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"Athletes loved it, they want to come back"

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 | Athletics Australia

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One of the most satisfying endorsements of the inaugural Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne series for Athletics Australia chief executive Phil Jones was from the athletes themselves, they loved it.

Across the board athletes only had positive things to say about their Nitro experience, from the star of the show Usain Bolt right through to 16-year-old Queensland sprinter Riley Day.

Former collegiate stars and Olympians from the US Jarrion Lawson and Jenna Prandini both said they wanted to be back next year and that teammates back home were incredibly jealous.

“I think it’s gone as well as we could have dreamt, really,” Jones said after the final.

“One of the clear measures of success of this is the athletes loved it and want to come back.

“We’ve already heard from some of the athletes from overseas who have teammates that said, ‘I wish I’d come’.

“So that’s testament to the strength of this.”

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Athletics fans also gave the Nitro concept a resounding vote of confidence with nearly 23,000 attending Lakeside Stadium over the three nights of competition within a week.

The feedback online was overwhelmingly positive from sports fans around the world and just hours after the Bolt All-Stars claimed the trophy in front of a sell-out crowd talk had already started on when the next series could be held and if it would be overseas.

It would have to be after the upcoming London world championships in August, but as we have seen in Melbourne if the athletes are on board then the show will likely be a success in any location.

“Sure, I think it can happen somewhere else (this year),” Jones said.

“This has been put together in a very short space of time so certainly it’s practical to organise it in other countries, the IAAF are obviously interested in where this goes and we’re very keen.

“So I think it can go international but I also think there are some really strong domestic opportunities for it as well.”

Melbourne have the series for another two years in Australia while Bolt, who has a stake in Nitro, will be a part of the series as captain of the All-Stars for at least that period.

Jones explained that the IAAF may well buy into the Nitro brand when the series goes international, but assured that Athletics Australia would naturally also have a stake.

“It’s too early to say, I think that is a possibility,” Jones said of a Nitro Athletics series happening this year in Europe after the world championships.

“We’ve got to be careful with this concept because it’s not the intention that it should replace anything that already exists in athletics.

“I think we need to look how a complementary product like this actually fits into the calendar, there are a whole range of issues to address.

“Our immediate objective is to really analyse what we’ve done, and there has been a lot of feedback – some of which we’ve been actually able to input into this weekend from last weekend.

“So changes have already been made and there are other things we think we can do more with.”

Bolt was more than satisfied with how the week of Nitro played out and had a clear message to any athletes who wanted to be on his team next year.

“You’ve got to perform this season, you’ve got to show me that you deserve to be on the All-Star team,” Bolt said after the final about next year.

“For me it’s just brilliant, people are going to want to be a part of it.

“Because they see us on TV, we’re laughing just enjoying ourselves and anybody who puts it out on their social media they’re just having so much fun.

“So I think all the countries enjoyed themselves, everybody was taking pictures, laughing, cheering on their teammates, there was banter – there was everything and it’s won over track and field.”

Jones acknowledged that finishing the week with a profit was not expected or the goal of the inaugural series, instead it was delivering a fresh take on athletics to the sporting community.

“Melbourne were actually really early adopters, and we would not be here unless Melbourne had come to the party,” he said.

“So we certainly feel, it’s not an obligation necessarily, but we certainly feel indebted to what they’ve done.

“We won’t lose a great deal, but we knew it wouldn’t make money and we’ve had a number of investors that have provided support for it on the basis that they recognised the sport needed to make a change.”

#NitroAttitude 🍾 @usainbolt, you champion!

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