Welcome to this week’s sports column. The Rio Olympics may be over and we are all crying into our beer because of it, but life (and sport) goes on – plus the Paralympics are just around the corner.
So, in addition to my last few Rio highlights, we also have stories from cricket, football, indoor netball (Nets), netball, rugby union and tennis.
As regards Rio highlights, for me it’s the hockey, first and foremost. I was pacing up and down the room for most of the second half of the final and watching through my fingers for the penalty shoot out. Maddie Hinch! What guts, what calm, what a player.
Nicola Adams also is on my list. Wish she’d stop doing that thing running her hand through her hair, but a great performance from a great champion – and an amazing role model.
I’m going to come back to Simone Biles again and again, because she was so stunning.
Also Jade Jones. Taekwondo is a bizarre sport I’m never actually going to understand, but I know that Jade Jones is flipping good at it. And good on Bianca Walkden for overcoming the disappointment of her semi-final to take a bronze.
From a political point of view there is a case for saying the Olympics should never have been awarded to Rio – the levels of poverty, the money spent on venues that may or may not be redundant in the coming years, and all of the problems leading up to the Games – it’s a wonder they ever took place at all. But as a spectacle it was excellent – not sure if I’ll ever get over that green pool though……
On to other sports news..
In cricket, the inaugural Kia Super League has come and gone. By and large it was a success, but far too short.
Finals Day took place on Sunday 21 August at Chelmsford. As described last week, it was a slightly strange format in that only the top three teams qualified. The second and third place teams played each other in a “semi-final” for the right to meet the Vipers, who finished top of the league, in the final.
Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning
Lightning 124/7 (20 overs)
Storm 128/5 (19.3 overs)
Storm won by 5 wickets
Lightning never looked to have enough runs on the board as they struggled to post a paltry 124 off their 20 overs. Ellyse Perry made a sparkling 64 (she was just coming into form as the tournament ended), but there were no other significant batting contributions. The Storm bowling was tight with Stafanie Taylor the pick of the bowlers taking 3/31 off her four overs.
In the end it was tighter than it should have been as the Storm didn’t chase too hard to reach their target. Taylor again took the lead with 34, then Heather Knight with 52 and Fran Wilson broke the back of it. There were a few nervous moments when Lizelle Lee (0) and Knight were out in the space of three balls, but really the result was never in doubt.
Southern Vipers v Western Storm
Western Storm 140/5 (20 overs)
Vipers (143/3 18.5 overs)
Vipers won by seven wickets
The final followed a similar format to that of the semi. The Vipers won the toss and inserted the Storm. Although they posted 140, there was a general feeling that this would not be enough. Taylor scored 35 and Rachel Priest 57, but Knight was out for only six, and this was, in the end, the key wicket. Fran Wilson chipped in again with an unbeaten 16. Arran Brindle, looking rejuvenated in this tournament, took 2/15 off her four and Suzie Bates 2/37.
The Vipers never seemed phase by their chase. Bates and Charlotte Edwards put on an opening partnership of 78 with Georgia Adams, Sara McGlashan and Lydia Greenway all contributing as they won with seven balls to spare.
In the end the title went to the best, most consistent team. They were favourites before the competition started and never looked like being bested.
In other cricket news, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has voted to increase the daily allowance of the Indian women’s team to be in line with the men’s. They will now receive $125 per day on international tours and $100 during a home series.
In tennis, Laura Robson is through to the third and last round of qualifying for the US Open. World number 247, Robson, beat Su Jeong Jang of Korea 6-3 6-2 in round one and world number 142 Isabella Shinikova of Bulgaria in round two 6-4 6-4. She will now face Tatjana Maria from Germany for a place in the first round.
Tara Moore lost in second qualifying match to Germany’s Antonia Lottner 1-6 6-3 6-2, after beating Tereza Mrdeza 6-4 6-1 in the first.
No such travails for Johanna Konta who is seeded 13 in the US Open main draw, her highest seeding to date. Top seed is Serena Williams.
