Welcome to this week’s column. Apologies for there being no column last week, but I’m back with a vengeance this week with stories from cricket, football, swimming, winter sports, rugby, tennis, boxing, golf, hockey and cycling. Plus back to one of my hobby horses for “And finally”, but unfortunately it has to be said (again).
So let’s crack on.
Although I missed the chance to feature Rachael last week, I couldn’t let the chance go by to pay tribute to a true pioneer of women’s cricket. Every cliché has been said, broadcast and printed over the last couple of weeks, but in this case you cannot help but say “trailblazer”, “pioneer”, “innovator” etc.
There isn’t space to do her justice here, but to capture the highlights of a fabulous career:
England Cricket Captain 1966- 1978
Played in the first ever women’s test match at Lords v Australia in 1976
22 Test matches
23 One-day internationals
Inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2010
First woman to go onto MCC committee in 2004 and the ECB Board
This was just the cricket. She also was devoted to Wolverhampton Wanderers, including time as vice-president and the city of Wolverhampton, including being president of.
She was awarded an MBE in 1972, OBE in 2008 and made a life peer in 2011.
I think we can safely say women’s cricket wouldn’t be where it is today without her.
Muirfield will take another vote on allowing women members after the first one fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the move.
The result is expected some time in March. The R&A has indicated that the course will be unable to stage another Open Championship until its policy is reversed.
World Hockey League
Ireland have won the first section of Round Two of the World Hockey League in Kuala Lumpur.
They beat Malaysia 3-0 in the final on Sunday.
Anna O’Flanagan, Katie Mullan and Zoe Wilson were the goalscorers.
They had beaten Wales in the semi-finals.
The next section of round 2 takes place in Valencia from 4-12 February.
England played two friendlies in Spain this week.
England 0-1 Norway
England lost their first match of 2017 and in doing so their 10-match unbeaten run came to an end.
Ada Hegerberg scored the only goal of the game half way through the first half, heading home from a cross from her sister, Andrine.
England did have chances to equalise with both Fara Williams and Lucy Bronze shooting over and a shot from Steph Houghton cleared off the line.
England also had a claim for a penalty, after Ellen White appeared to be pushed in the box, but the appeal was dismissed.
England 0-0 Sweden
Siobhan Chamberlain saved a second-half penalty to earn England a draw in Murcia on Tuesday.
Sweden also had the ball in the back of the net in the first-half, but it was ruled out for offside.
It was a game of few chances, and although manager Mark Sampson will be pleased at the clean sheet, he may be concerned at his side’s inability to score in either game.
England’s next fixtures are against France, USA and Germany in the She Believes Cup in March.
There was a big announcement in Indian football this week. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has launched a six-team women’s league. It is small steps indeed, as the league will take place over two weeks and all games will be played at the Ambedkar Stadium in Dehli.
The project has taken two years to come to fruition and the teams taking part are FC Alakhpura, Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC, Aizawl FC, FC Pune City, Rising Student Club and Eastern Sporting Union.
There will be a round robin stage with the top four going into semi-finals.
The first game takes place on 28 January.
As I say, it may seem small steps to us, but in terms of the development of women’s football in India, this is a giant stride. Watch this space for results and more news as the tournament progresses.
National Football Museum
The National Football Museum in Manchester has been given a grant to maintain and enlarge its collection of women’s football memorabilia.
Interim director of the museum, Kevin Haygarth, said,
“We’re delighted this grant will help us significantly document the history of one of the world’s most participated sports – women’s football.
“The museum has always told the story of the women’s game throughout its main galleries and Hall Of Fame, but we’re grateful and excited by the opportunity to create a dedicated gallery where we can finally piece together the lost history of women’s football.”
The Australian Open final is going to be a stunner. It will be between Serena and Venus Williams. It is Venus’s first major final since 2009 and Serena is going for her 23rd grand slam so it is bound to be well fought.
Venus, seeded 13. Beat fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-7 6-2 6-2 in her semi-final while Serena had far too much for the unseeded Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2 6-1.
Johanna Konta came up against Serena in the quarter-final. This was the first time the two had met. Konta was in a prodigious run of form and had not lost a set during the championships. But she could not live with Williams and was beaten 6-2 6-3.
With the men’s final possibly heading for a Federer v Nadal showdown, we seem to have gone back in time!
The women’s doubles title was won by second seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Šafářová. They beat Andrea Hlaváčková and Peng Shuai in three sets 6-7 6-3 6-3. This is their second grand slam win in a row.
You can’t keep a phenomenal skier down.
Lindsey Vonn claimed her first win in almost a year this week when she won the downhill at Garmisch, Germany on Saturday.
She beat Swiss skier, Lara Gut, by 0.15 seconds. The win was Vonn’s 77th World Cup race win.
It was a great start to competition for Britain at the World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Italy as Britain’s Millie Knight and guide Brett Wild won downhill gold in a time of 13.42 seconds.
The 18-year old beat five time champion Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia into second.
Knight’s run was not without its moments though, as she hit the barrier at the end and became stuck under it. She was treated by doctors after she complained of feeling dizzy and sick afterwards.
In the same event Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jennifer Kehoe finished fifth.
It was bad news for Paralympic champion Kelly Gallagher, though, as she misses the event after crashing in training. She suffered a dislocated elbow and three fractured ribs in the accident. She was testing the championship course, and although she landed her jump correctly, she then slid into the barrier net which caused the injury.
