An Australian team full of young guns and rising stars are relishing the opportunity to take on Usain Bolt and his international band of superstars at the inaugural Nitro Athletics Melbourne.
Headlined by Olympians and Olympic finalists including Ryan Gregson, Morgan Mitchell, Genevieve LaCaze, Fabrice Lapierre, Brooke Stratton, Kathryn Mitchell and Michelle Jenneke the team also includes Paralympic gold medallist Scott Reardon and bronze medallist Ella Pardy.
Rising sprint stars Jack Hale and Riley Day get the opportunity to experience big-time international athletics for the first time, and world junior championship silver medallists Kurtis Marschall and Liz Parnov will also be crucial to Team Australia’s success in the pole vault.
With an average age of just 22 the team represents Australia’s athletics future and includes rising stars such as 2015 national 400m champion and Olympic 4x400m finalist Anneliese Rubie.
“I’m looking forward to the fast-paced program of Nitro,” Rubie said.
“It’s super exciting to have so many different types of events on the one night such as the 300m and the mixed relays,” Rubie added.
The team represents 16 members with Olympic or Paralympic experience including Ryan Gregson, who in Rio became the first Australian to make the men’s 1500m final in 40 years.
“This is something that’s never happened before and I’m just so excited to be a part of it,” Gregson said.
“The main thing is that we are going to have to try and beat the Bolt All-Stars – that’s the goal.
It’s going to be fun to be a part of a team with a lot of my friends that I get along with so well.”
“The elimination mile is going to be interesting,” Gregson said.
“I really don’t know what to expect because I know how to race a mile when we are all just focussing on the last lap but this time we’re going to see someone eliminated after each lap – it’s going to mean that there’ll be some very tired legs on the last lap which means it’s going to be very entertaining for the crowd to watch. I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”
“From what I know Nitro Athletics is going to be non-stop action. At Lakeside the crowd is going to be so close to the action and it’s going to be great.”
Exuberant Olympic hurdler and regular Sydney University Athletics Club contributor Michelle Jenneke said she thought Nitro Athletics Melbourne would be full of surprises.
“I think new innovations in any sport which engages the general public and increases the profile of the sport and its athletes is great,” Jenneke said.
“I hope the Australian public will get behind it and get to experience some of the fun that I as an athlete get to experience. Team Australia is a great group of athletes with lots of young energy so hopefully with the crowd behind us, it will result in a whole lot of fun and a great night at the track for everyone.”
Young sprint star Jack Hale is equally excited about the opportunity to be a part of the ground-breaking series.
“It’s an amazing opportunity – it’s going to be huge for me and my development of my career going forward,” the 18-year-old said.
“Athletics is a long game and it’s all about progression over the years so to be one of the youngest in the team is really good and hopefully being part of Nitro will give me some great new experience.”
“The chance to line up against someone like Usain Bolt will be amazing – he’s the pinnacle of sprinters. While I look up to him – I’m excited to create my own future,” Hale said.
Team Australia Selector Tamsyn Lewis said the team is hungry to take athletics into a new era.
“This team recognises the opportunity to compete along-side Usain and his team of Olympic champions but also the chance to compete in an Australian meet on prime time TV for the first time in nearly a decade,” Lewis says.
“They are young guns ready to put on a show and we are thrilled that they will get this opportunity – it’s a world first. Usain Bolt is racing in Australia and they will all be part of it.”
Nine-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt will headline the Bolt All-Stars for Nitro Athletics Melbourne in the series that kicks off next month and will see Australia also take on China, England, Japan and New Zealand in a new look athletics format at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium on Saturday 4th, Thursday 9th and Saturday 11th February 2017.
Bolt will be joined by four fellow Olympic champions including Rio 400m hurdles gold medallist Kerron Clement, Jamaican relay teammates Asafa Powell and Michael Frater along with 2008 Olympic hurdles champion Dawn Harper Nelson from the United States.
Nitro Athletics Melbourne is supported by the Victorian Government and will be broadcast live Channel 7, 7mate and PLUS7 Live app.