The Bolt All Stars took a clean sweep of the series that brought athletics back to the masses. There’s hopes of Nitro expanding internationally, but some are questioning whether the concept could work without Bolt.
The second instalment of the Nitro Athletics Series ended in farce in Melbourne on Thursday, with a referee error that initially awarded the Australia team top ranking for the night by mistake, leaving headline athlete Usain Bolt fuming.
Jack Hale to run the back straight in the 4x100m to possibly line up against Usain Bolt, with Fabrice Lapierre and Michelle Jenneke also coming into the team.
A chance Hale will go head-to head with Asafa Powell in the 100m. Sprinting conditions are looking good, and Powell would be looking for a sub-10 second clocking if he lines up.
And some changes to the Aussie line up, with Ryan Gregson running the Elimination Mile, Alex Hartmann lining up in the 4x400m and with Genevieve LaCaze being rested, Linden Hall running the 3 minute challenge and Heidi See running the Elimination Mile.
The 2008 Olympic gold medallist was due to compete in Nitro Athletics, but has been handed a 3 month ban for a diuretic found in blood pressure medication.
The Sydney Cricket Ground are interested in hosting a Nitro Athletics meet, which are currently planned to be held in Melbourne for the next 3 years.
“I think in the end it turned into a bit of a 5k guys race just with the stop-start nature of it and I thought I’d have the kick in the final bit – but gee when you’ve done three laps of fartlek and then you’ve got to try and go it just didn’t turn out that well.”
The Age’s Michael Gleeson is a bit more circumspect, labelling the night ‘a qualified success’ and that the concept should be judged after the third event.
Usain Bolt will run in the mixed gender 4x100m on the opening night of Nitro, presumably on the final leg. Australian junior record holder Jack Hale will anchor Australia, with Christine Wearne, Riley Day and Alex Hartmann running the first three legs.
Australian athletics’s glamour couple lead the team for Nitro Athletics, with Fabrice Lapierre as manager and Nic Bideau as coach.
Great analysis of the state of Australian and global athletics by The Age’s Michael Gleeson.
“In gambling terms AA has gone all in on Nitro and some fear for the outcome of that gamble.But it was really no gamble at all for AA for if Nitro was not tried and allowed to succeed the sport would surely fail. There was no money for a domestic national season this year so the idea of continuing to do what had been tried and failed was no longer a choice. The option then was to pare back and become smaller and even less relevant. That too was not a choice.”
Four Australians – Nina Kennedy, Naa Anang, Brittany McGowan and Matthew Ramsden – form part of the line up.
An Australian squad of 42 – to be whittled down to 24 – has been picked for Nitro Athletics. Mel Breen joins Sally Pearson in snubbing the series, while Australia’s top four performers in Rio also won’t be part of the new entertainment product.
“From an audience perspective, athletics can be a challenging sport to watch because there are lots of events going on at once and lots of statistics, so we want to simplify it down to a team-based event with a running point score that will add excitement and context to every event.’’ – Athletics Australia President, Mark Arbib
After a frantic few months where AA hired a team of consultants to try to find the cash to lure Bolt — he comes with a $1 million-plus price tag — a deal was finally signed off on the night before Friday’s official launch.
Nitro Athletics will not just feature traditional events – and will include a mix of power, endurance, technique and teamwork disciplines across sprints, distance, field and para-athletics events. Mixed events and relays will also feature in the Nitro program as team’s battle for points and the Nitro Athletics Melbourne crown.
Night one and the final of Nitro Athletics Melbourne will feature the same program with the Thursday night program offering a selection of alternative events.
Athletics Australia are scrambling to pull together the new Nitro series in time but securing Usain Bolt is the first and most important signing.