Welcome to this week’s column. I’d like to thank you all for your responses to last week’s edition – very kind. After the thousands of words last week, this one will be a bit shorter!
This week I have another “highs and lows” of the Olympics, plus stories from cricket, rugby union and sailing from Abby Ehler.
Hockey. Seven from seven as we speak with the gold medal match against Netherlands to come. So, guaranteed silver. But, as you watch them you think they really wouldn’t be satisfied with silver. And you can’t blame them. The semi-final against New Zealand was a stunning performance; New Zealand simply hadn’t got any reply.
The GB team battled, defending incredibly well, but also taking the attack to the black sticks until their opponents crumbled and they realised they were beaten long before the final hooter.
And what strength! And determination? First Crista Cullen was hit in the mouth, followed shortly afterwards by a head injury to Georgie Twigg. But after disappearing for treatment they were back into the fray, no messing, no histrionics.
Helen Richardson-Walsh took the penalty stroke that sealed that victory but immediately limped off with a hamstring injury.
Team GB will have to work their socks off and take all their chances to beat a Dutch team going for their third gold in a row. By the time you read this it may be all over, but whatever happens it will be the best performance by a British Olympic women’s hockey team and we can all appreciate that.
Laura Trott. Need I say more? This week Laura became Britain’s most decorated female Olympian as she claimed gold in the omnium to add to the team sprint gold she won with Jo Rowsell-Shand, Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald last week. This took her medal total to four, all gold.
But it was in the omnium that she showed her complete domination of the field. She finished second in the first event, the scratch race and then won the individual pursuit and elimination race to end the first day’s races with an eight –point lead over Belgian Jolien D’Hoore, with American Sarah Hammer in third.
On the second day she was second in the time trial and then won the flying lap. By the time she was into the points race she had a lead of 24 points.
Her opponents were unable to close the gap at all and she ended on 230 points, with Sarah Hammer in second on 206.
She’s an inspiration and a role model and if this doesn’t encourage thousands of youngsters to get on their bikes, then I don’t know what will.
Sophie Hitchon won bronze in the hammer. This is the first time a British woman has won a medal of any colour in this event. She also took the British record with her final throw to move from fifth to third with a distance of 74.54m.
Simone Biles (again). Please overlook, if you can, all of those headlines screaming “she is human” when she took a mere bronze in the beam when she wobbled and put her hands on the apparatus. Actually, Sanne Wevers’ gold medal routine was, in fact, stunning and the win well deserved. Of course she’s human! But Biles recovered and came back to claim her fourth gold medal on the floor. An amazing athlete with the potential to do it all again in four years.
There have been plenty of instances of sexist commentary and derogatory remarks about female athletes this week. They have been well-documented elsewhere. But here are a couple of my “favourites”.
Inverdale v Murray
Everyone’s number one choice must be John Inverdale. There is a theory out there that people are out to get him, but if he didn’t keep making these gaffes they wouldn’t have any fuel for the fire, would they?
Anyway, he starred this week in an interview with gold medal winning Andy Murray. When he said to Murray,
“You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals. That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?”
Murray returned with,
“Well, to defend the singles title … I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each but hadn’t defended a singles title before.”
It appears that Inverdale had completely forgotten the Williams sisters!
Some have rushed to his defence, claiming that he was talking about singles, but it’s not that clear. After all, Inverdale has form – remember Marion Bartoli?
Nothando Vilakazi, defender in the South African women’s football team, came in for some disgusting trolling on social media just because she appeared to put her hands over her crotch when she was standing in a defensive wall. This led to such gems as:
“That ain’t no woman!”
“That’s 100% a bloke!
“The look when you forgot to pretend you don’t have balls”
“That’s a boy not a girl – how did they get away with that?”
(all responses from men, by the way).
Vilakazi played for South Africa at London 2012 and plays domestically for Palace Super Falcons. Don’t know about you, but I’m sick of this kind of comment.
Away from the Olympics, the Kia Super League finalists have been decided. The remaining results were as follows:
Friday 12 August
Loughborough Lightning 168/6 (20 Overs)
Surrey Stars 134 all out (19.5 overs)
Lightning won by 34 runs
Southern Vipers 137/3 (20 overs)
Western Storm 140/2 (17.5 overs)
Storm won by 8 wickets
Yorkshire Diamonds 166/6 (20 overs)
Lancashire Thunder 71 all out (15 overs)
Diamonds won by 95 runs
Sunday 14 August
Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Southern Vipers 156/4 (20 overs)
Loughborough Lightning 97 all out (18.5 overs)
Vipers won by 59 runs
Yorkshire Diamonds 118 (20 overs)
Western Storm 119/4 (16.3 overs)
Storm won by 6 wickets
The final table looked like this:
Clear favourites must be the Vipers, as they were before the tournament started. But who can say – it will be very much up to who performs on the day.
