Looking at what 2018 has got in store for athletics fans around the world, we cannot wait to get stuck in properly already.

Indoors, Indoors, Indoors

The spectators’ slow, rhythmic clap rings back from the arena walls and the ceiling. You can almost taste the athletes’ sweat as they storm past the stands, they’re that close. In case you didn’t know, we here at SPIKES love the great indoors and the intimacy that comes with it.

And while Sweet Caroline is still ringing in our ears from last August that saw London host a memorable world championships, we’re already getting ready to head back to the British Isles as Birmingham is set to host the IAAF World Indoor Championships in March (1st – 4th).

The road to the world indoor champs will lead via the IAAF World Indoor Tour – a six meet series during which the athletes not only get into peak form for worlds, but also can earn wild cards in selected events.

Winners in disciplines that featured during the 2017 Tour already booked their wild card spots (image below, subject to ), whereas this year the second batch of event wild cards is up for grabs.

The Tour stops this year will be Karlsruhe (GER, 3rd Feb), Dusseldorf (GER, 6th Feb), Madrid (ESP, 8th Feb), Boston (USA, 10th Feb), Torun (POL, 15th) and Glasgow (GBR, 25th Feb) and with most national indoor championships taking place around the weekend of 17/18th Feb, we can look forward to four weeks of non-stop, world-class indoor action leading right into Birmingham. Hooray!

Half the Distance, Double the Drama

After Cardiff provided everything we love about road running in 2016 – early drama, tactics, and a great atmosphere for the mass race – the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships is headed to Valencia, Spain this year (24th March).

Two-time reigning champion Geoffrey Kamworor has just been named on the Kenyan squad and is going after the three-peat, while his compatriot Joyciline Jepkosgei is heading up the women’s team. She will have fond memories of the Spanish city – in October last year she set a 1:04:51 half marathon world record on the streets of Valencia. 

Looking at the course, we’re very tempted to enter the mass race ourselves 😍.

Pick’n’Mix

As decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton illustrated in 2014 when he took on the 400m hurdles, non-outdoor championship years allow athletes to experiment a bit.

Take 400m hurdles world champion Kori Carter, who is moving down to take on just ¼ of her usual distance.

“I think it’s a perfect year to go back to the 100 hurdles,” Carter said in November. “Growing up, I was always a dual hurdler. I think it’s going to help me when I come back to the 400 hurdles to be technically more sound.”

In 2014 triple jump maestro Christian Taylor already made his mark on the 400m scene and according to sprint hurdler Devon Allen “he is just going to run in every meet”. Allen, meanwhile, says he is going to test himself in the decathlon!

We can’t wait to see more unusual and most definitely surprising results as the year progresses.

Year Of The Jumps

Ironically, in a year where Taylor could be branching out of the sandpit, the hashtag he’s been desperate to get trending since 2015, #YearOfTheJumps, could take off with especially the vertical jumps already taking the spotlight early this season.

18-year-old Mondo Duplantis has already reached staggering heights at the Pole Vault Summit in Reno. The US-based Swede cleared a world U20 record of 5.83m (yet to be confirmed following discussion regarding length of pegs used) to take the world lead of world record holder Renaud Lavillenie. Two days later the 31-year-old Frenchman followed suit with a world-leading 5.86m clearance.

Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, Aussie Kurtis Marschall (20) first cleared 5.70m for his outdoor season opener before raising the bar to a PB 5.78m last weekend – the highest vault by an Australian in eight years.

In the women’s high jump, high flyer Maria Lasitskene continues where she left off in 2017. The two-time world champion already cleared 2.00m in Minsk just before Christmas and added another centimetre to her SB this week, while rising star 20-year-old Yuliya Levchenko opened her indoor campaign with a 1.97m indoor PB.

Quite fitting there’s an entire day dedicated to the high jump finals in Birmingham on 1st March, don’t we think?

The Future Starts Here

Tampere, Finland is hosting the IAAF World U20 Championships on 10-15th July and as we learnt, the 2016 edition of the champs in Bydgoszcz provided quite the springboard for many athletes transitioning to the senior ranks in 2017.

US sprinter Noah Lyles took U20 gold in the 100m and 4x100m in Poland and went on to win the 2017 Diamond League crown over 200m in Brussels.

This season’s (above mentioned) early high fliers Duplantis (5.45m) and Marschall (5.55m) won pole vault bronze and silver respectively, while Robeilys Peinado took pole vault silver in Bydgoszcz (4.40m) before winning a historic bronze (4.65m AR) for Venezuela at last year’s world champs in London.

If there’s one thing the IAAF World U18 Championships in Nairobi last year taught us, just because it’s an age-group champs, it doesn’t mean the stadium won’t be absolutely packed with enthusiastic fans.

Over to you, people of Tampere.

Smells Like Team Spirit

With the Football World Cup taking place in the summer, everyone will already be in team-mode. We’ll continue the trend later in the year as the IAAF Continental Cup returns for its 13th edition (third in Continental Cup format, previously IAAF World Cup).

For those not too familiar with the event, imagine Ryder Cup, but with four teams representing continental groups Africa, Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. Each team enters two competitors per discipline, whose combined result will make up the score – 8 for the winners, 6 for second place, 4 for third and 2 for fourth. 

Team captains will for the first time also play an active role. Nezha Bidouane will take charge for team Africa, Mike Powell will resume captaincy for the Americas, Jana Pittman for Asia-Pacific, while Colin Jackson will take the driver seat for Europe. As well as supporting their team, the captains can nominate two ‘jokers’ each day, who will gain double points, if they win. 

In 2014 at the last edition in Marrakech, Team Europe took the overall win, but we think there could be a change at the top come 8-9th September.

Teams will also come into play at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Taicang on 5-6th May. Hosts China are a hot favourite on the women’s side, but as we have seen in the past, late disqualifications and other misfortunes can shake things up even metres before the finish line.

The Ultimate Men

Last year the shot put saw seven men throw the 7.26kg iron ball beyond the 22 metre mark. Americans Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs broke into the top 10 of the global all-time lists (7th and 9th respectively) and Crouser told us he thinks both him and Kovacs “could break the world record”. With this much depth, we can only imagine the distances these guys will push each other to.

Oh, did we mention Kiwi world champion Tom Walsh recently defeated UFC fighter Wanderlei Silva in the Japanese game show “Who is the Ultimate Man?” As if we needed any more confirmation that athletes are the most versatile sportspeople on the planet 😆.

More Continental Competition

If you thought all of the above wasn’t quite enough already, don’t worry, there’s more. Various continental championships as well as the Commonwealth and Pan American Games will be taking place between March and September, so anyone calling 2018 an’off-year’ needs to take a good look at themselves 🤓.