Usain Bolt prepares to hand off to Natasha Morrison at the second Nitro meeting in Melbourne (© Getty Images)
There’s no ‘I’ in team, we hear often enough. There’s no UB either, but when you have Usain Bolt in your team, history shows you are almost certain to win. Even if it is a near-run thing.
At the second meeting in the Nitro Athletics series on Thursday (9), Bolt again closed the night with a win in the mixed 4x100m relay. It was also the event the Bolt All-Stars drew as their random power play, meaning the team scored double points, 200 against the 100 for every other event.
That pulled The All-Stars up from way down in the rankings coming into the final event, which would still not have been enough to get them past Australia. However a botched changeover between Jack Hale and Fabrice Lapierre on the second leg saw Australia disqualified – with a consequent points’ penalty – and the All-Stars retain their winning record by the skin of their collective teeth.
In a change from the first meeting, Asafa Powell and Bolt ran the middle two legs of the relay, with Jenna Prandini on the start and 2015 world championships finalist Natasha Morrison bringing the baton home. It was no contest as Powell jetted up the back-straight and he and Bolt made a near-perfect exchange.
Australia blew its chance there as long jumper Lapierre took off too early and barely completed the change with the incoming Jack Hale, losing all momentum in the process. The disqualification, which was not announced until after live television had gone off air and most of the crowd had gone home, added insult to injury. Last place would have seen Australia home, a ‘dq’ saw it lose the night.
Once again the innovative format was well received by a near-capacity crowd at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium. The 6722 spectators included IAAF President Sebastian Coe, IAAF CEO Olivier Gers and IOC vice-president and AOC president John Coates.
Again, too, it was the unconventional relays and individual events which got the most enthusiastic reception. It helped, of course, that four of Australia’s five wins on the night came in the mixed 3-minute distance challenge, the men’s and women’s elimination mile races and the 2x300m mixed relay.
The fifth victory came from Hamish Peacock in the javelin.
The All-Stars managed only four victories this time, though the double points for the 4x100m effectively made it five.
Team England gate-crashed the relay glory when Theo Campbell ran down Morgan Mitchell to win the mixed 4x400m relay which opened the night. Luke Stevens, Anneliese Rubie and Alex Hartmann appeared to have given the Australians a winning lead, but even though Mitchell split around 51.3 for the final leg Campbell caught her in the closing metres to win, 3:20.22 to 3:20.52.
England’s other win on the night came in similar manner when Erin McBride ran over the top of Australia’s Ella Pardy in the women’s ambulant 200m, both being given the same time of 26.22.
Team China also had a winning night with Ze Gao taking the men’s 60m in 6.67, Wenjun Xie taking the 100m hurdles in 13.88 and Xiaoxue Zhou winning the women’s long jump with a distance of 6.31m.
New Zealand’s Joseph Millar had his second individual sprint win in the two meetings, this time taking the men’s 100 in 10.30 to add to his 60m win on night one.
Jenna Prandini (60m) and Natasha Morrison (100m) kept the Bolt All-Stars to the fore in the women’s individual sprint events.
Australia dominates middle distances
When it came to middle distances, however, it was all Advance Australia Fair. The elimination mile races, with the last-placed runner dropping out at the end of each of the first three laps, have been crowd highlights.
Ryan Gregson and Heidi See took out the men’s and women’s events. The elimination factor again turned both races into extreme fartlek sessions. See was on her own in the last lap of the women’s race, winning in 4:37.06.
Gregson ran his first lap of the men’s race in about 56 seconds, drawing the sting out of any surprise kickers. He relaxed his way through a much slower second lap before picking up the pace again with Elijah Kipchirchir of the All-Stars in futile pursuit. A closing lap in about 56-57 seconds took him to a comfortable win in 4:03.43.
Luke Mathews and Linden Hall combined to win the mixed three-minute challenge and Luke Stevens and Morgan Mitchell again won the 2x300m. It was almost enough for a famous victory, but not quite.
Len Johnson for the IAAF