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Nitro Athletics...has it run out of gas already?

Wednesday 15 February 2017

So what is Nitro Athletics?

"Nitro Athletics Melbourne is a new team-based competition that combines strength, endurance, power and extreme energy, set to revolutionise track and field."

Events:

100m and 150m (Power)
• 2 races – one for women one for men
• Combined placings determine placing / points for team; 1st + 4th = 5pts | 2nd + 3rd = 5pts etc
• Ties based on highest place from both races

Pole Vault (Technique)
• Pre-defined starting heights
• 4 attempts only at heights chosen by the athlete
• Combined height from W & M determine results, placing / points for team

3 Minute Run (Endurance)
• Men start and run for 3mins
• Finish distance to closest 25m determines start positon of women
• Longest distance covered determines placing / points for team

Medley Relay - 200/200/400/800, plus Mixed 4x400m (Teamwork)
• Women run 200m legs / Men run 400m/800m legs
• Finish position determines points for each team

Long Jump (Technique)
• 4 attempts per athlete
• Combined placings determine placing and points
• Athlete can turbo-charge their points before one jump by predicting achievement of bonus distance - such as 8m for men, 6.60m for women

2 x 300m Relay and 300m Sprint (Teamwork)
• Starting at the 200m mark
• Combination of mixed and/ or men and women
• Combined placings determine placing / points for team

Hurdle Relay - 100mH / 110mH (Technique)
• On the back straight
• Two heats… three teams in each heat

60m Speed Sprint (Power)
• 2 races – one for women one for men
• Combined placings determine placing / points for team

Para Sprint, 100m and 200m (Power)
• Seeded pro-style staggered start sprint
• Seeding and marks based on times
• Combined placings determine placing / points for team

Javelin (Technique)
• 4 attempts
• Combined placings determine placing and points
• Bonus points for landing in defined target area
• Focus on accuracy

Elimination Mile and 2 Mile (Endurance)
• 2 races
• Last placed runner eliminated on designated laps
• Women and men placings combined

Mixed 4x100m Relay (Teamwork)
• Mixed relay with two women and two men
• Women legs 1/2; Men legs 3/4
• Finish position determines points for each team

The initial hype over the new competition format seemed exciting and promised to reignite the popularity of athletics after what has been a difficult time.

For international stars to date it has all been about the quantifiable data - times and distances, as an individual. This format is very much team-based and technically also has the ability to document individual performances which many athletes obviously still seek. It had attempted to mix the traditional side of athletics meetings with an emphasis on teamwork, in a short format of competition.

Looking at the athletes involved, there was of course a variety in experience and level of performers. It has been used by England as an opportunity and stepping stone for some up and coming athletes to experience a televised meeting on an international scale. This is probably twofold, one being the big athletes prioritise their individual performances and events for these linking into preparation for major championships, and England Athletics is about affording and developing athletes. It contained a mixture of athletes, vastly experienced (arguably nearing the end of their careers), and up and coming talents which opens up to the door to the unknown about the closeness of the competition throughout. For this to try be a real competition it does need to go down to the wire and remain competitive throughout, and not just on points alone. Some events weren't even that close, so they may have lost the competitive edge at times.

Being immersed in the grassroots I like to think about how such competitions can be used in all levels of the sport and the adaptations required to make them a success for the athletes competing, the supporters watching and the longevity of the sport and the competition format. For many a reason this event as it is will fail to materialise into anything that could be recreated on a local level, although this obviously was not the aim of the competition. However, I am interested in what needs to be altered for it to be a success closer to the grassroots level?

In the UK we have been delivering team-based athletics events for years, under the radar from main competition strands. These events also help foster and develop a culture of multi-eventers which aids in the later specialisation process of athletes in our sport. Further, it has demonstrated that it can rope in athletes of all ages due to it being a fun format of competition. 

Some examples include:
Parents versus Athletes
Age Group Team Athletics Challenges (U11, U13 etc)
Combined Team Challenge (male and female from the following age groups: U11, U13, U15, U17 and seniors)

If the aim was to revolutionise athletics, then maybe in Australia and for the spectators, it is on the cards. They attracted a new kind of audience to the track and field scene for this series, with a sell-out crowd, but still I think it lacks an extra something. As for some diehard athletics fans, it currently lacks the punch all the media attention warranted, so maybe with a few tweaks here and there this format can really do what it intended.

Huge kudos must be awarded for attracting the calibre of athletes they did, as without names such as Usain Bolt, it is hard to see this really get off the ground. We all like to see something new every now and then that challenges the way the sport can develop and progress. However, I believe that a true revolution would be team-based events only, maybe something for the future, but it may need to start at the grassroots and filter upwards, like some of the formats we have already developed here in the UK.

The whole Nitro Athletics experience to date has sparked an interest in some, put out the flame in others. Either way, it has been an event that has to be talked about.

What are your thoughts on the format? It’s successes and room for improvement.

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