Women’s Sports Column 23-29 September 2017

the-ball-stadion-horn-corner-47343Welcome to this week’s column.  You may remember a couple of weeks ago I mentioned rumours of another FAWSL restructure may be in the offing?  Well, it now looks like it’s very much on – and so far few are impressed. See below for details.  The FA is really covering itself in glory at the moment, isn’t it?

Anyway, the column this week also includes news from cricket, rugby union, golf, hockey, speed skating, cycling, some good news from bobsleigh and tennis.  The focus of “And finally” this week is an update on the BBC’s 100 Women project.

Rugby Union

 Three teams remain unbeaten with two bonus point wins each after the second weekend of fixtures in the Premier 15s.  Gloucester-Hartpury Women are top on points difference (33), with Harlequins in second (27) and Richmond in third (24).   The weekend’s results were as follows:

23 September

Worcester Valkyries 10–62 Bristol Ladies
Harlequins 39-18 Firwood Waterloo
Gloucester-Hartpury 26-22 Wasps
Richmond 27-10 DMP Sharks

24 September

Saracens 34-20 Loughborough Lightning

This weekend’s fixtures:

30 September
Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins (12pm Loughborough RFC)
Worcester Valkyries v Saracens (2pm Sixways Stadium)
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol (2.30pm)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Richmond (2.30pm)
DMP Sharks v Wasps (4pm Northern Echo Arena)

Wasps

Meanwhile Wasps have been on a signing spree this week as they welcomed four England players to boost their squad.  Harriet Millar-Mills, Amy Cockayne and Justine Lucas join from luckless Lichfield, while Rochelle Clark makes the transfer from Worcester Valkyries.

It’s a sad situation, although one often found in sport, that if players wish to be considered for their national sides, they have to play at the top level – it’s not enough to excel in a lower division.  Obviously it means they will face more testing opposition week in, week out, but it is still shame that those at a lower level are doomed to be “selling” clubs.

Wasps are without a win so far this season, but this fearsome foursome should make a significant change to the situation.

England

The Old Mutual Wealth Series fixtures were also announced this week.  It will be a triple-header against Canada.

17 November – Allianz Park (7.30pm – game to be streamed live by EnglandRugby.com
21 November – Twickenham Stoop (7.45pm – broadcast to be announced)
25 November – Twickenham Stadium (5.40pm live on Sky Sports – part of double-header with England’s men who play Samoa at 3pm)

Referees

Not strictly women’s sport this one, but women in sport and worthy of inclusion.

Alhambra Nievas and Joy Neville will both referee men’s internationals this year.

Nievas will take charge of Finland v Norway in the Conference 2 on 14 October.  Neville will also officiate at a Norway match, this time against Denmark on 28 October.

Both officials have a wealth of experience; Neville refereed the Women’s Rugby World Cup this summer and is a former Ireland Captain.  Las season she became the first female assistant referee to officiate in a men’s European rugby match.  Nievas is a former Spain international and was the first female official to assist in men’s Test match.

The good news is they are likely to have a much better time of it than football referees as rugby referees are treated with more respect generally.  What the reaction on the terraces will be like is not so certain.

In an interview with the BBC, Nigel Owens, everyone’s favourite referee and arbiter of good sense said,

“It’s great to see a cross-section as men have been refereeing the women’s game for a long time.

“It doesn’t matter about the colour of our skin, whether you’re a man or a woman, your sexuality or religious beliefs. None of that should matter one bit. If you’re good at what you do, then you should have the opportunity to excel at that and referee at the level you deserve.

“These two are getting what they deserve from the hard work they’ve done.”

Golf

The New Zealand Open at Windross Farm Golf Course in Auckland began on 28 September.  After round one, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff of England shared the lead with Brooke Henderson of Canada on -7, after shooting 65s.  Belen Mozo of Spain and Amy Bouldon of England are tied on third, one stroke back with Beatriz Recari (Spain) Na Yeon Choi (South Korea) and Brittany Linicome (USA) a further shot back, tied for fifth on -5.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships – Elite Women’s Road Race

The Women’s Road Race took place on Saturday.  Who can stop the Dutch?  No-one it seems as Chantal Blaak took the title, 28 seconds ahead of Katrin Garfoot of Australia.    Defending champion, Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark, was third.  The Dutch worked so well as a team it was no surprise to see three of them in the top ten.

