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Five stars who switched sports (to mixed success)

Paolo Maldini, Rebecca Romero, Michael Jordan, Victoria Pendleton and James Haskell have all tried new sports. Credit: PA/AP

Former Premier League star Petr Cech is earning high praise after a stellar debut performance in a very different sport.

The Czech's skills as a footballing keeper were transferable to ice hockey as he resumed the sport he played in his youth to guard the net at an amateur level for the Guildford Phoenix.

But other sport stars have ventured into less familiar territory with mixed success...

Paolo Maldini (Football to tennis)

The lure of a professional football career has attracted the world's fastest man Usain Bolt and England cricket great Ian Botham, to varying degrees of success.

But what about other footballers who, like Cech, have tried to embark on a new sport in retirement?

AC Milan's Paolo Maldini was regarded as one of Europe's finest defenders. Credit: PA

Rio Ferdinand's attempt to become a boxer saw him refused a licence but Paolo Maldini, arguably Italy's finest defender, made it (briefly) as a tennis player.

The football legend picked up a pro racket nine years into retirement at 49 as he and his coach Stefano Landonio passed through qualifying to compete at an ATP Challenger tournament in Milan in 2007.

The doubles duo appeared in front of the cameras, as reported by Al Jazeera Balkans TV at the time.

The AC Milan legend became accustomed to success as a seven-time Serie A and five-time European Cup winner in his incredible career at the San Siro.

But his hopes of a tennis triumph in the Italian capital ended fast in a 6-1 6-1 defeat at the Aspria Tennis Cup that lasted just 42 minutes.

Rebecca Romero (Rowing to cycling)

Rebecca Romero celebrated a golden ride at the Laoshan Velodrome in Beijing in 2008. Credit: PA

Taking on the best in the world and medalling at the Olympics is a stunning achievement. Doing it in two entirely different sports puts you in a different class.

Team GB's Rebecca Romero made it a reality at the 2008 Games in Beijing when she won gold as a track cyclist in the Individual Pursuit.

Rebecca Romero, second left, won silver as part of the Quad Skulls team in Athens. Credit: PA

Just four years before, she had claimed a silver medal as a rower alongside Frances Houghton, Debbie Flood, Alison Mowbray in the quadruple skulls.

While she withdrew from British Cycling's Olympic programme before the London Games in 2012 after the Individual Pursuit event was controversially dropped, she was soon onto another sport, competing against the world's best at the Ironman World Championship.

Michael Jordan (Basketball to baseball - and back again)

Michael Jordan stunned America with a sporting change-up in 1994. Credit: AP

While most stars wait to the end of their career to take a shot at another discipline, NBA superstar Michael Jordan made his shocking switch in his prime.

Off the back of three straight titles with the Chicago Bulls between 1991 and 1993 - the so-called three-peat - he announced his retirement, aged just 30, to pursue his childhood dream of playing professional baseball.

Michael Jordan's appearance in pre-season Spring Training garnered a little more press attention than normal. Credit: AP

That meant for one season in 1994 fans of the lowly Birmingham Barons, the Chicago White Sox's minor League Baseball team, could turn out to see the most famous sportsman in America swinging (and largely missing) at the home plate.

Jordan was back in the NBA the following year posting incredible numbers on court and soon celebrating yet another three-peat of NBA titles from 1996-1998.

Victoria Pendleton (Cycling to horse racing)

Victoria Pendleton proved her critics wrong in her sporting switch. Credit: PA

It seems Olympic cyclists are a breed who can't quite leave the world of competition alone after leaving the track.

Sir Chris Hoy was driven to take up motor sport and raced at Le Mans but eyebrows were raised when Victoria Pendleton declared her ambition in 2015 to become a professional jockey.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist targeted the Cheltenham Festival the following year and went under the tutelage of horse trainer Paul Nicholls.

Victoria Pendleton rode Pacha Du Polder to a highly creditable fifth place on Gold Cup Day in 2016. Credit: PA

She enjoyed her first race win in March 2016 before claiming a fifth-placed finish at the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham which defied her critics.

How did that compare to her Olympic success? Higher, according to Victoria. She declared it "probably the greatest achievement of my life".

James Haskell (Rugby union to MMA)

James Haskell made 77 appearances for England. Credit: PA

The most recent high profile sporting switch before Cech's change-up saw England rugby star James Haskell announce his plans to compete as a pro fighter in mixed martial arts (MMA).

Three months after calling time on a 17-year rugby union career in which he won 77 international caps, he signed a deal with MMA promoters Bellator.

While others, like England cricket star Freddie Flintoff with boxing, have been accused of sampling another sport for a bit of easy publicity, Haskell insists his move to MMA is not a PR stunt.

James Haskell has also turned his hand to DJing. Credit: PA

Haskell accepted "some people think it's a bit like a scene out of Rocky III" but the move was born out of years of training after teaming up with MMA fighters at a London gym a decade ago to improve his tackling.

He went back to his training partners when the opportunity to go pro arose and they backed him to compete before he went public in August.

Haskell's expected to debut in the sport in 2020.

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