Grand Slam Track seeks to rethink athletics meet concept

Michael Johnson

Featured image credit: Grand Slam Track

American athletics legend Michael Johnson has officially launched a new professional track series which aims to “revolutionise the landscape” for the sport, with Los Angeles confirmed as the first event host.

Plan for the new series were first revealed in April, but were officially presented yesterday (Tuesday) with the venture to operate under the moniker of Grand Slam Track. The league will host four annual Slams during the spring and summer season in four global cities.

The inaugural Slam will take place in April 2025, followed by three more Slams over the summer months. Los Angeles will serve as the global home for Grand Slam Track, and host one of the Slam events. There will be one further Slam that will take place in the United States, and two in international locations. The other host cities will be announced later this summer.

Grand Slam Track has secured more than $30m (£23.6m/€27.9m) in financial commitments from investors and strategic partners for the launch of the league. Winners Alliance, the for-profit arm of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) and Johnson’s operating partner, was the lead investor in the first fundraising close for the new venture.

The investment in the league will aid in what is Johnson’s ultimate goal – to develop better engagement with fans by promoting track and field’s biggest stars and reaching new audiences with unique, innovative storytelling.

“I am delighted to finally unveil Grand Slam Track to the millions of track fans around the world,” said Johnson, the league’s founder and commissioner.

“We are excited to launch this new platform for the planet’s greatest racers in this sport we all love. Our team has worked tirelessly to design and build a product that will be loved by fans and provide opportunities for our racers that they truly deserve.

“We’re revolutionising the track landscape, allowing our sport to remain at the forefront of the sporting world year round, and pushing our superstar racers to break new ground in their personal storytelling, competitive success, and marketability. Grand Slam Track is going to take our sport to new heights, and we want you to come along for the ride.”

Each year, 48 athletes will be named to the league as GST Racers. These racers will be selected by the Grand Slam Track Racing Committee based on a combination of factors to include the fastest and best racers in each race group, with a focus on fierce rivalries and competitive racing.

GST Racers commit to racing in all four Slams per year. They will receive an annual base compensation for racing in each Slam and are eligible for full prize money. These GST Racers will receive annual contracts, access to the GST content and data services team, inclusion in the league collective, group licensing and new revenue opportunities, plus access to world class athlete support services throughout the season.

GST racers are compensated under contract to race and promote the league and receive additional marketing and branding support. US Olympic champion Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone was yesterday confirmed as the first Racer. McLaughlin-Levrone is a two-time Olympic gold medal winner and is the world record holder for the 400m hurdles.

A further 48 athletes will be known as GST Challengers and will be paid a set appearance fee to compete at individual Slams. GST Challengers are chosen by the Grand Slam Track Racing Committee based on a combination of factors including recent performances, and the most intriguing athletes and matchups.

Racers and Challengers will be assigned to compete in one of the following categories, and will all race in two events during each Slam: short sprints (100m/200m), short hurdles (100H or 110H/100m), long sprints (200m/400m), long hurdles (400H/400m), short distance (800m/1,500m), or long distance (3,000m/5,000m). All competitors’ final placement score will be determined by their combined finishing order between the two races.

The winner of each Slam group will take home $100,000 in prize money, and the eighth place competitor will earn $10,000. Grand Slam Track will have a total of $12.6m of prize money that will be awarded across the slams each year in addition to the base compensation and appearance fees paid to racers.

Grand Slam Track organisers state all events will meet World Athletics regulations, with achieved marks being eligible for rankings and standards. The launch of the series comes at a time when the world governing body is also seeking ways to revamp the sport.

World Athletics recently made headlines with a first-of-its-kind plan to award $50,000 to all of this year’s gold medallists at the Paris Olympic Games. Earlier this month, Budapest was announced as the host city for the first World Athletics Ultimate Championship, a new event that will feature a record $10m prize fund.

Grand Slam Track racers will compete in their own sponsored kits, without traditional hip numbers or bibs. Racers and Challengers will be encouraged to work with their sponsors to create customised kits, in their own desired style. Grand Slam Track states it has no affiliation or sponsorship agreement with any shoe company.