The last grand slam of the year starts on Monday 29 August.
I don’t mind admitting that I am a complete newcomer to the world of indoor netball, otherwise known as “Nets”. Many of you will know I have been writing a four-part history of netball for the WiSP Sports and as I was researching the final part – netball in the 21st century, I came across the phenomenon that is Nets.
And, as it happens the Nets World Cup is taking place in New Zealand as we speak! There is so much going on and so many categories that I haven’t got time or space to go into detail. So can I suggest you check out the World Indoor Netball Association’s (WINA) Facebook page for all the details: https://www.facebook.com/worldindoornetballassociation/. (It’s safe to say that Australia and New Zealand will win everything).
The first ever (traditional) Netball Quad series begins at the end of the month and will be televised on Sky Sports.
The four teams involved are England, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and it will be held in Australia and New Zealand.
Four of the games will be shown on Sky’s new channel, Sky Sports Mix. Part of Mix’s remit is to show more women’s sport, so watch this space to see if they come through with this promise.
Saturday 27 August
0400-0600: Live – Australia v South Africa (Sky Sports 3)
0600-0800: Live – England v New Zealand (Sky Sports 3)
Wednesday 31 August
0800-1030: Live – South Africa v New Zealand (Sky Sports Mix)
1100-1300: Live – England v Australia (Sky Sports Mix)
Sunday 4 September
0430-0630: Live – England v South Africa (Sky Sports Mix)
0630-0830: Live – New Zealand v Australia (Sky Sports Mix)
England Women U20 39-12 Canada Women U20
In the second of this three-match series in Nottingham, England ran in seven tries to emerge victorious again and give them an unassailable lead in the series.
They were 22-5 up at the break through a hat-trick of tries from Abi Dow and a fourth from Sally Stott. Zoe Harrison kicked one conversion.
Kasselle Menin scored Canada’s only points of the half.
In the second half Poppy Leitch went over again for England and Dow scored her fourth. Sarah Bern scored England’s seventh try with Lagilagi Tuima kicking a conversion to seal a convincing win.
Jordyn Orlando scored a consolation try for Canada.
In football, US goalkeeper, Hope Solo has been suspended from international football for six months as a result of her outburst after the States’ defeat to Sweden in the quarter-finals of the Olympic football tournament.
She called the Swedes a “bunch of cowards” and that the better side did not win on the day. US Soccer President, Sunil Gulati called the comments “unacceptable”.
In reality Solo will only miss two games against Thailand and Netherlands in September, although it is possible more matches will be scheduled. She will be eligible for selection again in February 2017.
And finally, Ryan Lochte’s punishment for “exaggerating” the mugging incident in Rio is apparently to be chosen to be on Dancing with the Stars (the US version of strictly Come Dancing). This is a somewhat different punishment from the six months ban handed out to Hope Solo. Some have made this a sexist issue, but actually I feel it may be the respective governing bodies that may be at the heart of it.
USA Swimming released a statement:
“The last five days have been difficult for our USA Swimming and United States Olympic families. While we are thankful our athletes are safe, we do not condone the lapse in judgement and conduct that led us to this point. It is not representative of what is expected as Olympians, as Americans, as swimmers and as individuals.
“That this is drawing attention away from Team USA’s incredible accomplishments in the water and by other athletes across the Olympic Games is upsetting. The athletes and their remarkable stories should be the focus.
“We’re extremely thankful of the support and efforts from the USOC, Department of State and U.S. Consulate General throughout this process. USA Swimming will undergo a thorough review of the incident and determine any further actions, per our Code of Conduct.”
So they’re certainly not in any hurry to dole out sanction, unlike US Soccer, who were very quick off the mark. Mind you, Hope Solo has form…..
So although I’m usually the first to shout “Sexist foul!”, on this occasion I may just think twice.
No column for the next couple of weeks as I am away, but will hopefully be back on 16 September.