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Aussies give Nitro seal of approval

7 February 2017

ATHLETICS: After months of excitement and anticipation, Nitro Athletics burst into life on Saturday at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne, to the delight of fans and athletes alike.

Aptly named, the three-part series features the best in Australian athletics as well as an all-star international roster, including 8-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt.

The innovative format combines traditional track and field events with new race formats based on fusion and teamwork.

Nitro Athletics has been described as ‘fast-paced’, ‘high energy’, and ‘a new era of athletic practice’, while IAAF president Sebastien Coe has described it as “a great example of what can be done and what needs to be done to revolutionise how we present our sport and how our fans connect with the sport and the athletes.”

Having enjoyed their first taste of Nitro, Aussie athletes were impressed.

“The first night exceeded all our expectations,” said Genevieve LaCaze on Tuesday.

“The event was something very different for us to wrap our heads around, it was so different to a standard track event.

“I could stand in lane two and cheer for my teammate in lane one – there were no restrictions really.”

Nitro has a bumper schedule and with little time between events, the 27-year-old believes it makes for a fan-friendly event.

“It’s a bit of a production rather than just an event.

“There are dancers at all corners of the field, you have athletes taking the microphone and engaging with the crowd, something is always happening.

“The aim is to keep things rolling and not allow any breaks for the crowd, which makes for a very relaxed, exciting, and entertaining event.”

Competing in a newly created event, the 3-minute mixed 2x1000m relay, the Rio 2016 finalist said it was received with a lot of positivity.

“From all the feedback I received, both in person and online, the 3-minute relay and the elimination mile were the biggest hits with fans.”

Hurdler Michelle Jenneke was similarly pleased with the event.

“I was really happy with everything.

“As athletes we entered into the unknown. We had no idea of what to expect.

“But I had an incredible time!”

A crowd favourite, the 2016 Rio Olympian said she was buoyed by the support.

“The crowd really got into it - the atmosphere was electric.

“I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I just hope everyone else did too.”

The 23-year-old won her only event, the 100m hurdles, but says the most pleasing aspect is the team unity that the event generates.

“The feeling around the team was incredible.

“We don’t always get that kind of camaraderie among the athletes and to have the freedom to be on the track while events are taking place and cheer on a teammate, that was really great.

Still in its infancy, Nitro is a work-in-progress, but LaCaze believes there is plenty of upside.

“There are still a few things that need ironing out.

“With teams of only 24 athletes, there are plenty of great athletes who unfortunately don’t get to compete.

“I’d love to see the concept develop over the next few years, with more Australian stars able to put a show on for the crowd.

“It would be great to promote the profile of more of our Aussie stars.

“But with the whole event, there is a lot of potential.”

Sentiments echoed by Jenneke.

“If down the track we could get more athletes involved, that would be great.

“I would love to see more Nitro events in the future.”

Early days, but the future looks bright for the new kid on the athletics block.

Nitro Athletics continues at the Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne on Thursday. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/Nitro-Athletics-tickets/artist/2315137. For more information, go to http://nitroathletics.com.au/

Nathan Lange


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