I’m back. And not a moment too soon, by the looks of it. So much to go through, both good and bad.
This week’s stories come from snowboarding, cycling, tennis, rugby union, cricket, football, sailing, netball and Formula 1.
Let’s start with the worst –Swiss snowboard champion, 21-year old Estelle Balet, was killed this week in an avalanche. She had been filming above Orsieres, a village in the Swiss Alps when the accident happened.
In 2015 Balet became the youngest champion of the Freeride World Tour. She won it again earlier this year.
Bad news for cyclist Jess Varnish this week as she has been dropped from British Cycling’s Olympic progamme.
She and Victoria Pendleton broke the team sprint world record in qualifying at London 2012, but now it appears her track career could be over.
Varnish had been critical of governing body, British Cycling:
“We have been basically playing catch-up for two years after decisions that were [made] above us, and bad luck.”
But she and Katy Marchant finished only fifth in the World Championships last month and Varnish has failed to qualify for Rio.
Performance Director of British Cycling, Shane Sutton insists that the decision not to renew her contract was made purely on performance grounds and has nothing to do with her criticism of the governing body.
“Since her gold medal at the London World Cup in 2012, Jess had not made the necessary gains in performance compared to the rest of the world,” he said.
Bad news also for British tennis this week as Laura Robson lost in qualifying for the WTA event in Stuttgart. Robson won her first qualifier against Klara Koukalova, but lost to Oceane Dodin, 6-2 6-2 in the second. Robson will use her protected ranking of 58 to enter the French Open in May.
British number one and world 22, Johanna Konta, lost in the first round proper of the same event. She lost in straight sets 6-3 6-3 to Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam.
Great news from rugby union this week as England beat New Zealand to win the fourth World Sevens Series event in Canada on 18 April. England have been getting better throughout the tournament and although Australia have won the first three events of the series, England were obviously determined not to see them win a fourth.
They beat Australia in the semi-finals and went on to beat New Zealand 31-14 in the final to claim the win.
Australia look to have an unassailable lead overall with one event to go. They stand on 76 points, with New Zealand in second on 64 and England a further 16 points behind on 48. Even if New Zealand win the last event, Australia would have to finish eighth or lower not to win the title.
The final tournament takes place in France, in Clermont-Ferrand, on 28-29 May.
The second tranche (one should never turn down the chance to use the word “tranche”) of Kia Super League signings has been announced. The overseas signings are as follows:
Lancashire Thunder: Deandra Dottin (WI), Sarah Coyte (AUS), Hayley Matthews (WI)
Loughborough Lightning: Ellyse Perry (AUS), Sophie Devine (NZ), Dane van Niekerk (SA)
Southern Vipers: Suzie Bates (NZ), Sara McGlashan (NZ), Megan Schutt (AUS)
Surrey Stars: Meg Lanning (AUS), Marizanne Kapp (SA), Rene Farrell (AUS)
Western Storm: Stafanie Taylor (WI), Rachel Priest (NZ), Lizelle Lee (SA)
Yorkshire Diamonds: Shabnim Ismail (SA), Beth Mooney (AUS), Alex Blackwell (AUS)
There was some furore as the BCCI (Indian Cricket Board) asked why their top players hadn’t been invited, but the ECB replied that they had and the BCCI hadn’t put anyone forward.
In other domestic cricket news, England international Jenny Gunn has left Nottinghamshire to join Warwickshire. Nottinghamshire were relegated at the end of last season.
The FA Cup semi-finals were played last weekend and produced contrasting matches.
Arsenal 7-0 Sunderland
Both teams ended up with ten players in a one-sided semi-final. Arsenal were down to ten on the 33rd minute when Emma Mitchell was sent off after collecting a second yellow card, but it didn’t seem to impede them.
Danielle van de Donk scored a hat-trick with Dan Carter scoring two and another from Jordan Nobbs.
Sunderland also went down to ten when Abby Holmes was sent off in the 72nd minute for a foul in the box with Fara Williams scoring from the resultant penalty.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (AET)
It was altogether closer in the second semi with very little to choose between two top-class teams.
After a goalless first half, City went ahead through a close-range Jane Ross shot.
Ji So-Yun curled a free-kick in to equalise and the tie went to extra time.
Chelsea seemed to take control in extra time but it wasn’t until the 120th minute that Fran Kirby popped up to snatch victory for the Blues.
The FA Cup final will be at Wembley on 14 May. If you haven’t been to Wembley because you don’t fancy the aggressive atmosphere of a men’s game, may I suggest you give this event a try? I was there last year and it was brilliant. Just being there you feel like you’re a part of women’s footballing history. If you can’t get there, it will be live on the BBC.
In other football news, Doncaster Rovers Belles striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk suffered a broken leg in a friendly game this week and will be out of action for some time.
The latest round of Vitality Netball Superleague games produced the following results:
Celtic Dragons 44-45 Yorkshire Jets
This was the Jets’ first win of the season.
Hertfordshire Mavericks 54-55 Team Bath
Surrey Storm 56-64 Manchester Thunder
The table looks as follows:
Good news from British sailing this week as British sailor Alison Young won gold in the Laser Radial class at the World Championships in Mexico. In doing so she became the first British world champion in a solo Olympic dinghy class.
Young beat America’s Paige Railey by just one point as she won the 13th and final race to claim the title.
After finishing 5th at London 2012, she will be hoping to take confidence from this win to Rio later on this year.
In an interview with Sky Young said,
“There’s still plenty of room for improvement and I know that come the Games there’s going to be seven or eight girls battling it.”
And finally, the prize for complete idiot of the week goes, not for the first time, to head of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone. In an interview at the Advertising Week European conference he said that women drivers would “not be taken seriously” in Formula 1 and that they are not “not physically” able to drive fast. This old, old argument has been disproved so many times I surely don’t have to go into it here, but the main reason that women aren’t taken seriously is because the sport is intrinsically sexist and has a misogynist dinosaur running it.
I, for one, can’t wait until he is ousted from his position and then hopefully women can move forward in Formula 1 as they already are doing in other branches of motorsport.
By the way, in the same interview he also said President Putin “should be running Europe” and expressed his admiration for Donald Trump. Need I say more? I don’t think so…..