5 multi-sport athletes: When specialising in one game is too mainstream
Barty at WimbledonBarty at the GabbaAustralian tennis star Ashleigh Barty made news in the past week when she switched her tennis racquet for a cricket bat and signed a contract to play for the Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League.Barty decided to make the switch after a meeting with the Australian women’s national team. She was taken in by the camaraderie of the team environment."It is tough when you're by yourself and I think that's why team sport is so appealing,” she said."I'm still connected very much to tennis and everything it has to offer. It's been a part of me since I was four years old and is never going to leave me."The 19-year-old has had a promising tennis career thus far. She found recognition on the professional tennis circuit when she reached the doubles finals at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, with her Australian partner Casey Dellacqua). She was also a champion at Wimbledon in the juniors.And she seems to have a flair for cricket already. Even though it has only been a few months since she began traiing for the game, she has already secured a professional contract.Barty is not the first athlete to play multiple sports professionally. Injuries, burn-outs, discovery of a new passion, prodigal skills and even plain boredom have been some of the reasons that have seen many athletes dabble in other sports.Here is a look at some of the interesting multi-sport athletes and the stories behind their careers.
#1 Andrew Flintoff: Cricket and Boxing
Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff was the ultimate character in men’s cricket and the talisman of England’s Ashes victories in the past decade. The Lancashire all-rounder was an explosive middle-order batsman. Although he batted in a carefree manner, he possessed the ability to take the game away from nearly any situation. He was also a genuinely fast bowler (he has bowled consistently at 150 km/h).
And if he didn’t get you with his cricket skills, he certainly made his presence felt through his on-field banter, sledging and aggression in the batsmen’s faces. He is one of the seven international cricketers to feature on both, the batting and bowling, honour boards at Lord’s.
His cricketing career was consistently riddled with injuries and he ultimately called it a day from all forms of the game in 2010 after not recovering sufficiently from deep vein thrombosis.
In 2012, at the age of 34, Flintoff took the world by surprise by announcing his decision to take up professional boxing. After just a couple of months of training, he made his debut against the American Richard Dawson in a heavyweight bout.
He came under heavy criticism for this decision, not in the least because the seasoned pro boxers felt that it was a mere gimmick. Flintoff won the match on points (39-38). But despite the successful start, he only ever played that one match.
tHe never took to the ring after that. In a 2014 interview, he said, “I enjoyed the training but didn’t enjoy the fighting. I’m not that aggressive. It wasn’t about winning or losing. I had retired from cricket and still wanted to be a professional sportsman. It was my last opportunity and helped give me some closure.”
Bonus – Another cricketer, New Zealand’s Jesse Ryder has also taken up boxing, albeit at an amateur level. The much in news ‘southpaw’ batsman still continues to play professional cricket and engages in celebrity bouts on the sideline, occasionally issuing challenges to other cricketing celebrities.