The Championships take place from 25-31 January and 130 skiers from 30 countries are taking part.
Britain’s Charlotte Gilmartin took 500m bronze at the European Short Track Championships in Turin this week. She did not qualify for the 1500m final but recovered well to finish third in the shorter distance with a time of 44.074 seconds. Gold went to Rianne de Vries of Holland and Italy’s Martina Valcepina took silver.
The Women’s Big Bash League final will be between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers (as will the men’s final!).
Sydney Sixers 169-6 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 66 all out (14.1 overs)
Sixers won by 103 runs
Alyssa Healy starred with the bat for the Sixers, scoring 77 from 45 balls.
The Hurricanes were never at the races. England captain, Heather Knight, was run out for three and the Hurricanes were bowled out for just 66. Dane van Niekerk was pick of the bowlers with 3 for 15.
Brisbane Heat 124-5 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 125-1 (15.4 overs)
Scorchers won by nine wickets
The Brisbane score was competitive but the Heat didn’t reckon with Elyse Villani. The opener made 52 not out and Nicole Bolton 36 to take the home side to the final.
England fast bowling duo of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole were unable to make a mark in the semi-final, but will hoping to contribute for the Scorchers at the Waca (The Furnace) on Saturday.
The final will be played on Saturday 28 in a double-header with the men’s. Full coverage will be on BT Sport.
Nicola Adams has left the GB Boxing programme to turn professional.
She has signed with promoter Frank Warren and will make her professional debut in Manchester on 8 April. Her second fight will be in Leeds, her home town, on 13 May.
Warren was initially sceptical about the concept of women boxing, but appears to have changed his mind (could it be he knows when he’s on to a good thing?)
In an interview with the BBC he said,
“Of all of all the signings I have made in my 35 years in the sport of boxing, this is among the most I have been excited about.
“I think Nicola will be challenging for world titles within a year. We intend to lead her to become a multiple world champion.”
Ireland’s Katie Taylor has already shown it can be done. Let’s hope Adams can have similar successes.
The Six Nations begins next week. The first round of matches is:
Friday 3 February
Scotland Women v Ireland Women (6.35pm Broadwood Stadium)
Saturday 4 February
Italy Women v Wales Women (3pm Stadio Comunale Pacifico Carotti)
En gland Women v France Women (7.30pm Twickenham)
Check out the squads and match details here: http://www.rbs6nations.com/en/women/#Jas1vHmPQWwEKguy.97
England has named its squad for the Sydney Sevens, the second leg of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, which takes place on 3-4 February. England finished a creditable fourth in the first round in Dubai.
Rachael Woosey and Chantelle Miell make their debut.
The squad is:
- Natasha Brennan, 2. Abbie Brown (C), 3. Alice Richardson-Watmore, 4. Millie Wood, 5. Lauren Cattell, 6. Rachael Woosey, 7. Heather Fisher, 8. Kelly Smith, 9. Fran Matthews, 10. Jo Richardson-Watmore, 11. Katie Mason, 12. Chantelle Miell
They play in pool C and this is the pool schedule (all times GMT):
Friday 3 February
England v Spain, KO 1.30am
England v USA, KO 4.12am
England v Russia, 7.16am
All games are available to see on the World Rugby website
Open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne has announced her retirement this week.
Payne, 29, was a two-time open water world champion and Olympic silver medallist. She represented Great Britain for over 12 years.
The rumblings of discontent with British Cycling and cycling in general, continue. Nicole Cooke, who always speaks her mind, was again in the press this week.
She was giving evidence to a Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday.
She said that she is “sceptical” of Team Sky’s attitude to drug use and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ TUE use.
But this was just one of her points. She also said that British Cycling is run “by men for men”.
The committee was meeting to discuss doping in sport, but that didn’t stop Cooke expressing opinions on other aspects of the governing body’s capabilities.
She gave examples of the sexism she had seen during her career and said that BC shows “discrimination and favouritism” because it is only “answerable to itself”.
She was asked outright whether she though sexism was culturally embedded in British Cycling.
“Yes I do,” she replied.
British Cycling has since released a statement in which it says,
“While there is still a way to go, British Cycling is absolutely committed to resolving the historic gender imbalance in our sport.”
UK Sport has also launched an independent review to look into some of Cooke’s claims.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – sadly, this one will run and run.
I make no apologies for this although I know it’s something I keep banging on about. Serena Williams is about to go for her 23rd grand slam title on Saturday. Her talent, skill and fitness should all be beyond doubt. I have already made a vow to stop reading the comments sections on news site articles, but, unfortunately I slipped and read the ones after the BBC’s report on the Williams v Konta match.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Konta fan, and I would have been happy for her to have won the tie. She has a great future and is improving all the time. But the level of abuse, invective, racism and misogyny levelled at Serena in these comments was appalling.
So many (men) called Serena a man – well I don’t know any men who look like that. But the one that stuck in my mind was (again a man) the description of her as a “monster in a skirt”. Really? Monster?
The comment reminded me of that Facebook comment about Michelle Obama, “chimp in heels”. Both comments totally unwarranted and totally offensive.
I know I’m fighting for a Serena who doesn’t need my help – she’s probably as immune to negative comment as she’s ever going to be right now, but I’m not necessarily speaking on her behalf. I was offended. I was angry that some person had thought it was appropriate to air this view on a public platform.
I think I’m trying to say, if you can’t stop having these thoughts, just spare the rest of us and keep them to yourself.