Spain embarks on a year of challenges in all sports - not just football

Spanish NFL player Alejandro Villanueva.
Spanish NFL player Alejandro Villanueva. / AFP
  • The Winter Olympics without Russia and a new attempt at a marathon record, on the cards for 2018

On the 2018 calendar one date already stands out, marked in red: 14 June, when the football World Cup kicks off in Russia. As everybody knows, this is a huge sporting event but it is by no means the only one to look forward to this year.


The first major sporting event of 2018 began on New Year's Day, with the traditional ski jumping championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. On Saturday, 6 January, the legendary Dakar Rally will begin in Lima, and there will also be two European championships later this month: handball, which begins on the 12th, and indoor football on the 30th. In the middle of the month (15th), Rafa Nadal returns to the tennis courts as world number one in his attempt to win his second Australian Open, and on Sunday 28th Alejandro Villanueva will make history by becoming the first Spaniard to play in the Pro Bowl of the NFL.


The second month of the year begins with a decidedly oval shape, with the VI Nations rugby and the NFL Super Bowl on the first weekend, while five days later the Winter Olympic Games start in Pyeongchang. This event has already gone down in history because Russia has been excluded due to the State doping scandal, although in the end it will not be boycotted by the Kremlin. This could be Spanish skater Javier Fernández's chance to win the only gold medal he lacks so far, the Olympic one. The All Star Game of the NBA will take place on 10th, and the World Track Cycling Championship on 28th will bring the month to a close.


The World Track Athletics Championships begin in Birmingham on 2 March, with the return of Bruno Hortelano a year and a half after the traffic accident that almost cost him his career. He will be hoping for a medal after being unable to compete in London in 2017. A week later, on 9th, the Winter Paralympics Games begin, also in Pyeongchang, and on 18th the World Motorcycling Championships start in Doha with Marc Márquez hoping to make history. On 25th, Formula 1 returns with Fernando Alonso y Carlos Sainz competing. One day earlier, Valencia will be holding its World Half-Marathon.


The Commonwealth Games start on the Gold Coast (Australia)on 4 April, and one day later sees the start of the Augusta Golf Masters with the return of Jon Rahm a year after his debut, and Sergio García 365 days after winning his first grand title. On 22 April the world marathon record could be broken, as Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge is showing every sign of making history in London.


The events scheduled for May this year may be few in number, but they are important. The Tour de Italia begins on 4th, although it is still not known whether Chris Froome, who had confirmed that he would be taking part, will be able to do so. The UCI is due to give its decision soon following his positive reading for salbutamol. Belgrade will be hosting the Final Four of the Euroleague on 18th, in what could be Luka Doncic's farewell to Europe before leaving for the NBA. And on 21 May the next Roland Garros begins, with Nadal hoping to win his 11th title.


The football World Cup starts in a month when a new 3x3 basketball world championship also begins. This will be included as an Olympic sport for the first time in the next Games in Tokyo in 2020.


Wimbledon begins on 2 July this year, and five days later a new Tour de France will start. Without Alberto Contador, who has retired, and while waiting to see what happens with Froome, the world of cycling is looking for a new king. From 14 July Barcelona will be hosting the European Waterpolo Championships for men and women, and at the end of the month no fewer than four world championships will take place: rugby 7, women's grass hockey, Olympic sailing (a classificatory for the Games inTokyo) and badminton, in which Carolina Martín will be battling to win her third title.


On 2 August the European Championships will begin: a multi-sport competition which brings together in the same place the European championships of cycling, swimming, golf, artistic gymnastics, rowing, triathlon and athletics. On 25th this year's Vuelta de España starts, and two days later, on 27th, it will be the US Open, with Nadal defending his crown.


As summer moves towards its end the world volleyball championships begin. Also, from 23rd to 30th the world cycling championships take place in Innsbruck, and on 28th the Ryder Cup starts in France, where the USA will try to maintain its hegemony although it has not won on European soil since 1993.


The only sporting event this month will be the World Artistic Gymnastics in Doha.


This month there are several important events. On 11th the final of the tennis Federation Cup will be played and two weeks later it will be the turn of the Davis Cup. On 18th, Cheste will host the final of the world motorcycling championships and on 25th Formula 1 will come to an end in Abu Dhabi. The World Weightlifting Championship will also take place in Asjabad, Turkmenistan, where Lydia Valentín from Spain will aim to relive the successes of last year. Also on 30 November the European women's handball championships will begin.


To bid farewell to 2018, Mireia Belmonte will be in Hangzhou (China) from 11th for the world short-distance swimming. She has five world records for 25 metres, but she found the last World Championships a bittersweet experience as she was unable to compete due to illness.