West Australian pole vaulter Nina Kennedy is expectedly nervous as she prepares to compete at Nitro Athletics as a teammate of Usain Bolt, but the teenager is also determined to put on a show.
The former world junior pole vault record holder, still a teenager, who came fourth at the world junior championships in 2014, is thrilled to compete alongside the fastest man in the world.
“I’m feeling a range of emotions,” Kennedy said of her selection to the Bolt All-Stars.
“He’s the best athlete this sport has ever seen, and looking up to him from such a young age makes competing in the same team as him an unthinkable experience really.
“I’m feeling everything from pure excitement to nervous butterflies, I’m excited to try push some big heights at Nitro,” the 19-year-old said.
Usain Bolt unveiled his All-Stars line up for Nitro Athletics Melbourne this week, announcing a team featuring five Olympic champions and four rising young stars of Australian athletics.
With just eight days to go until the opening night, Bolt’s squad will be the one to beat when they take on Australia as well as teams from England, New Zealand, China and Japan at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium over three nights commencing Saturday week, 4th February.
The Australian contingent includes another nineteen-year-old West Australian, world junior championship finalists 1500m runner Matthew Ramsden. He and Kennedy will be joined by World University Games long jump bronze medallist Naa Anang (QLD) and three-time national 800m champion Brittany McGowan (QLD).
“I’m happy to have the four young Australians… it’s going to be tough for them when we hand Team Australia some trouble, but they are on my team now,” Bolt said.
“It’s going to be fun, I can’t wait to get down to Melbourne, see the crowd and be part of something that will change the sport of track and field.”
Bolt’s team is stacked with talent including Rio Olympic 400m hurdles champion Kerron Clement (USA) and former NCAA star long jumper Jarrion Lawson who came fourth at the Rio Olympics.
Naturally, Bolt has chosen to bring along his world-beating Jamaican relay teammates in Asafa Powell and Michael Frater – both Olympic gold medallists. Powell is a former world record holder, still the fourth fastest man of all time and has broken 10 seconds for the 100m a record 97 times.
“Of course I’m going to bring my fellow Jamaicans, they were the first to be picked,” Bolt said.
“The team has so much talent across all the events so I’m expecting us to put on a good show, and win, of course.
Australian youngster Matt Ramsden will form a strong distance group for the All-Stars that features Kenyan James Magut, the 2014 Commonwealth Games 1500m champion with a personal best of 3:30.61.
“I consider myself privileged for getting the opportunity to represent one of the sport’s biggest ever names and to meet him too,” Ramsden said.
Ramsden’s selection pits him against Australian Olympic 1500m finalist Ryan Gregson, across a series of distances races including the elimination mile.
“Like always I’ll line up to win, yes there may be guys who are faster than me on paper but that won’t stop me from doing everything in my power to win.
“I can easily say this is the fittest I’ve ever been in my life so I guess the sky’s the limit for me at Nitro.”
Three-time national 800m champion Brittany McGowan is another Australian on the Bolt All-Stars team looking forward to showing her speed in the modified distance races such as the elimination mile.
“I am really excited to be on the All-Stars team. Usain Bolt has given new life to Athletics on a global scale and to stand on the same team as him for Nitro is going to be an amazing experience,” McGowan said.
“These races are an awesome concept and they will challenge us as athletes. It’s always exciting to go into a race without knowing what to expect.
“There will definitely be a lot of interesting tactics come into play, which will make these races great to watch.”
Bolt has also added a stellar women’s sprint cast, including 2012 Olympic relay gold medallist Jeneba Tarmoh (USA), world championship 4x400m gold medalist Christine Day (JAM), world championship 4x100m gold medalist Natasha Morrison (JAM) and Olympic 200m semi-finalist Jenna Prandini (USA).
Two world-class para-athletes have also been selected in Bolt’s All-Stars including US sprinter Jarryd Wallace, a former world record holder in both the T44 100m and 200m.
The team will get some versatility from reigning Olympic 400m hurdles champion Clement who is a world class sprinter with or without the barriers.
The two former NCAA stars and US Olympians in Lawson and Prandini are perfect additions to the team offering world-class talent in both the sprints and long jump.