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Nitro Athletics Debuts as a Potential Turning Point for Track and Field

The inauguration of the Coles Nitro Athletics has benchmarked a new era for track and field – to change the face of a sport mostly known for its Olympics and World Championship prowess – as the sport does not get as much consistent publicity.

The Series which was held in Melbourne ended in sublimity with Usain Bolt as usual, at the forefront after leading his team of international ‘All Stars’ to victory.

The glitzy inaugural event which kicked off from February 1 to 11 concluded with a clean sweep for the victors who dominated the 4×100 relay to narrowly beat hosts, Australia in the final standings by 77 points with 3,040 points.

The eight-time Olympic gold medalist and captain of the ‘All Stars’ who ran the second leg of the relay, took the baton from fellow Jamaican sprinter, Asafa Powell before Jeneba Tarmoh and Natasha Morrison finished strong in front of a sold-out crowd at Lakeside Stadium.

Bolt also took part in the individual race category, his first of the year, having only run in the relays in the opening two installments of the three-night series, and easily won the 150m sprint ahead of Joseph Millar from New Zealand.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It was brilliant, it was exciting. Tonight came down to the last event and I think everyone in the track and field world really enjoyed this,”[/perfectpullquote]

Bolt said.

Bolt who played a pivotal role in his team’s performance also lit up the event as its ‘chief entertainment officer’.

Coles Nitro Athletics is a new team-based competition that combines strength, endurance, power and extreme energy. Its focus is centered on challenges fused together to engage athletes through technique and teamwork by adding a Nitro spark to conventional athletic events.

This means that tactics and strategy are the core application in the sprint, distance, field and para-athletic events. The commenced event combined a variety of athlete stars around the world to compete in teams.

This year’s teams were Bolt All-Stars, Team Australia, England, New Zealand, China, Japan with each registering 24 athletes – 12 males and 12 females, but majority of the attention was on the crowd and television ratings during the event in an attempt to “revolutionize” athletics, is adapting the sport and entertainment concept that has shown successful results with Twenty20 cricket.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I knew that this is what track and field needed,”[/perfectpullquote]

Bolt added.

“The energy and the vibe and even people from Jamaica who watched it and everybody I talked to, really enjoyed it and said it was a lot of fun.

“I’ve had different emotions and that’s what was so great.

“I’m just happy the event came together with the way it did. We know we have improvements to do … We’re going to keep trying to improve it along the way.”

IAAF president Sebastian Coe, expressed his delight in the event considering the negative publicity that has affected the sport following recent several doping and corruption scandals.

“I thought it was a terrific start,” said Coe who was in attendance.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It’s an obvious thing to say but unless we innovate, we are going to being less and less relevant and we can’t afford to do that.”[/perfectpullquote]

Bolt is contracted to lead his ‘All-Stars’ to Australia for the next two years and hopes to make the event international and attractive to overseas investors but with hi retirement after the World Championships in London, there is no telling the effect his absence could have on the debut event.

“In my lifetime, I’ve not seen anyone grab the sporting landscape, probably not since Muhammad Ali,” Coe who a British runner great noted.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”The big challenge is to make sure that when we don’t have Usain out there, that the world recognizes that the sport is full of extraordinary talent.”[/perfectpullquote]

Athletics Australia (AA) owns a majority share in Nitro and Bolt also has equity in the project with plans to turn the Series into a global event.

While Nitro focuses on publicity, Bolt will have an array of athletes to pick from for the next event. The current ‘All-Star’ team comprised of athletes from Jamaica, USA, and Kenya.

“You have got to show me you deserve to be on the ‘All-Stars’,” Bolt said.

“People are going to want to be a part of this.

“If they saw it on TV we were laughing, we were enjoying ourselves, cheering other people on.

“It’s definitely going to help athletics overall.

“I’m just looking forward to this growing internationally.”



Featured photo: Usain Bolt who ran a leg of the mixed 4x100m relay, championed his ‘All-Stars’ team to a new era of athletics. (GETTY IMAGES)

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