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Bolt’s Nitro athletics event runs into controversy

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Usain Bolt signs autographs during the Nitro Athletics meet in Melbourne on February 9, 2017 © AFP / Theo Karanikos

MELBOURNE, Australia, Feb 9 – Usain Bolt led his All-Stars to victory in the second Nitro team athletics event on Thursday but it was mired in controversy with Australia docked points.

Needing only to take the baton around the track in the mixed 4x100m relay, Australia blew their chance to top the night in the finale of the new concept at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium.

Jack Hale and Fabrice Lapierre botched the handover from second to third leg and Australia were disqualified.

After some initial confusion, Australia was given a score of -10, rather than the 40 points teams receive for finishing sixth.

As a result, the Bolt All-Stars — who won the race with Bolt running the third leg — finished with 930 points to Australia’s 895.

Bolt, the world’s fastest man, told reporters he was initially under the impression Australia had received 40 points for finishing last, regardless of their indiscretion, and vowed to protest.

Usain Bolt competes in the Mixed 4 x 100 metres relay during the Nitro Athletics meet © AFP / Theo Karanikos

But meet officials reviewed the decision and ruled that a disqualification was appropriate.

“I don’t know what happened,” the world record holder at 100m and 200m said. “I’ve got to talk to the organisers and figure it out, but I’m sure we won the night.”

In a bid to sell the concept globally, Bolt is fronting the All-Stars — including athletes from Jamaica, the US and Kenya — against teams representing Australia, England, New Zealand, Japan and China in the inaugural three-night event.

The All-Stars won last Saturday and after a slow start on Thursday came through again.

“I don’t like the fact that we’re leaving it that late,” the Jamaican sprinter said.

The 30-year-old eight-time Olympic gold medallist suggested he might compete in more than one event in the final of the series this Saturday.

“I think a few of the guys will have to double up on Saturday. I’ll probably have to double up.”

But Bolt said he was feeling good about his own form, despite never having run competitively before at this time of year.

Usain Bolt says he is feeling good about his own form © AFP / Theo Karanikos

“I felt good. I came down here to get a few runs in. I’m not in the best of shape — I’m just trying to run myself into shape — and the more I run the better I feel,” he said.

“I’m just trying to enjoy my last season. I’m not trying to overthink anything or try to stress myself. I’m always going to try to do my best.”

China won three events on the night and finished third on the points table with 855, just ahead of England on 850.

New Zealand won two events and finished fifth overall with 845 points.

The Bolt All-Stars also scored a narrow 30-point victory over Australia last Saturday, 1080 to 1050.

Nitro Athletics involves a mixture of traditional and modified events, including mixed gender relays and an elimination mile, designed to provide non-stop action over a two-hour period

Twelve events are contested each night, with points awarded for each placing, from 100 points to the winning team down to 40 for the sixth-place finisher.

The series will be decided on ladder points, with six awarded to the winner of each meet, and Saturday’s final offering double points.

The All-Stars sit on 12 points with Australia on 10 after two second placings.

Should Australia win on Saturday and the All-Stars finish second, both teams will finish with a total of 22 points.

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