With 2015 now upon on us, SPIKES could not resist putting together ten things to get the juices flowing ahead of what we hope will be another stellar year for athletics.
1. Joy of the jumps
There’s no doubting that the most captivating event in global athletics right now is the men's high jump. There has only ever been 39 jumps over 2.40m, and 12 of those came last season. Also, only 12 men have ever achieved the feat, and five did so last season: Mutaz Essa Barshim, Bogdan Bondarenko, Ivan Ukhov, Derek Drouin and Andriy Protsenko.
Barshim’s 2.43m saw him move clear of the pack and claim the number two spot on the all-time lists, but the burning question in 2015 is: can anyone finally surpass Javier Sotomayor's 22-year-old world record mark of 2.45m? It will be fun watching.
2. The return of the king
With 2014 effectively a rest year, the world (us included) is eagerly awaiting the return of Usain Bolt. His major target will be the World Championships at Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium, the awe-inspiring venue where Bolt first announced himself to the world as an uber-talent at the 2008 Olympics. Repelling challenge of resurgent American sprinter Justin Gatlin could push the Jamaican icon to something very special.
3. Teenage kicks
If you want to take a sneak peek at the stars of tomorrow, check out the action at the biennial IAAF World Youth Championships. Usain Bolt, Kirani James, Valerie Adams, Sally Pearson, Allyson Felix and Yelena Isinbayeva are all former world youth champions.
This year’s event will be staged in the Colombian city of Cali, which is known as The Salsa Capital of the World. Who'll be dancing in the streets in July?
4. Does the forest have a new king?
To call the potential 5000m showdown in Beijing a head to head battle between Caleb Ndiku and Mo Farah is hugely disrespectful to an army of other worthy challengers. However, Farah, the leading global track distance runner of recent times, faces a genuinely formidable rival in Ndiku, the colourful Kenyan, who last season secured Commonwealth, African and World Indoor titles.
To add another layer of intrigue to the plot, Ndiku accused Farah of dodging him when the Brit skipped the Commonwealth Games to focus on the European Championships last year. After winning the 3000m Continental Cup in Morocco, Ndiku quipped: “The forest has a new king now and the Buffalo’s footprints are still wet.”
We don’t fully understand what that means, but it’s defo got us pumped to see them battle for superiority this season.
Move over Mobot: do the Ndiku
5. Marathon men
In three of the past four editions of the iconic Berlin Marathon there has been a men's world record, with times creeping slowly towards the jaw-dropping two-hour barrier. Patrick Makau (2011), Wilson Kipsang (2013) and Dennis Kimetto (2014) have all made history in the German capital, and SPIKES will be fascinated to see what the world's top marathoners can unleash on the flat, fast course come September.
Amid ear-splitting noise, passionate support and exhilarating track action, the inaugural IAAF World Relays in Bahamas were a rollicking success in 2014. Well, guess what? The fledgling event is returning to Nassau on the idyllic Caribbean island in May for the second edition. We can't wait!
7. The returnees
Injury, lack of top form and a range of other distractions meant a clutch of the sport’s biggest names failed to shine in 2014. So we welcome an injury-free return for World 110m hurdles record holder Aries Merritt, Jamaican sprint duo Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and world 400m hurdles champion Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic.
We’d also love to see a return to top form for 800m world record holder and Olympic champion David Rudisha, and welcome back Olympic champion Ashton Eaton to his speciality – the decathlon – after half a year away from multi-events to focus on the 400m hurdles.
Hoping world champ Hejnova is back at the world champs
8. Out of Africa
In an event traditionally dominated by European athletes, the men's javelin at the World Championships in Beijing could realistically see an African triumph. The 2014 World No.1 and Continental Cup winner Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed hails from Egypt. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth and African champion Julius Yego of Kenya, who placed fourth at the 2013 worlds in Moscow, is another genuine contender.
2014 SPIKES Personality of the Year Maggie Vessey scooped the award in large part thanks to her daring and innovative track kit designs. Others, such as US sprinter hurdler Queen Harrison, are prepared to be creative and bold with their on-track look. SPIKES is hoping more athletes join the fashion parade in an attempt to garner more positive attention for our great sport.
10. Bird's Nest second generation
Seven years after the world was mesmerised by the feats of Usain Bolt at the 2008 Olympics, the world's top athletes return to the futuristic Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing for the 15th edition of the world championships.
An architectural masterpiece, few athletes will complain about the stadium hosting another mega global athletics event, which is sure to throw up some breathtaking moments.
Roll on 2015!