It is not often you get to announce a new major change in sport, but in Nitro Athletics we just may have a turning point for Track and Field. Nitro Athletics Melbourne is a new event that will showcase brand new thinking in how to showcase athletic ability, and it has the backing of none other than Usain Bolt himself.
The new event will first appear in the Australia city of Melbourne in February. It will take place over the course of three days. The main concept of the new idea is to turn athletics from an individual sport to a team based event. In Melbourne there will be six teams. Australia, New Zealand, England Japan, China and Bolt’s All-Stars. Yes Usain Bolt will lead his own team of superstars!
Each team will contain a complete equal mix of 12 women and 12 men. These athletes will compete in a wide variety of events and scores will be combined from multiple athletes in one team. For instance finishing first will earn your team 100 points, but fourth may only get you 40. Much like in a heptathlon. This is not the only new element though as there will be an introduction of team strategy and tactics.
The strategy comes in the forms of ‘power ups’ that a team will decide to use before a specific event. A Nitro Power play will double points in the event of your choosing. A Nitro Steal allows you to decide which team to steal 50% of any points they potentially earn from a specific event. So Bolt’s inevitable 100m dominance might not be worth so much in Nitro Athletics. There will also be a Nitro Turbo Charge for the long jump, allowing more points if the jumper aims for and gets a certain distance.
The different events cover most of modern Athletics while also introducing new formats. There will of course be a wide range of sprinting events which will always please the crowds. One of these will even be competed in by Para athletes, allowing for complete inclusion. The second day of Nitro Melbourne will include more alternative events such as Pole Vault, Javelin and long jump.
The most interesting tweak on tradition is in long distance running. A 3-minute run will be a combined men and woman effort where the men will have 3 minutes to run as far as possible. Where they finish will determine where the women start from, and the combined distance of both athletes will be the race’s result. That must be a first for a running event to be judged on distance rather than time. The elimination mile is another event that has been changed. At certain laps during the race whoever is in last place will be eliminated when the bell is rung.
This new path being taken by athletics is hoping to revolutionize the sport and even has the backing from World Athletics chief Lord Sebastien Coe. “Nitro Athletics is 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.”
Nitro Athletics is certainly a breath of fresh air and in Usain Bolt it has the best possible ambassador and guarantee of crowds. Whether the format works remains to be seen. Until it is tried in front of a large audience it is unknown whether they will take to it. Fundamentally the change from a sport celebrating individual greatness and converting it to a team event may take away the sense of glory that so many fans love.