China, Japan and England Monday signed on for an innovative team athletics event in Melbourne in which sprint superstar Usain Bolt will make his first Australian appearance.
Nine-time Olympic champion Bolt launched the inaugural Nitro Athletics and will captain the ‘Bolt All-Stars’ in the February competition, which will feature six teams.
“Both the Chinese and Japanese fans love their athletics and both have a lot of emerging young athletes who love to entertain and will be well suited to Nitro Athletics,” said event ambassador John Steffensen.
“Having one team in Asia is good, but having two really strong Asian-based teams in China and Japan participating is fantastic.”
The meet, involving 24 athletes, split equally between men and women, will include non-traditional events such as middle-distance and hurdles relays in an attempt to broaden athletics’ appeal.
It will take place at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium on February 4, 9 and 11.
England Athletics chief executive Chris Jones said he was looking forward to submitting the body’s best possible team.
“We are always looking for exciting and innovative ways to create new opportunities in our sport,” he said. “This is a tremendous idea from Athletics Australia.”
Bolt’s appearance will kick off preparations for what is expected to be his final major competition, the world championships in London in August.
Although Bolt is expected to retire after London, he has reportedly not ruled out extending his career to the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Besides Bolt, several other top names have expressed an interest in the new series with announcements expected over the coming weeks.
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