Top ten finishers:

  1. Chantal Blaak (Ned) 4hrs 06mins 30secs
  2. Katrin Garfoot (Aus) +28secs
  3. Amaile Dideriksen (Den) Same time
  4. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned)
  5. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol)
  6. Christine Majerus (Lux)
  7. Susanne Andersen (Nor)
  8. Anna Van der Breggen (Ned)
  9. Emilia Fahlin (Swe)
  10. Elena Cecchini (Ita)

Of the British team, Hannah Barnes finished 14th, Dani King 20th, Lizzie Deignan 41st, Hayley Simmonds 48th, and Elinor Barker 66th.  Alice Barker and Mel Lowther failed to finish.

Off the Track

This week also saw the installation of a new UCI president.  David Lappartient beat the incumbent, Brian Cookson, 37-8 in the vote.  One of the first things he did was to repeat the commitment that Cookson had made to prioritise the development of women’s cycling.  His emphasis was on the responsibilities of race organisers and broadcasters.

“We have some wonderful classics, some are on live TV; we’re going the right way but we don’t have a strong stage race like the Tour de France.

“Without this kind of race it will be difficult to promote women. Organisers must take care of this, that’s also part of our global responsibility. We need to have races on TV.”

There are still relatively few professional female riders.  Many women combine a day job with their cycling.  Lappartient went on to say,

“They must earn their life with cycling and not just riding for nothing.”

He then announced that the minimum wage for the men would be increased.  Hurrah!  But then he failed to announce that a women’s minimum wage would be introduced.  No, there is no minimum wage at all for women, let alone one to increase.  So, on one hand he would like to ensure that women are not “riding for nothing”, but on the other he has no plans to introduce a wage that would help end this problem.

Hockey

The Investec Women’s Hockey League began its 2017-18 season on 23 September. The first round of results was as follows:

East Grinstead 0-0 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 1-3 Bowdon
Canterbury 2-2 Surbiton
Clifton Robinsons 2-0 Leicester
Slough 3-1 Buckingham

For upcoming fixtures check out the England hockey website here

Tennis

Wuhan Open

Unseeded Ashleigh Barty is having a storming week at the Wuhan Open.  She beat British number one Johanna Konta in the second round 6-0 4-6 7-6, ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the round of 16, 4-6 6-0 6-4 and third seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals 4-6 7-6 7-6.  She now plays eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko who defeated world number one Garbine Muguruza in their quarter-final 1-6 6-3 6-2.

The second semi-final will be between the unseeded Maria Sakkari of Greece and Caroline Garcia of France.

Speed Skating

There are four qualifying events between now and the Pyeongchang Olympics which will decide the speed skating qualifiers.  This weekend sees the first, the Budapest World Cup.

Britain’s Elise Christie will be looking to start strongly.  Results to come in next week’s column.

Football

Signings

Manchester City Women have signed Danish Euros star Nadia Nadim.

She will join the current league champions in January, after finishing the season with her current club, Portland Thorns.

Nadim’s backstory is well known, but bears repeating.

When Nadim was only 12 she fled Afghanistan with her mother and four sisters when her father was executed by the Taliban.  They found refuge in Denmark and she has now played for her new country 74 times.

While she has been playing in the United States she has also been studying at medical school and plans to become a doctor when she hangs up her boots.

West Ham United

It finally looks like West Ham has some serious backing after they announced this week that are likely to bid for a licence to play in the new restructured WSL.

The Ladies’ side was finally integrated into the club in 2016, after a highly public row between the then manager, Julian Dicks, and the women’s club chairman, Stephen Hunt, who accused the parent club of sexism in denying the women’s team the facilities and support they needed to play.

West Ham currently play in the Women’s Premier League Southern Division – women’s football’s third tier.

It will be somewhat of a jump in footballing class for the hammers, but let’s face it, the FA probably won’t be looking at that – they’ll be judging on a financial basis.  If you can afford it, you could be in.

England

England under-19s head coach, Mo Marley is to be appointed as interim manager of the Lionesses.  She brings no lack of experience to the post having captained England as a player, been assistant to Hope Powell during her tenure and having managed Everton Ladies domestically.

Marley will be in charge for the friendly against France in October and the World Cup qualifiers in November against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.

New Super League Structure (Yes, again)

Another day, another “initiative”.  Will someone please save me (and women’s football) from the FA and their constant tinkering?

Their latest restructure, if I read it right, will see a top tier of full-time only clubs for the season 2018-19.

All clubs have to re-apply for places in WSL1 and have until 10 November to submit their applications.  Teams outside WSL1 who wish to apply will do so in March 2018.

