Bolt's All-Stars triumph as Nitro ends in style
IT was probably fitting, and not totally unexpected, that Usain Bolt's team would be victorious in the revolutionary event that looks set to carry athletics into a new era.
In what was a perfect finale to the debut of Nitro Athletics, Australia was in front coming into the last event but there was one major problem ... it involved the fastest man in the world.
Bolt teamed with former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell in the 4x100m mixed relay to crush the locals and claim the first Nitro trophy by 12 points - 1030 to 1018.
"That was brilliant," Bolt said. "They gave us 150%, I said we're going to push, we're going to push, and that is what we did."
It was a lopsided contest with Powell leading off opposed to hurdler Michelle Jenneke and Bolt running the back stretch against Australia's 400m champion Morgan Mitchell.
The gripping finish was a fitting way to end Nitro, which had been a massive hit with more than 22,000 spectators attending Lakeside Stadium over the three nights.
Australia finished second on each night of the competition but there were many highlights for the locals.
The second-last event of the series provided one of those with Ryan Gregson making things interesting after he produced a brilliant final 100m in the elimination mile to take down his training partner Matthew Ramsden, who has been one of the finds of the Bolt All-Stars team.
The Olympic 1500m finalist had the capacity crowd on their feet as he took off to register a memorable victory that put Australia 38 points up coming into the final event.
Nitro wanted to bring a new audience to athletics which it clearly did and another aim was to unearth new stars.
It certainly did that by introducing 16-year-old Queensland schoolgirl Riley Day to Australia.
Three weeks ago she was preparing to start Year 12 in Beaudesert, now she's one of the most recognisable athletes in the country.
Day showed her spunk in an interview alongside Bolt after they'd both tasted victory in the 150m.
The pair had clashed in the mixed 4x100m relay on the opening night but the teenager was sitting out the event for the finale.
"He just got lucky," Day, who had earlier finished third in the 60m, said to Bolt about her absence.
To put her 150m victory in context, Australia's new sprint queen left two Olympians in her wake.
Day won in 17.63sec from England's Margaret Adeoye - a London 2012 Olympian - with Jamaica's 2015 world championship 100m finalist Natasha Morrison third.
"To be running against all these wonderful women is just an honour," Day said.
"I just tried to do well in the 60 and to bring it home in the 150 as well.
"Nitro is the best thing. I love Nitro and it's an amazing experience.
"I'm incredibly lucky. Coming from a little town in Queensland and I'm just 16 years old, being up against all these champions is awesome.
"My family is really proud of me ... my Facebook is going off at the moment."
Bolt took control early in his only individual race of the series, cruising home to win comfortably in 15.28sec.
"It was a bit rough," Bolt said. "I'm not used to running this early in the season."
Australia's youngster Alex Hartmann was blown away by the world's fastest man, finishing fourth in 15.78sec.
Day wasn't the only new star to be found by Nitro with Luke Stevens, a previously unknown 400m runner from Werribee, putting his name up in lights.
His combination with Morgan Mitchell in the 2x300m relay was a recipe of success for the Australian team over the series and he delivered big time.
After a brilliant leg from Mitchell, Stevens took over in front but he was forced to find something over the final 50m with Olympic 400m hurdles champion Kerron Clement charging at him.
It an epic battle, Stevens ended up having just two one-hundredths of a second to spare on the line from his Bolt All-Stars challenger.
"It was nerve-racking that's for sure," Stevens said. "I could feel him alongside over the last 50 and I had to try and relax but it's an Olympic gold medallist doing it so that's not easy."
Once again the mixed three-minute challenge turned into one of the most popular events with Australia getting the victory thanks to an inspired final 100m from Jeff Riseley.
With Bolt All-Stars Kenyan Elijah Kipchirchir on his shoulder as the clock counted down to the final 30 seconds, Riseley took off and had the crowd on its feet as he opened up a 10m lead.
Heidi See had run the first leg for the Australia with the victory earning double points given it was the local's power play.
"That is our first power play we have won over the three nights," Riseley said. "I haven't seen this buzz around track and field for a long time."
The Nitro concept is expected to go global now in collaboration with the IAAF, whose president Sebastian Coe flew into Melbourne for the final two nights of competition.
While Bolt is retiring after this year's world championships in London in August, he is contracted to race in Nitro in Melbourne for two more years.