Welcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get through this week including football, cricket, athletics, tennis, golf, rugby league, netball, transgender rights, sailing and, I’m afraid, another corking “And finally”.
It’s about time that people realised that when it comes to football it’s no use relying on England’s men to come up with the goods (brilliant stuff from Wales, by the way). Last year we cheered, yelled and cried along with the Lionesses as they brought home a bronze medal from the World Cup in USA. Well, this week, Team GB’s deaf women footballers did their thing and won a bronze at the Deaf World Cup in Italy.
It was a tough tournament as when China withdrew at the last minute the format was changed from two groups to just one round-robin first stage.
Each of the six teams played five times in nine days!
The top two played for the gold, while the third and fourth finishers played for bronze.
Team GB had a mixed first stage; they began with at 2-2 draw against Poland, then they beat hosts Italy 5-0, lost 4-0 to USA and beat Turkey 6-0. They needed to beat Russia in the last game to play in the gold medal match. However, Russia scored in the last minute to win the game 1-0 and send GB to the bronze medal match.
They faced Poland again for bronze and this time a draw was never on the cards. They went 1-0 up and held on until five minutes from the end when Ceara Toal from Leicestershire scored a second to secure the medal.
The eventual winners were USA who beat Russia in the final 3-0.
This achievement should not be underestimated. The women had to raise every penny to get to the championships. There was quite a lot of publicity when Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland contributed 5k to help get the women there, but there were hundreds of other people who gave what they could by chucking into collection buckets at the FAWSL (and other ) games.
England’s women cricketers completed a clean sweep over Pakistan on Thursday with a sixth win in a row. They won all of their ODIs comfortably and were equally good in the three T20s. Before the series started I expressed concern at the route new coach Mark Robinson was taking by dispensing with the services of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway. England were also without Sarah Taylor for the whole series.
In my preview for Women’s Sports UK I suggested that if ever England were there for the taking by Pakistan, this would be the time. So from now on I’m going to cease with the punditry and just present the facts! I’ll be writing a suitably chastened review for WSUK which I would encourage you to read but just to point out the records broken in the series:
- Highest ODI total: 378-5 (Lauren Winfield 123, Tammy Beaumont 104, Natalie Sciver 80), 2nd Royal London ODI, Wednesday 22nd June, New Road Worcester
- Highest IT20 total: 187-5 (Tammy Beaumont 84, Lauren Winfield 72), 1st NatWest IT20, Sunday 3rd July, The Brightside Ground, Bristol
- Highest ODI opening partnership: 235 (Lauren Winfield & Tammy Beaumont) 2nd Royal London ODI, Wednesday 22nd June, New Road Worcester
- Highest IT20 opening partnership: 147 (Lauren Winfield & Tammy Beaumont) 1st NatWest IT20, Sunday 3rd July, The Brightside Ground, Bristol
- Heather Knight became the first player in the world (male or female) to take 5 wickets (5-26) and score a half century (50*) in a ODI
- Tammy Beaumont’s 342 run aggregate in the Royal London ODI series was the highest ever in a three-match ODI series (male or female)
In other exciting cricket news, the ICC has applied for women’s cricket to be included in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in South Africa. If it happens, it will be yet another showcase for women’s cricket, so fingers crossed that the ICC will be successful in their application.
ICC Chairman, Shashank Manohar, said
“The Board has taken a strategic decision to support the inclusion of women’s cricket in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as it will enhance the profile of the sport and create additional exposure and experiences for female cricketers, as well as opportunities to engage with the Commonwealth Games on important social justice issues and initiatives.”
He went on to say that the Olympic Games will be another target for women’s cricket and the ICC will be meeting with the IOC later on this year.
The European Athletics Championships have been happening this week in Amsterdam. Dina Asher-Smith claimed a stunning gold on Thursday in the 200m with a season’s best 22.37 seconds.
Tiffany Porter could not defend her title, but took a creditable bronze in the 100m hurdles.
And we have to say all hail Jo Pavey (again). She has just run the Olympic qualifying time for the 10,000m at the age of 42. She finished in fifth in Amsterdam with a season’s best 31 minutes 34 seconds. She will now have to see if she is selected, but it will be a crying shame if she isn’t.
The only sad news to report is that after missing out on the 800m final and picking up an injury, Jenny Meadows has decided to retire.
Not much to cheer about for British women’s tennis at Wimbledon over the last fortnight (so far).
As I suggested in my last column, Angelique Kerber was far too strong for Laura Robson in the first round and she lost 2-6 2-6. It may be some consolation to Robson that Kerber has now reached the final and will play Serena Williams on Saturday 9 July.
More disappointingly, British number two Heather Watson also went out in the first round to Annika Beck 3-6 6-0 12-10, having squandered three match points.
Katie Swan lost in the first round to Timea Babos, 6-2 6-3. She was also playing in the Girls’ singles, but had to retire with a leg injury in the first round.
Naomi Broady was the fourth Briton to go out in the first round, losing 6-2 6-3 to 17th seed, Elina Svitolina.
British number one Johanna Konta went out in the second round, losing to Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, 6-3 1-6 6-1.
Tara Moore had an excellent win over Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in the first round, 6-3 6-2, but succumbed to 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second, 1-6 6-2 3-6.
Most exciting this Wimbledon week is that the championships is, for the first time, including wheelchair singles.
