At SPIKES we love indoor athletics, and we're not alone. A runner, a jumper and a thrower, each medal winners at the 2014 World Indoor Championships, tell us just why there's nothing like treading the boards in the great indoors.
The intimate nature of indoor athletics lends itself to a cracking atmosphere, according to Kiwi shot put ace Tom Walsh, who hurled the 7.26kg metal ball out to a mighty PB 21.26m to win bronze at the 2014 World Indoor Championships. It was his first major indoor appearance.
“Outdoors you often feel just a section of the crowd are watching you,” he says. “Because the crowd are much closer to the action at an indoor meet, it seems as if everyone is watching the competition. It is pretty cool to know a full stadium is watching you. It is a real buzz.”
Reigning European indoor champion and 2014 world indoor bronze medallist Michel Torneus has proven a masterful indoor performer. The Swedish long jumper also revels in the unique atmosphere.
“You feel the closeness of the fans as an athlete,” he explains. “I especially love it in Stockholm because the stadium [Ericsson Globe] is so cool. It looks like a giant golf ball. The stands look like they go up to the roof and when people clap it seems so loud.”
Torneus also recalls fondly of competing at the 2013 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg, where he won a silver medal. “I remember my first jump [a then Swedish record of 8.27m],” he says. “I stood there at the end of the runway and it was totally silent for two seconds. Then when I started to clap and everyone joined in. I felt goose bumps. It was amazing.”
In Sopot, Walsh instantly recognised the benefit of indoor competition from a fan perspective.
“If you are sitting at one end of the stadium watching the shot put you can easily see the high jump down the other end,” he explains. “It is sometimes very hard in an outdoor stadium to see, say, the discus and then the high jump at the other end of the stadium. If you buy a ticket for an indoor event it is far better for fans because you don’t have to buy a ticket specifically at the end the field event takes place.”
Favours the brave
World indoor 800m champion Chanelle Price produced one of the moment’s of the 2014 championships with her ‘gun to glory’ success. The gutsy American – who last year paced Genzebe Dibaba's 1500m mile world record – showed no mercy on her opponents, running them off their feet. Price believes the four-lap set up of the indoor 800m (as opposed to two laps outdoors) favours her tactical approach.
“Indoor suits my ‘catch me if you can-style’,” admits Price. “There is not as much room on an indoor track, so that works to my advantage.”
She also finds four-short laps of 200m rather than two larger 400m laps psychologically more palatable.
“It is maybe easier for me to break down,” adds Price, who watches her 2014 success at least once a week for motivation. We would too!
Relaxed for rhythm
Competing indoors requires a different skill set to running on the rock hard Mondo tracks commonplace on outdoor tracks. Indoor runways tend to be more ‘bouncy’ and can differ quite markedly from meet to meet. Super Swede Torneus has a simple approach to combating any nuances he might encounter.
“There is a different technique to running outdoors. To find my rhythm, I try and stay super-relaxed,” he adds. “I remember the first time I jumped in Stockholm, I was so pumped I used up everything on my way to the board and fell three metres short. I have learned to stay relaxed on the track and use the force of the surface to allow my legs to spring off it.”
It clearly works. Torneus has snagged three major indoor medals, and his indoor PB and national record 8.30m exceeds his outdoor by eight centimetres.
"Maybe had I competed in white socks I would have won gold" – Michel Torneus
Both Price and Torneus were exposed to indoor athletics growing up. Price was raised in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania on America’s east coast where “indoor track is very big”. She first recalls competing on the boards aged just 11 at the iconic Madison Square Garden.
Since then she has appeared in dozens of indoor events and adds: “We took indoor very seriously growing up and I think that is why I have a passion for it now. The Armory track is my favourite. I still like going back there today where there is a board up with my name still on it as high school 500m record holder.”
Scandinavian Torneus is also accustomed to the great indoors. “I’m very used to the indoor conditions from September or October through to May, as during this time it is too cold to train outdoors,” he adds.
No wind, rain or snow
Indoor athletics removes some of the elements of chance out of the contest. With no wind gauge in sight and rain never a factor, some athletes excel in the conditions. It's perfect for someone like Price. “With no wind and as I like to run from the front, that is definitely an advantage,” she says.