Jamaican Olympic gold medallists Asafa Powell and Michael Frater along with 2008 Olympic hurdles champion Dawn Harper-Nelson from the United States headline the first group of athletes confirmed to join Usain Bolt in the Bolt All-Stars for Nitro Athletics Melbourne.
The trio will be joined by 2008 Olympic 100m silver medallist Richard Thompson from Trinidad and Tobago, American hurdler Ryan Wilson and rising young American sprinter Jenna Prandini who boasts a 100m personal best of 10.92.
Combined the six world-class athletes have nine Olympic medals between them, while Wilson, a world championships bronze medallist in the 110m hurdles from 2013, and Prandini, a world championships 4x100m silver medallist in 2015, have both won NCAA titles.
Prandini starred for Oregon at the NCAA National Championships in 2015 nearly winning a treble of gold medals coming first in the 100m and long jump, while adding a silver medal in the 200m.
The series will see Australia take on the Bolt All-Stars, China, England, Japan and New Zealand in a new look athletics format in Melbourne on Saturday 4th, Thursday 9th and Saturday 11th February 2017.
The announcement coincides with the release of the Bolt All-Stars team logo. All teams in the Nitro Athletics series will have individual team brands, and the Bolt All-Stars logo sets the tone for the new concept in how athletics is presented. Bolt All-Stars and Nitro Athletics merchandise will be available to purchase soon – and like Bolt is expected to fly out the door.
As team captain Bolt naturally invited his Jamaican compatriots and world-beating relay buddies Powell and Frater who will guarantee Nitro Athletics Melbourne has plenty of speed and power across all three nights.
At this year’s Olympic Games in Rio Powell, a former 100m world record holder, teamed up with Bolt, Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade to win Jamaica a third consecutive Olympic 4x100m relay gold.
Former Olympic champion Harper-Nelson finished ahead of Australia’s hurdles star Sally Pearson at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and was runner-up behind Pearson four years later in London.
One man eager to wear the Bolt All-Stars colours is Powell, who can see the significance of what Nitro Athletics can do for the sport.
“I’ve been in this sport for a long time now and in reality our sport hasn’t changed in presentation for a century,” Powell explained.
“Finally, people that organise events are starting to realise that we need to change with the times. Some meets have made significant changes, but the Nitro series is really pushing the envelope to a whole new level. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Powell hasn’t ruled out a flying lap of Lakeside Stadium’s track in a rare 400m outing, but has one condition if he is called up by Captain Bolt for a relay leg.
“Haha, only if he does first,” Powell laughed.
Harper-Nelson has more than embraced the idea of Nitro Athletics and is keen to share the experience with track and field fans while showing off her elite sprinting talent as she makes her Australian debut.
“One thing I truly like about the Nitro concept is that the athletes will have more interactions with the fans. I love competing but getting to talk with the fans and seeing their appreciation of your talent and hard work has a special place with me,” Harper-Nelson said.
“Nitro can help shine a bigger light on track and field’s personalities. Competing there and having the opportunity to do relays and have less pressure will help a lot of athletes relax and open up to the fans. Showing more of their personalities and have the fans appreciate that side as well.
“I think Usain Bolt will be as he always is, energetic, but he wants to give the fans a good show. He has a good relationship with many of the other athletes so it’ll be a friend leading the pack.”
Further world-class additions will be made to the Bolt All-Stars team while the Australian squad of 42 athletes will be trimmed back to a team of 24 in the New Year.