Wheelchair ace (no pun intended) Jordanne Whiley drew fellow Briton and doubles partner Lucy Shuker in the quarter final. She won the match 6-1 6-1 and will now face Aniek van Koot in the semi-final.
The football transfer window closed this week with Notts County Ladies making the most signings. There are mutterings and mumblings about just what is going on at Birmingham City Ladies, which reached a peak a couple of weeks ago when England internationals Jade Moore and Jo Potter revealed they had bought themselves out of their contracts. In very similar statements they expressed a kind of nebulous dissatisfaction with the club – this is Jo Potter’s:
Notts County also signed goalkeeper Lizzie Durack from Harvard University.
England international Natasha Dowie and midfielder Becky Easton have left Doncaster Belles. Easton has decided to retire to concentrate on her studies, while Dowie has not signed elsewhere yet as she is concentrating on recovering from injury.
In excellent news for women’s rugby league this week, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats have become the first Super League side to launch a women’s team.
Wakefield Trinity Ladies will be part of the Women’s Premier League from 2017. Championship sides Featherstone Rovers and Bradford Bulls already have teams, but Wakefield will be the first Super League side. It is a sign of the growth of women’s rugby league, but it is a shame that the ladies will not be playing at Wakefield’s Belle Vue ground, but will be based at local amateur club Sharlston Rovers.
Royal Troon Golf club has left the stone-age and voted “overwhelmingly” to allow women to join as members. In a statement they said that a recent consultation of current membership showed that over three-quarters were in favour of the move. While it is obviously a sound result, it’s probably only at “Two cheers” as E.M. Forster would have it, as it shouldn’t even be an issue in the 21st century.
The new line-up for the 2017 Vitality Netball Superleague has been announced, not without controversy. There will be three new teams; Severn Stars, Scottish Sirens and Wasps Netball. There will, however, be no place for Yorkshire Jets. Apparently the new line-up was published in error on England Netball’s website.
Jets finished bottom of the league last season, without a win to their name, and it is unclear what their future will be. Their captain, Stacey Francis, spoke to Sky Sports:
“It’s really sad and it’s really hard to get your head around.
“I’m a very loyal person and the core of Superleague franchises have been around for a long time now. I envisaged playing for the franchise for as long as I possibly could and absolutely building on last season.
“The performances and the results were poor but at no point did anyone say we were a lost cause in terms of performance, and the debrief at the end of season was incredibly productive and lots of conversations were already happening about how we would move forward next season.”
Let’s hope that the Jets keep their team together and their fanbase expanding. If they do this I can’t see how the Superleague could block their return in 2018.
As I predicted some time ago (and it gives me no pleasure to say this), the next big story in athletics will surround transgender athletes. As we near the Rio Olympics there are going to be more scare stories and general hysteria (word deliberately used) about the issue. I’m not saying that it’s not a serious issue, but the amount of ignorance and misinformation printed or published in the next few weeks will far outweigh any scientifically-based, thoroughly researched and balanced pieces.
Most recently I have seen:
I suggest you all read up on it – the facts not the fiction and make your own decisions. This is such a grey area that needs some sensible discussion. One thing we don’t need is the demonising of transgender athletes, whose lives and decisions, you can guarantee, will be under the microscope to the nth degree before they are allowed to compete at any event.
Sailing update from Abby Ehler:
In sailing this week, Team Magenta 32 competing in the World Match Race Tour were eliminated early in the qualifying series, much to their disappointment. The team has continually been making positive ground in the 2016 circuit, racing against some of the worlds best match racers, and as the Tour’s first all-female team they have have certainly made their mark on the course. Results aside there are many positives to take away from their involvement in this particular circuit including the inspiration provided to others, one supporter wrote in “You have together opened up another door for more women sailors to compete in what is a male dominated arena and you continue to inspire in so many more ways that you can imagine to so many.” The team hope to secure funding to be able to continue their course in the high performance sailing world.
The ‘La Solitaire Bombard Le Figaro’ Race concluded on Thursday 7th July in La Rochelle following 1525 miles of coastal single handed racing split into 4 stages. What makes this race so unique is that is requires the sailors to be excellent short course racers, skilled navigators and weather routers and able to pace themselves to manage the sleep deprivation and hard living conditions, whilst maintaining the boat at sea and above all being competitive and determined to get through all the challenges that this Race entails! There were a total of 39 competitors, 5 of which were women: Justine Mettraux (SUI), Cecile Laguette (FRA), Sophie Faguet (FRA), Claire Pruvot (FRA) and Mary Rook (GBR). Justine Mettraux has finished the event 3rd in the Rookie division, a great achievement in her first attempt at this hardcore race!
And finally, curse of the creepy middle-aged man strikes again! Most of you will now have heard of British men’s player and number 772 in the world, Marcus Willis. He did wondrous things to reach round two of Wimbledon. And behind every great man, so they say, is a great woman – enter girlfriend Jenny Bate. Bate, a dental surgeon by profession, was apparently largely responsible for Willis not giving up on his tennis career when it seemed it was not going anywhere.
Unsurprisingly the BBC and newspapers committed many column inches and footage to the attractive woman. Not too worried about that, although we could have done without a shot of her after every point.
But BBC commentator Andrew Castle just couldn’t help himself,
“It’s a pity my dentist doesn’t look like that,” he snickered like a lecherous schoolboy.
And it’s a pity you don’t realise you’re old enough to be her father, Andrew…..