The criteria are business-based only: players have to have 16 so-called contact hours per week, rising to 20 hours per week by 2020-21.  The club must have a minimum level of financial investment and also an academy system in place.  They have to conform to Financial Fair Play regulations.

As no-one knows at the moment how many clubs will be able to fulfil the conditions, the FA are saying that the WSL will comprise between eight and 14 teams.

The new second tier, the tier with no name, will have 10-12 clubs and players will be part-time.  Clubs will be required to have a reserve team, but not necessarily an academy.

The WPL regional divisions will be unaffected.

While no-one wants to see a repeat of the Notts County situation, the FA’s concentration on a “stronger commercial model”, according to the FA’s head of women’s leagues and competitions, Katie Brazier, is a soulless approach that could see the women’s game head down the same road as the men’s.

Apparently, “It will provide an elite performance environment that will produce more and better players, increase the interest and excitement via a more competitive league, attract a greater number of fans and in turn deliver improved commercial viability for clubs and the leagues.”

In my cynical way I’m tempted to say – prove it.

Yeovil Town have been the first club to respond to the move with general manager Trevor Jenkins saying that the club will need to raise over £350,000 in order to compete in the new league.  At the moment they are in WSL1 on merit, as it should be.  They have no professionals and no academy.  In a couple of months they are going to have to make major changes if they want their application to be a part of the new WSL to be successful.

We all want the women’s game to be successful and indeed no-one can disagree with the FA’s ultimate aims.  We all want the game to develop and grow and be sustainable.  But the constant uncertainty, the constant shifting of the goalposts (apologies) just brings a feeling of impermanence and the inescapable sense that the FA can’t decide on one clear strategy – and can’t be bothered to sort it.

This is the second week running that I’ve ended the football news with the phrase “women’s football deserves better”.  And it’s the second time I’ve thought it’s not going to get it.

Bobsleigh

Good news and mind-boggling news from the world of bobsleigh this week.  After reporting in the last column that Mica McNeill and her team were going to crowdfund their attempt to get to Pyeongchang I’m happy to confirm that they reached their target on Monday.

Now a second team, piloted by Donna Creighton is bidding to do the same.   You can contribute here: https://makeachamp.com/teamdc.

The BBSA decision to stop funding the women’s teams drew widespread criticism from both inside and outside the sport.

Olympic skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold accused the body of “mismanagement”, adding,

“It’s hard to see talent and hard work go to waste.  Everyone deserves their moment to make their dreams come true.”

Things then moved again when BBSA chief executive Richard Parker resigned from his position. The body then announced that they are now in a position to “partially support” a women’s team in their attempt to reach Pyeongchang.

So they are seriously saying that the chief executive’s salary is going into partially funding a team?

It seems there is still plenty more to come in this story.

Cricket

England’s Ashes squad was announced this week.  Unsurprisingly, it is largely the squad that won the World Cup this summer with the addition of spinner Sophie Ecclestone.  Beth Langston is the unlucky player to miss out.

The squad in full:

Heather Knight (captain, Berkshire), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Sarah Taylor (wk, Sussex), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

There was good news from Cricket Australia this week as they confirmed that the Allan Border Field in Brisbane, the venue for the first ODI on 22 October is already a sell-out.

The fixtures are as follows:

22 October: 1st ODI Allan Border Field, Brisbane
22 October: 2nd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
29 October: 3rd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW

9-12 November: Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, Sydney

17 November: 1st T20 North Sydney Oval, Sydney
19 November: 2ndT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November: 3rdT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra

And finally,

The BBC 100 women list is nearly ready.  There are several women under the #TeamPlay hashtag, concentrating on sexism in sport, including Mithali Raj and Steph Houghton.  For the full list, check out the website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-41380265.

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Women’s Sports Column 16-22 September 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty of news and results again this week.  Stories from rugby, netball, tennis, cycling, golf, football, bobsleigh, and the BBC’s “100 Women” is back and this time has a sports angle – see “And finally” for details.

Here we go.

Unfortunately there’s only one place to start again this week.  I’d already written my piece about the Lionesses’ World Cup qualifier when the news about Mark Sampson broke.  As those who follow this column know, I have tried to be scrupulously fair in covering the situation with nothing proven and the investigation seemingly ongoing.  But this week, and let’s face it, it was coming, Sampson was sacked by the FA when “safeguarding issues” came to light from his time at Bristol Academy.

