Bolt helps new track series streak out of starting blocks

Eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt secured a classy win for his All-Stars team with two impressive runs on the final night of the inaugural Nitro Athletics series and declared that the new format is exactly what track and field needs.

After restricting himself to a leg of the mixed 4x100m relay on each of the first two nights at Melbourne’s packed Lakeside Stadium, the world’s fastest man contested the 150m, winning convincingly.

Bolt was clearly fastest out of the blocks and around the bend to establish a lead of more than 10m mid-race, before easing up in the closing stages.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been fit in February,” Bolt told reporters. “I’m happy I got to run an individual event. I felt good, and I have to try to stay injury free. I’ve got a couple of months to go [until the world championships] and I should be fine.”

The 30-year-old Jamaican star clocked a time of 15.28 seconds in the 150m, less than a second slower than the world record of 14.35 he set over the distance in Manchester in 2009. His world record for 200m, set in 2009 in Berlin, is 19.19 seconds.

New Zealand’s Joseph Miller finished strongly in 15.44 seconds with Confidence Lawson of England third in 15.69.

Some 45 minutes later, Bolt again ran the second leg of the mixed 4x100m relay, helping his All-Stars take the final event of the night.

Bolt took the baton from fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell and stretched the lead before handing over to American Jeneba Tarmoh. Another Jamaican, Natasha Morrison, ran the final leg to secure victory for the Bolt All Stars and take them to the top of the points table to claim the first Nitro trophy ahead of Australia.

Bolt, who is expected to retire from the sport at the end of the year, said he wanted to run as often as he could. “I’m going to try to do as many meets as possible as long as I stay fit, just to let everyone see me because it’s my last season.”

He predicted a bright future for the Nitro format. “It was brilliant. It was exciting, it was different,” he said. “I knew that this is what track and field needed … the energy and vibe.”

But he admitted the experimental format involving traditional and modified events, including mixed gender relays and an elimination mile, designed to provide nonstop action over a two-hour period, might still need tweaking.

“We know we have improvements to do … we got to keep trying to improve it along the way,” Bolt said.

“It’s less stress but a lot of fun and that’s what we need in the track world. It’s definitely going to help athletics overall.”

In a bid to sell the action-packed Nitro concept globally, Bolt fronted the All-Stars — including athletes from Jamaica, the United States and Kenya — against teams representing Australia, England, New Zealand, Japan and China. — AFP

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