Sport Athletics Athletics revolutionised, but Usain Bolt still wins

Athletics revolutionised, but Usain Bolt still wins

Usain Bolt Melbourne nitro
Usain Bolt waves to the crowd after competing in the relay.
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Usain Bolt going head to head against a schoolgirl from Queensland. Luke Mathews and Genevieve LaCaze claiming a thrilling victory in the mixed three-minute challenge. Elimination miles. A near capacity crowd.

Welcome to track and field. But not as you know it.

The first-ever edition of the revolutionary Nitro Athletics series at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium on Saturday night ticked plenty of boxes.

For the record, the Bolt All Stars won the night, with Australia claiming second spot in the six-team event.

But this was much more about the spectacle than the overall result.
About drawing new fans to a sport which is struggling for traction in Australia and around the world.

And about Bolt.

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

He lined up on Saturday in the second leg of the mixed 4x100m relay against three other men and two female sprinters – Mariko Nagano from Japan and 16-year-old Riley Day.

Usain Bolt Melbourne nitro
Bolt powers down the straight.

With fellow Jamaican and former world record holder Asafa Powell running the opening leg for the All Stars against five women, Bolt was always going to get the baton in first place.

The gap was much bigger by the time he handed off to Jenna Prandini, although Day was also impressive.

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

Earlier in the night, Day was an impressive second behind Prandini in the women’s 150m.

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 5000m finalist LaCaze had Australia in front at the halfway stage.

With the near-capacity crowd roaring their approval, 800m specialist Mathews extended the advantage, finishing 10 metres clear of second-placed Kenyan Elijah Kipchirchir.

“I got into the home straight and knew I had the wind behind me at that point,” said LaCaze.

“My legs definitely weren’t finding much in those last 20 seconds and I kept trying to work out what that was in distance.”

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

The remaining two Nitro Series meets are on Thursday and next Saturday.



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