I’m still not going to go into the finer points here, and I know I’m not unique in saying this, but the FA have to take a long hard look at their systems.  What on earth have they been playing at throughout this whole thing – basically did they really think if they shoved it all in a corner it would all go away?  It was irresponsible at best and downright dangerous at worst.

And although it’s not my place, I can’t help feeling let down by Sampson.  We all invested time, words and faith in him.  As I said last week, I really resent the fact that all the column inches that should be devoted to the actual football, with the start of the new international campaign and the new WSL season, have been turned elsewhere.

I’ll say no more at this time except that women’s football deserves better, but sadly it’s no surprise that this is currently what it gets.

Rugby Union

The first round of Premiership 15s was played last weekend.  The results were as follows:

Saturday 16 October

Loughborough Lightning 46-12 Worcester Valkyries
Firwood Waterloo Ladies 13-22 Saracens
Wasps Ladies 32-38 Harlequins Ladies
DMP Sharks 3-32 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

17 September

Bristol Ladies 24-31 Richmond Women

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Saturday 23 September

Worcester Valkyries v Bristol Ladies – 2pm
Harlequins Ladies v Firwood Waterloo Ladies – 3pm
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Wasps Ladies – 4.30pm
Richmond Women v DMP Sharks – 5pm

Sunday 24 September

Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins Ladies – 12pm

Sevens

England Women under 18s sevens won the Rugby Europe U18 Championship in Vichy France, at the weekend.

After an impeccable group stage beating Wales 27-10, Russia 26-10 and 32-7, they went on to beat the Netherlands in the quarter-final 31-5, scoring five tries in the first half.

In the semi-final they met hosts France and won 17-0.  They crossed the try line three times with their opponents unable to score.

They faced Wales in the final, who had beaten tournament favourites Ireland 15-12 in their quarter-final and Portugal in the semis 28-5.

They won the game 31-0, scoring five tries in the process.

Netball Fast5

The British Fast5 All-Stars event takes place this weekend at the O2 Arena in London.

“Across a five-hour session the eight teams will play in a double elimination format; two wins and the team will advance straight through to the semi finals, two losses will result in being knocked out of the tournament with teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches playing a deciding match for a place in the last four.”

Hope you’re following that.  The teams taking part are Surrey Storm, Hertfordshire Mavericks, Manchester Thunder, Loughborough Lightning, Severn Stars, Wasps Netball, Team Bath and Team Northumbria.

There are big prizes up for grabs:
£25,000 for the winner
£20,000 runner up
£12,500 losing semi-finalists
If you win one game you get £10,000 and there’s even £5,000 for no wins!

So it’s well worth fighting for.

It all starts at 5pm and should be fast (as the name implies), furious and exciting.  If you’re in the area go along – there are tickets still available.  Check out the website for details: http://www.fast5allstars.com/

Goalden Globe Awards

Loughborough Lightning swept the board at the Goalden Globe Awards this week.

Goal shooter Peace Proscovia won Vitality Player of the Season and also Players’ Player of the Season.

Vicki Oyesola was named Young Player of the Season and outgoing Lightning coach Karen Atkinson won Coach of the Season.

The Vitality Netball Super League All Star VII was named as:
GK – Nicole Aiken-Pinnock (Sirens)
GD – Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)
WD – Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
C – Bongiwe Msomi (Wasps)
WA – Liana Leota (Manchester Thunder)
GA – Kathryn Turner (Manchester Thunder)
GS – Peace Proscovia (Loughborough Lightning)

The evening ended with a Special Recognition Award, which went to Sheelagh Redpath.  Redpath has been involved in netball for over 40 years, making a significant contribution to developing the umpiring and officiating of the game.  She was one of the original twelve women inducted into the England Hall of Fame in 2001.

Other Netball News

In other netball news, Hertfordshire Mavericks have re-signed England international Sasha Corbin.  This will be her third spell at the club and she will captain the side during the 2018 Super League season.

Last season Corbin played for Northern Mystics in the New Zealand Premiership.

Also this week, Loughborough Lightning announced that their new Director of Netball will be Anna Carter.  She had previously been the under-21 coach.  Emily Perry is the new Pathway Head Coach and will work with assistant coaches Olivia Murphy and Maggie Birkinshaw.

Football

World Cup Qualifiers

England 6-0 Russia
Prenton Park, Merseyside

In truth it was all too easy for England as they began their World Cup qualifying campaign.  Although Russia had Ksenia Tsybutovich sent off in the first half, the gulf between the two sides was already apparent and the extra player probably wouldn’t have made that much difference.

