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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Athletics: Nitro off to a flying start

Athletics: Nitro off to a flying start

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1 Athletics: Nitro off to a flying start on Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:09 am


Athletics: Nitro off to a flying start

By Nicole Jeffrey
The Australian
5th February 2017

The world’s fastest man Usain Bolt ended up racing a 16-year-old schoolgirl from Queensland, Riley Day, on a leg of the 4x100 metre mixed relay on the opening night of the unpredictable new Nitro Athletics series in Melbourne.

Bolt’s presence on Saturday night attracted the biggest crowd to an athletics meet in Melbourne for more than a decade, since the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and was hailed as a success by the event organisers.

The innovative Nitro Series was designed to bring crowds back to the sport by offering the athletics version of T20 cricket.

It succeeded, with more than 7000 people in attendance to witness a combination of traditional and quirky events in a fast-paced team format designed to engage the crowd and show off the personalities of the athletes.

National under-18 100-metres champion Day drew the tallest assignment of the day for the Australian team.

This was made even more difficult when Bolt decided to lead off his All Stars team’s relay with his Olympic gold medal teammate Asafa Powell, and then run the second leg before handing off to the two female sprinters, Jenna Prandini and Jeneba Tarmoh.

Australia took the opposite approach, leading with the women and finishing with the men in the final event of the night, which gave Day, a student at Beaudesert High School in country Queensland, the experience of a lifetime.

“[Bolt] was talking smack, saying, ‘We’re going to win, we’re going to win.’ I was like, ‘I’m not taking this’”, Day said afterwards.

“Definitely running against males is a bit different.’’

Bolt said the banter was part of the show.

“That’s what makes it good, because they know we are just kidding and having fun so it’s different,’’ he said.

“You are not used to engaging with your competitors so it was different, it was fun for the athletes and that’s what we wanted and that’s what we needed for the sport.’’

Bolt’s All Stars claimed victory in that event and led on the point score (1080) at the end of the first of the three meets that will decide the winning team over the next week.

The young Australian team was second (1050) after winning the medley relay (200m, 400m, 600m and 800m legs), three-minute run (Genevieve LaCaze and Luke Mathews), women’s 100m hurdles (Michelle Jenneke), women’s elimination mile (Linden Hall) and the 2x300m relay (Morgan Mitchell and Luke Stevens).

Bolt, who has taken a financial stake in the Nitro concept and hopes to take it to the world after its debut in Australia, said the opening meet was a good start.

“It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it,’’ he said.

“The mile race for me was just spectacular. That’s what I expected from this and over time we will figure out ways to make it better, perfect it, and the support was okay and next weekend we are looking forward to making it even better.

“I’m urging more people to come out and support on Thursday and next Saturday. It’s a great event and it’s the first time. We’ll find kinks but it’s a good start for me.

“I think the ‘4x1’ and the elimination mile was good and I enjoyed watching the three-minute run, that was kind of cool.’’

The second meet of the series will be held at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne on Thursday night, with the final next Saturday at the same venue.

The eight-time Olympic champion has committed to competing in all three Nitro events over the eight-day period.

The All Stars won the mixed relay with plenty to spare, while Jack Hale stormed home to get third spot for Australia.

One of the most exciting events of the night was the mixed three-minute challenge.

Despite being required to step down from her preferred distances, Olympic steeplechase and 5000-metre finalist LaCaze had Australia in front at the halfway stage.

With the big crowd roaring their approval, Mathews extended the advantage, finishing 10 metres clear of second-placed Kenyan Elijah Kipchirchir.

Rising Australian middle distance star Matthew Ramsden, representing the Bolt All Stars, outsprinted compatriot Jeff Riseley to win the men’s elimination mile.

The last-placed runner after each of the first three laps was cut from the race, making for a compelling mix of sprinting and jogging.

The women’s elimination mile was more straightforward, with Rio Olympian Linden Hall claiming a commanding victory for the home team.

Other Australian winners included Michelle Jenneke in the 100m hurdles and Kurtis Marschall, who tied for top spot in the pole vault.

The brave new world of track and field got off to an encouraging start with Ryan Gregson anchoring Australia to victory in the opening mixed medley relay.

