Australian middle distance pair Genevieve LaCaze and Ryan Gregson will extend their partnership onto the track as co-captains of Team Australia for Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne.
The duo will lead Team Australia across the three nights of competition commencing this Saturday and continuing next Thursday and Saturday against Usain Bolt’s All-Stars and four other teams representing England, China, New Zealand and Japan.
Given the number of modified events on the schedule, the various tactics involved and decisions required regarding personnel in relays their international experience will be a valuable asset to the team.
LaCaze had a brilliant year on the track in 2016 setting personal bests over five distances, including an Oceania record in the 3000mSC of 9:14.28 at the Paris Diamond League.
The 27-year-old was also a finalist in both the steeplechase and 5000m at the Rio Olympics finishing ninth and twelfth respectively in each race.
“Honestly, I’m really excited to see how it all plays out because there has been so much hype about it and so much talk,” LaCaze said about the series.
“Ryan and I will work with Nic (Bideau) to make sure we have everyone competing in events that best suit their strengths.
“I’ve got family and people coming down from Queensland to watch that are really excited about it.
“The most interesting event will be the elimination mile because I can’t fathom how that’s going to play out.”
Since representing his country as a junior, Gregson has been a regular member of the Australian team and is coming off a successful season that saw him run in the 1500m Olympic final in Rio.
The 26-year-old is a two-time national champion and the Australian record holder over 1500m with a world-class time of 3:31.06 he ran in Monaco in 2010.
Gregson was thrilled to be named captain of Team Australia and explained the role would largely revolve around telling his teammates that Nitro is a great opportunity to show your character to Australia.
He also revealed that world championships long jump silver medallist Fabrice Lapierre would be a team manager and assist coach Nic Bideau in placing everyone in the right events.
“Mainly the public just see us when we’re training hard or when we’ve just competed after a race at the Olympic Games,” Gregson explained.
“So, this is a good opportunity to show yourself to Australia and the world.
“Basically, Fabrice really wanted to have an official position, so we got him involved as team manager,” laughed Gregson.
Bideau named coach of Team Australia for Nitro
The experienced head coach of Melbourne Track Club, Nic Bideau, has been appointed to lead the home team for the series.
Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne is a great opportunity for elite Australian track and field athletes to compete in a fun environment on television, gaining some much-deserved publicity for what they do, says Team Australia coach Nic Bideau.
Bideau believes all members of the Team Australia squad are up for the challenge of taking on Usain Bolt and his All-Star line-up and are also ready for whatever the innovative series throws up.
“They like doing things like this, they’re competitive people,” Bideau said.
“If it’s fun, why not? There’s no reason why they shouldn’t enjoy it, this is a fun event that puts a spotlight on the sport.
“I don’t know how the events will play out, but the idea of having fun on TV, they like that.”
Bideau also believes the team are keen to help lift the profile of athletics outside an Olympic or Commonwealth Games year.
“They want something to happen so they’re going to support it because they definitely want to see the sport in a better position,” Bideau explained.
“If you get something that has a big superstar in any sport like Bolt there and it’s on TV three times in a week, well it brings a certain level of excitement and it’s an opportunity for people to show who they are.
“One of the things that frustrates Australian athletes is they work really hard and they’re totally pros in what they do but they don’t get the chance to perform that often in front of a lot of people.”
Teamwork is one of the four aspects of Nitro Athletics along with technique, power and endurance – something Bideau has instilled within his own training group and will look to do so with Team Australia.
“Yeah I do think that’s important and everyone likes competing for other people and helping other people,” he said.
“The thing about athletics is most of them don’t get that opportunity but when one of the Melbourne Track Club is competing they know they have the support of the group.
“Same as in Nitro when someone is running the 60m they know they’ll be competing on behalf of Team Australia.
“You’ve got to make sure people understand that and maximise the advantage of that situation.
“(My role) will be making sure the athletes are organised, ready to go and are in line to compete and beat five other teams.
“I’m expecting to have some say in how we place people in the team and the tactics that are involved and strategies with the power plays and relay positions.”