Brilliant Belgrade hands baton to Birmingham
After the close of the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade last month, the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 became the next major indoor athletics event in the global calendar. The Serbian capital played host to an unforgettable event at the start of March, with Europe’s best athletes thrilling the crowd over three days of action.
Local hero Ivana Spanovic was perhaps the story of the championships, smashing the Serbian national record to win the long jump title with a leap of 7.24m in front of her home crowd.
Despite facing a strong field, including Britain’s world indoor silver medallist Lorraine Ugen, Spanovic produced a remarkable series of performances with four of her six jumps soaring beyond 7.10m and her winning jump of 7.24m made her the world leading long jumper during the 2017 indoor season.
Britain’s Laura Muir became a household name thanks to her heroics in Belgrade, where she won her first international medal in the 1500m before quickly following it up with an impressive 3000m victory the following day. Muir became only the second woman to achieve the 1500m/3000m double at the European Athletics Indoor Championships, whilst her times at both distances were amongst the fastest in the world this year.
Poland stamped their authority on the championships early on and remained at the top of the medal table at the conclusion of the event on the Sunday evening.
Poland won a remarkable seven gold medals, backed up by one silver and four bronzes to give a total of 12 medals – two more than Great Britain & Northern Ireland in second place.
The poles dominated the male middle distance events with Adam Kszczot winning the 800m and Marcin Lewandowski winning the 1500m. Further success also came in the field with gold medals for Sylwester Bednarek in the high jump , Piotr Lisek in the pole vault and Konrad Bukowiecki in the shot put.
They also dominated the relay events to finish the championships on a high with victories in both the men’s and women’s 4x400m relays.
It was also a successful championships for Great Britain. On top of Laura Muir’s performances there were gold medals for Richard Kilty, who retained his 60m title, world leading hurdler Andrew Pozzi in the 60m hurdles and Asha Philip in the women’s 60m.
One of the breakthrough acts of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Nafissatou Thiam, continued where she left off as she took the pentathlon title in a world leading score of 4870.
In fact, there were a number of other world leading marks set across the championships. In the women’s field events there was a high jump world lead and Lithuanian national record for Airine Palsyte, another world lead in the women’s pole vault for Ekaterina Stefanidi of Greece and also for Bukowiecki in the shot put.
Many of the stars of Belgrade will feature in the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018. Pavel Maslak, who won his third European indoor title in the 400m in Belgrade, and Anita Marton of Hungary, the European Indoor shot put champion, have already secured their place in Birmingham with a ‘wild card’ by virtue of winning their events during this year’s IAAF World Indoor Tour.