The Rio Olympics 1500m finalist entered into the spirit of the occasion by playing up to the crowd, kissing his biceps and waving the baton, after crossing the line well clear of second-placed England.

The 8800-capacity Lakeside Stadium was close to full for the first of three editions of Nitro Athletics, which includes six teams of 24 athletes contesting a wide variety of events.

Teams from England, China, Japan and New Zealand, also composed of 12 men and 12 women, are also competing in the meeting.

Also in the field are Bolt’s fellow Jamaican sprinter Michael Frater, Rio Olympics 400m hurdles champion Kerron Clement and American long jumper and sprinter Jarrion Lawson.

with AAP/AP

"Let's Go While We're Young"

2 Re: Athletics: Nitro off to a flying start on Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:18 am



SCG Trust court Nitro Athletics to bring Usain Bolt to Sydney in 2018

By Georgina Robinson & Michael Gleeson
Sydney Morning Herald
6th February 2017

The SCG Trust is making a bold bid to lure Usain Bolt and the Nitro Athletics concept to Sydney next year after the experimental format was a smash hit on its first outing in Melbourne.

Emboldened by the runaway success of shortened formats of rugby and cricket, the trust have requested a meeting with Athletics Australia president Mark Arbib, a key driver of the Nitro concept, to discuss luring it away from Melbourne.

There is already stiff competition – the South Australian government are also courting the Nitro team – and the finer details of a three-year contract with the Victorian government could yet stall plans to bring Bolt to Sydney in 2018.

It would be a bold move too for the trust, requiring an athletics track be laid on the historic cricket ground. But administrators are convinced the event fits Sydney's raging appetite for punchy, innovative and colourful "sports-entertainment" events.

The combined men's and women's Sydney Sevens drew more than 75,000 people to the Moore Park precinct over a three-day event last weekend, numbers Australia's rugby bosses could only dream about in recent years. Cricket's Big Bash League has been a similar success as a live product, as well as a major ratings hit on television.

And there are indications Sydneysiders have an appetite for athletics re-packaged. No doubt boosted by the presence of Bolt, who has an equity stake in the concept and will headline the event on a three-year deal, Nitro beat all its commercial free-to-air rivals in Sydney on Saturday during its live broadcast on Channel 7.

Watched by 1.4 million people nationally, the audience peaked at 947,000 viewers with an average audience of 587,000 across the duration of the event. In Melbourne where it was broadcast on delay after the AFL women's match and with Bolt not coming on until almost midnight it had a quarter of the free-to-air audience.

Tickets for next Saturday night's final night have now sold out but tickets remain available for this Thursday's second night in the series.

The concept is a radical shake up of the traditional track and field meet, with athletes competing in six mixed-gender teams of 24, across unconventional events including a three-minute challenge and a mixed relay that pitted former 100-metre world record holder Asafa Powell against four women at the weekend.

Fairfax Media understands the Victorian government's Places Victoria sponsorship which was crucial to underwriting the event to get it off the ground was a three-year deal but with options for the second and third years depending on the success of the first year.

Nitro will not speak with any other interested party during this year's series as they are exclusively tied to Places Victoria and there is a loyalty to the Victorian government for the financial commitment that helped ensure the inaugural event could be staged.

The success of Saturday night's first event has now increased the interest from the SCG Trust and Destination NSW to host it at the SCG. The ground has a long, if now distant, history of hosting athletics. The 1938 British Empire Games, a pre-cursor to the Commonwealth Games, were staged using a grass track, with Australian Decima Norman winning five gold medals in track and field. The old Sydney Sports Ground, situated where the Allianz Stadium car park now lies, also regularly hosted athletics meets.

South Australian Sports Minister Leon Bignell is understood to also want the event for the Adelaide Oval.

When Nitro was first mooted during the Rio Olympics, Athletics Australia said the hope would be that it would be staged across more than one city. Nitro is staged across three nights in Melbourne this year but in future years could be in a different city each night. Alternatively organisers could keep the three nights in Melbourne and add more nights in other cities.

It is unknown if the SCG or Adelaide Oval would want the event exclusively in their city or want to stage a single night of the event. Sharing it could be the most likely way of giving Sydney and/or Adelaide a taste of the format without cutting ties with Melbourne.

"Let's Go While We're Young"

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