Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nitro Athletics!

I just got home from Melbourne, Australia, where the 2017 season started off for me in many unexpected ways!

Nitro Athletics conducted their first experiment in regular-season team competition down under.  This three-meet series was a bit of a mystery, even to athletes who committed to attending.  I got an email around Christmas time asking if I was interested, thought about it for a day, and decided to make the trip.  Russ and I competed in Australia in 2012, and it was a fantastic experience, so why not return to the southern hemisphere's summer from Colorado?  I was told to expect a laid-back atmosphere and to not worry about performance as much as fun.  I really just looked forward to warm weather training and perhaps some beach or pool time!  I signed up to be a "Bolt All-Star," but who really knew what that meant.

I spent some time in Chula Vista to throw outside before heading to Australia, and threw about 55m in practice before I left.  I figured, "Cool, if I can scrape together a few more meters, I'll be happy."  I had my first real javelin session on January 10th, inside.  I had two practices off of a runway at any kind of speed in Chula, and one of them was with overweight implements.  My trip to Australia was filled with unexpected twists, and the last bit of my California stay was spent scrambling to be ready for a February 4th competition when I'd been expecting to throw on February 9th.  All of these things meant that I was 100% ready for whatever was going to happen on the first night of the inaugural Nitro Athletics series.  No expectations whatsoever.

Our team meeting on February 3rd finally shed some light on the event: Three meets in which six teams compete for overall dominance, points awarded for performance, bonus rounds and power plays (random draws of events for each team with double points, per night), complete freedom to roam the field of play and cheer each other on, encouragement to not take ourselves too seriously.  A pep talk from Captain Usain, whose proposal to pass the 4x100m baton from Asafa to himself to Jenna to Jeneba seemed so outrageous, the room buzzed.  But not as much as the stadium buzzed the next night:

video
Bolt to Prandini, right to right!

In the javelin, a target in the sector, if hit in the fourth round only, awarded the accurate competitor valuable bonus points.  The other two field events (long jump and pole vault) were similarly run, and certain Bolt field All-Stars' points were essential to boosting the team score on each respective night.

Night 1, I hit the target in Round 4!

video
58.24m, 59.05m, 61.16m (plus slow-motion), 60.43m and target acquired!

Find this video on my Instagram as well.

I've had some great *team* experiences in my international career.  Being a Bolt All-Star cracks the top 5, and if my husband didn't play prominent roles in my top 3, Nitro would be my number 1.  I'm not kidding.

1. NACAC Under-23 Championships, 2006.  Met Russ and many other important people.
2. Beijing World Championships, 2015.  Teammates with Russ.  (Related: NACAC Senior Championships where we both won, 9 years after meeting at U-23s.)
3. Toronto PanAm Games, 2015.  Shared a WINGER competition bib with Russ because they printed Patterson for me.  We both medaled!
4. Nitro Athletics, 2017.
5. Beijing Olympic Games, 2008.  First Olympics, enough said.  Also being roommates with Jill (just Camarena then!).  

Why did I throw well in Melbourne?  Because I knew my team was depending on me, and their cheers from right next to the runway were constant, fun reminders of that.  I have always known that I do better when I'm having fun, and encouragement to just be myself was all I needed to have an awesome experience on the runway.  It also turns out that being a Bolt All-Star means that the man himself truly plays the role of team captain in cheering on and celebrating with his people!!

Coach/Captain Usain, me, Japanese javelin thrower Hiroko Takigawa after Night #1, Round 4 (bonus points)!
The thing that made Nitro Athletics awesome for me was the people.  I had never spent significant amounts of time with most of my teammates, and there are many times that I wouldn't choose to spend significant amounts of time with people.  Really any people.  I'm that confusing mix of intro- and extrovert.  I think that everyone's attitudes about this trip matched, and that made it really easy to bond with the group.  We were all willing to try something new and exciting, put our comfort zones aside (group introduction dances?!), and do fun work together toward a team victory.  

Low stress, high fun, would absolutely throw again.  I'd love to see team scores (not just medal counts) at major championships.  Maybe we'd all be more involved in each other's journeys.  I miss that, and didn't realize how much until experiencing Nitro Athletics.  

P.S. Please watch I Am Bolt.  I did on the plane on the way to Melbourne.  I want Glen Mills to call me a Champion.