Sport Athletics Nitro Athletics: the star Aussie teen set to sprint against Usain Bolt
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Nitro Athletics: the star Aussie teen set to sprint against Usain Bolt

jackhalesprinter
Jack Hale runs at the IAAF Under-20 Championships in Poland last year. Photo: Getty
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Cricket has headed over the ditch and the tennis is so last week.

Stand by for track and field to take an all-too-rare turn in the Australian sporting spotlight.

There was a time when the likes of Betty Cuthbert, Herb Elliott, Marjorie Jackson, Ron Clarke, Shirley Strickland and John Landy were household names, but that was long before sport became big business with an even bigger emphasis on entertainment value.

Bolt celebrates a Rio success.
Usain Bolt will bring star power to the series.

These days, most Australians only pay attention to track and field around the time of the Olympics, and even then much of the focus tends to be on one stellar athlete at a time – a Cathy Freeman, Steve Hooker or Sally Pearson.

So Athletics Australia is counting on the star power of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, to help kick-start a resurgence of the purest forms of sport – running, jumping and throwing – into the national consciousness via their new sports entertainment product, Nitro Athletics, which begins in Melbourne on Saturday.

“It [Nitro] is massive for track and field,” up-and-coming Australian sprinter Jack Hale told The New Daily.

“It’s revolutionising the way athletics is being done and is a huge step forward (for the sport).”

The 18-year-old – Australia’s quickest junior sprinter of all time – hit the headlines in 2014 when he ran 100m in just 10.13 seconds.

It was time assisted by a powerful tailwind, meaning he could not claim a new personal best, which stands at 10.21 seconds recorded at a meet in Germany last year.

Hale is likely – but not confirmed, given the nature of the event – to run against Bolt in the three-night series, which runs over a week.

And he believes he could improve even further if running in the presence of the eight-time Olympic gold medallist.

“I’m running well at the moment and I think having someone like him on the track will lift me,” he said.

How much of a lift? Does Hale think he can beat the legend?

“I don’t. Not at the moment,” he adds.

While a lot of the hype is and will be about Bolt, it isn’t all about him, because the revolutionary format of Nitro Athletics has been conceived to be athlete, spectator and media-friendly.

Bolt will lead a team of All Stars, featuring a number of fellow Olympic medallists, into competition against teams of 24 (12 male and 12 female athletes) representing Australia, England, China, Japan and New Zealand, with every placing in every event garnering points toward a final team tally.

0131-Nitro-AthleticsHale believes the series of three Nitro meets will be great for the development of all Australian athletes involved.

“As an 18-year-old coming up against the best in the world that’s something I really look forward to,” he said.

“Just to line up next to them will give me great experience.”

The athletes will be out on the field throughout the evening and some will be “mic-ed up” so the fans – at the venue and watching on the Seven Network – can get an insight into their personalities and approaches to competition.

“If you look at it from a marketing standpoint, especially being broadcast live, it will be massive for every Australian athlete there because some athletes certainly don’t get the recognition they deserve,” Hale said.

“It’s a world championship standard so people are going to be coming out really wanting to perform well in that sort of environment.”

Hale believes the athletes will definitely enjoy the team aspect and mingling more between events.

“I’m sure it will be a more social environment, as well as a competitive one,” he said.

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