible) March 24, 2014
Another keeper who didn't just fancy hanging up his boots, and gloves, was Man Utd's Fabien Barthez. Barthez took up motorsport with some success, as borne out by the stats on https://www.driverdb.com. Although 2019 wasn't a vintage year for him, he did end up with three podium finishes from the 18 races he entered.
Of course, there are countless more examples of sportspeople switching disciplines – but the one we really would have liked to have seen was Usain Bolt's unfulfilled ambition to be a professional footballer. With speed like that available, he'd certainly make a difference to any team lucky enough to sign him.