It has been an excellent first tournament and hopefully it will go from strength to strength next year, particularly when the 50 over competition is introduced.
Finals day is on Sunday 21 August at Chelmsford. It is different from the format of the T20 Blast in that has only three contenders. In the semi-final Lightning will play Storm and the winner of this goes on to play the Vipers who finished top of the group.
BBC Test Match Special is covering finals day on 5Live Sports Extra. The programme begins at 10.45am with the semi-final starting at 11am.
In other cricket news, there was a big announcement from New Zealand Cricket this week. It will be offering 15 retainer contracts to its squad (rising from 10) and pay will range between $20,000 and $34,000. The current rate is $10,000 – $12,000. Match fees will be $400 for an ODI and $300 for T20s.
They have signed a new three-year Memorandum of Understanding with the New Zealand Cricket Players Association to this effect.
NZC Chief Executive, David White, said,
“Better remunerating our best women’s players fits in well with NZC’s strategic priority of making cricket a game for all New Zealanders, and our commitment towards inclusivity and diversity. Internationally, women’s cricket is going from strength to strength and this new MoU recognises that evolution.”
The first contracts to be allotted will be announced on 19 August. New Zealand face South Africa away in October, then play a series at home against Pakistan. They then play Australia home and away.
The England Under-20s rugby team are playing a series against Canada in Nottingham over the next couple of weeks.
The first game took place on Thursday 18.
England 46 – 8 Canada
The England U20 scored eight tries in the first of this three-match series in Nottingham.
Jess Breach (3), Kelly Smith, Lottie Holland, Millie Wood, Sarah Bern and Chantelle Miell. Zoe Harrison kicked two conversions and Langi Tuima, one.
Taejah Thompson one penalty, Zana Everett one try.
Understandably, England U20 Head Coach Jo Yapp was happy as she told the England Rugby website,
“We are really pleased with the performance, the girls worked really hard to put into practice what we have been working on in this summer camp.
“It was great to see new players such as Lagi, Hollie and Ellie winning their first U20 caps. We now focus on the next game as we know Canada is a strong side and we are expecting them to regroup and come hard at us on Monday.”
England Women U20 v Canada Women U20 games at Nottingham Trent College remaining games:
Monday 22 August, KO 5.30pm Friday 26 August, KO 5.30pm
Sailing by Abby Ehler
The Magenta Project took part in a number of activities during last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, including having the privilege of awarding the Ladies Day Trophy to British Paralympian Helen Stodel. The trophy recognises the outstanding contribution, commitment, or achievement of women in sailing. Hannah is a British Paralympic sailor who has represented GB three times in the summer Paralympics and, in September 2016, will compete once again with her team mates John Robertson and Steve Thomas representing GB at the Paralympics, having campaigned tirelessly for selection winning the Para World Sailing Championships in Melbourne along the way. Hannah is a wonderful ambassador for both women in sailing and disabled sailing. When she’s not Sonar sailing she also lends her skills as a coach and tactician to The Sirens, a privately funded female yacht racing team dedicated to building a presence on the club circuit as a competitively focused all female team.
Another highlight of the week was taking girls from the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation out on the M32 high performance catamaran. The girls selected, all aged 16-18 years were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to climb on board with world-class and ocean racing sailors: Abby Ehler, Annie Lush, Sam Davies and Cecile Laguette for a 3 hour sail during the Slingsby Gin Ladies Day at the famous Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight.
Annie Lush said on return to shore: “It was such an amazing opportunity for us to sail with these wonderful girls and see them rise to the challenge of handling the super-fast M32. They are an inspiration themselves.”
All in all Cowes Week was a huge springboard to promote the goals of the Magenta project and its aims to raise the profile of women in professional sailing and inspiring the younger generation to follow.
This week in Rye, New York, the International Women’s Keelboat Regatta is taking place following a 3 year gap in the event due to lack of sponsorship.
Twenty-four teams from around the world will be invited to compete, with the intention of an even ratio of North American and intercontinental teams. – See more at: http://www.ussailing.org/racing/championships/adult/iwkc/#sthash.NzBn5TFH.dpuf
And finally, women in sport have enough trouble justifying their existence without other women chipping in. When Sweden beat USA in the Olympics football quarter-final, USA goalkeeper, Hope Solo, called their opponents a “bunch of cowards”, adding “the best team did not win today.”
It may have been said in the heat of the moment, but Solo is old enough to know better. Some of her team-mates have distanced themselves from the comments and Solo herself has now had second thoughts. Later she tweeted,
“Losing sucks. I’m really bad at it.”
Yes Hope, you are.
Sweden will be hoping their cowardice will take them through one more game when they face Germany in the Olympic final on Friday 19 August.