Olympic champion Usain Bolt (front C) poses with his team members (from L-R) Ryan Gregson of Australia, Matthew Wyatt of New Zealand, Christine Ohuruogu of England, Wataru Yazawa of Japan, Zhao Xinghai of China and Gen LaCaze of Australia during a press conference in Melbourne on February 3, 2017, ahead of the Nitro Athletics meet in Melbourne. / AFP PHOTO / MARK PETERSON
The world’s fastest man Usain Bolt led his Bolt All-Stars to victory on the opening night of the inaugural Nitro Athletics teams event in Melbourne on Saturday.
The world record holder for the 100m and 200m sprints led the Bolt All Stars — including athletes from Jamaica, the USA and Kenya — against teams representing Australia, England, New Zealand, Japan and China.
The 30-year-old Jamaican sprint star ran in the final event on the programme, the 4x100m mixed relay, featuring two male and two female athletes from each team, as did fellow Jamaican Olympic gold medallist Asafa Powell.
With their captain running the unfamiliar second leg, handing over to American Jenna Prandini, the Bolt All Stars won that race to notch up their fourth outright win of the night and finish with a total of 1080 points.
“It was just a wonderful night. I was just enjoying myself from the start to the end,” Bolt said.
“Everybody was just having fun. Everybody was trying to support their teammates — going over to the long jump, to the javelin — that’s something were not really used to.”
The Australian team won three of the 12 events to sit second with 1050 points. The two teams finished equal first in two other events while Australia’s Kurtis Marschall also tied for first place with China’s Xue Changrui in the men’s pole vault.
New Zealand won the other two events, while China finished third on the points table with 845.
“At the start (of the night) I was a little bit worried. We started kinda slow and I was talking so much smack that everyone was looking at me like ‘you’re losing’,” Bolt said. “But we won at the end, so that’s the key thing and I’m very happy with how everything turned out.”
The winner of gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the past three Olympics, Bolt said he had never run a competitive race in February before, and was impressed with the form of the local athletes.
“They came out ready. Most people aren’t really at the level that they want because it’s February, but you guys were ready and that’s what we want, competition. So it’s fun and it was loud, so it was good.”
Bolt may have been the main attraction but the Australian athletes enjoyed accolades from the crowd of around 7,000.
Nitro Athletics involves a mixture of traditional and modified events designed to provide non-stop action over a two-hour period, with each team consisting of 12 male and 12 female athletes.
Twelve events, from mixed gender relays, to 60m and 150m sprints awarded points for each placing.
Highlights included the men’s elimination mile, which saw the last-placed runner eliminated at the end of each of the first three laps of the track.
A similar programme will be held on Thursday with the final of the three-event series at the same venue next Saturday.