Recently, the sport of athletics seemed to undergo a transition attempt, with an inaugural tournament, headlined by Olympic champion Usain Bolt, contested for the first time. The Nitro Athletics competition, hosted in Melbourne, included a mix of pioneering events combined with traditional ones, which may suggest the competition aims to drive the sport in a fresh direction by providing continuous, intriguing action. In addition, the competition boasted competitors including Asafa Powell and Christine Ohuruogu, both Olympians, which may suggest a high calibre set of athletes support the innovation, and the attempted revolution of the sport. Ultimately, whilst Bolt’s team may be superiorly impacted due to their victory, perhaps all the teams may draw productive outcomes via their inclusion, and ultimately may instigate the precedent for future competitions.
The tournament was contested between 5 nations, all of which have amassed varying degrees of success during previous Olympics, and a Bolt All-Star team, compiled of athletes specifically chosen by the 8-time Olympic gold medallist himself; the experience of the squads, coupled with the desire to attain victory in the inaugural tournament, seemed to suggest any team boasted the credentials to win. Each squad consisted of 12 male and 12 female athletes and, whilst in the traditional events, the genders were split, others, such as the 4x100m, saw the sexes combined. These ground-breaking mixed events may have further significance for the sport in general, as it may have highlighted the strengths, and abilities, of both male and female athletes, and a smorgasbord of victories for varying countries may suggest both possess the capabilities to compete at a similarly high standard. With points on offer for high finishes rather than medals, it seemed to enable the athletes to focus on teamwork, perhaps superiorly beneficial for both the athletes and sport in general.
The tournament concluded with a victory for Bolt’s All-Stars, with a contributing factor perhaps being Bolt handpicking his team; a mix of Olympians and youngsters seemingly showcasing motivation to amass experience versus fellow athletes with accomplished repertoires perhaps providing dividends. Yet, the other countries, most notably Australia, seemed to take their underdog title in their stride, with Morgan Mitchell, a former Olympian herself, seemingly spearheading her country’s charge for the title, and her consistent ranking amongst the top three seemed to act as the catalyst in propelling Australia to second. Yet, consistent performances seemed to enable the All-Stars to conclude the series at the pinnacle, and ultimately Bolt’s ideology surrounding the events, such as utilising his ‘Power Play’, enabling his team to earn double points in one chosen event, on the 4x100m, showcasing his ability as a leader, and this may have enhanced the initial impact he had on his team simply by competing alongside them.
Whilst the creators of the events may naturally gain the plaudits, as they seem to be aiming to implement innovation to a sport which has seemed to remain relatively consistent since the maiden Olympics in 1896, plaudits may also have been gained by both Usain Bolt and Sebastian Coe; Bolt’s inclusion may have productively impacted the other athletes, who may have been striving to perform at their peak ability to compete with him, whilst Coe, the President of the IAAF, being in attendance may suggest he is in favour of innovation. This support from the governing body may contribute to athletics becoming a more accessible, and revolutionary sport.
Whilst Bolt’s team ended the tournament as victors, the competition ultimately seemed to be contested between a smorgasbord of the most accomplished athletes in the world, which seemingly enabled all of the events to be contested at a high standard. Perhaps more pivotally, the event may act as the catalyst in the occurrence of further modification, and may motivate athletes to strive to achieve in order to earn a place for their respective countries in the tournament. The inclusion of the aforementioned pioneering events, coupled with tradition, seemed to provide an intriguing balance to the tournament, perhaps enabling athletics to be taken in a new, fresh direction and, with accomplished athletes, and Lord Coe, seemingly providing their support, perhaps the desire for reform has been assessed.
How may the tournament act as the catalyst in the innovation of Athletics?