sports gazette

What we learnt from Nitro Athletics

Published: 13 Feb 2017

Bolt's All-Stars are set to headline athletics' new revolution.

This wasn’t just any athletics event, it felt more like a professional sports day than just another meet: cue mixed-gender relays, an elimination mile, target javelin, countdown clocks and fluorescent blocks and batons.

The only thing missing was the egg and spoon but there is always next time. Usain Bolt unsurprisingly stole the show after returning to the track for the first time since he lost his 2008 Olympic gold medal and helped his team of ‘All-Stars’ steal the victory from the competing nations of Australia, England, Japan, China and New Zealand.

Bolt might not have the triple triple but he is still world class. He drew in a 9,000-strong crowd, a feat that a regular athletics meet in Australia hasn’t seen since the halcyon days of the 1950s.

It just goes to show that despite losing one of his nine gold medals after team-mate Nesta Carter tested positive for a banned substance, Bolt has lost none of his respect, impact or drive. He now seems to be channelling his energy into giving something back which is a treat for us all.

Athletics is one of the few sports where the women’s events receive as much coverage and gain as much respect as the men’s. So, it seems bizarre that it has taken this long to get a mixed-gender race in a professional capacity. Nitro’s inclusion of mixed-gender relays is breaking down barriers and also adds an appealing new element to athletics. So, in general there should be more mixed athleticsevents

All athletics should be this fun, this event was new and exciting and the combination of sport and enteratinment is similar to Twenty20 cricket. The fluorescence and pyrotechnics were exciting, they gave athletics back a bit of glitz and glamour, who can say no to sex appeal?

The athletics was brilliant in its own right too. It all came down the last race: Australia needed to win the mixed 4x100m relay to take the victory but were disqualified after a misjudged handover meant the All-Stars stormed away with the race and the meet.

Bolt said: "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.”

This event might be wonderful but athletics still has a long way to go back from disgrace of the last year or two. The wake of Russia’s state sponsored doping saw decreased interest, pitiful crowds and a struggle to get young athletes participating.

Although events like Nitro Athletics exist and the involvement of outstanding clean athletes like Bolt can only help, it is only a step in the right direction and does not mean that the issues within athletics have now magically disappeared.

Nitro achieved something that athletics has not been able to do for a long time, and that is sell out a stadium and have viewers tuning in from around the world. The different nature of the event is turning heads and this time for the right reasons.

More events like this would get more people interested, as it is so different from the regular athletics we see at the Olympics which is so often associated with doping and misconduct. As Nitro Athletics is only in its infancy, we should expect a greater impact over the next few years.

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