A crowd of over seven thousand saw Nikita Parris start the scoring on 11 minutes, latching on to an accurate back-heel from Fran Kirby to slip the ball home.  There was a somewhat heartening/uncomfortable (choose your adjective) celebration as Parris beckoned over the team and flung her arms around beleaguered coach Mark Sampson in an obvious show of support.

The Lionesses doubled their lead on 14 through Jodie Taylor.

On the half-hour Tsybutovich was given a second yellow card for handball in the area.  Fran Kirby missed the resultant penalty, scuffing it badly and presenting an easy save for the Russian ‘keeper.

But six minutes later England were three-up when it was Kirby again who provided a pinpoint pass for Jordan Nobbs to score.

The home side were four ahead before half-time with the best goal of the lot, from Lucy Bronze, who made it look painfully easy to volley into the top right corner from outside the box.

In the second-half, unsurprisingly England took their foot off the gas, but to give them their due, Russia also regrouped and fought hard.

Toni Duggan got a brace to make it six.  The first was the result of some fine close passing in the box.  Russia will be disappointed with the sixth, though, which came from a miss-kick from a defender.  Duggan pounced to lash the ball home for her second.

It was an all-round excellent performance from England.  The Russian goalkeeper was also excellent, and prevented the Lionesses from scoring more.  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan and Wales, the other teams in Group 1, will not be looking forward to playing England.

Northern Ireland 0-2 Republic of Ireland

The Republic took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Northern Ireland’s Rachel Furness headed in past her own goalkeeper and into the net.

Megan Campbell scored in the second to seal the win.

Kazakhstan 0-1 Wales

Jess Fishlock scored the only goal of the game to take the points for Wales.  Fishlock starred throughout with two efforts I the first half.

Other international news

It was also announced this week that the Lionesses will play a friendly against France in Valenciennes on 20 October.

Transfers

England defender Laura Bassett has joined Australian W-League side Canberra United.  Bassett had been without a club since Notts County Ladies folded in April.  She took time away to decide what to do, and was clearly affected by what went on at County.  She obviously wanted to try something completely new and she is looking forward to the move:

“It’s out of my comfort zone and something I’ve never done before and it will be a real challenge for me to go overseas.”

Golf

The Evian Championship

After high winds and heavy rain the first round was cancelled and the tournament played over 54 holes.

Moriya Jutanugarn was leading after two rounds, but on the final round Anna Nordqvist carded a five-under par 66 to force a play-off for the title with Brittany Altomare.

Nordqvist took it on the first extra hole, with the weather deteriorating yet again into pouring rain and hail.

  1. Anna Nordqvist -9, 2. Brittany Altomare -9, 3, (tied) Lydia Ko, Katherine Kirk, Moriya Jutanugarn -8.

Solheim Cup

Catriona Matthew will be the European Solheim Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2019.  The event will be held from 13-15 September.

In her time playing Solheim Cup she has won 18 matches and 22 points.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships are going on in Bergen this week.

Women’s Elite Individual Time Trial

Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten took the title just 12 seconds ahead of compatriot Anna van der Breggen.  Australian Katrin Garfoot claimed the bronze.

Van der Breggen had taken an early lead and stayed there until the third intermediate check.  But on the descent van Vleuten gained 16 seconds on the leader.

The riders kept up the same pace to the end with van Vleuten winning the 21.1km race in 28:50.35 at an average speed of 43.8 km/h.

Hannah Barnes was top Briton, finishing in ninth.  Elinor Barker finished in eighteenth.

Women’s Junior Individual Time Trial

Elena Pirrone took gold in the junior event, over a 16.1km course.  She finished six seconds ahead of Alessia Vigilia, also of Italy.  Madeleine Fassnacht of Austria came in third.

Britain’s Pfeiffer Georgi finished in seventh and Lauren Dolan, having crashed and sustained a serious leg injury at the half way stage, carried on to finish twenty-seventh.  She will be unable to compete in the Junior Women’s Road Race and has been replaced by Lauren Murphy.

Women’s Team Time Trial

Similarly it was two teams from the Netherlands battling it out for the Team title.  Team Sunweb (Rivera, Kirchmann, van Dijk, Brand, Mackaij, Stultiens) were the victors, with Boels Dolman (Canuel, van der Breggen,  Blaak, Guarnier, Majerus, Pieters) finishing in silver.

Cervelo-Bigla Pro Cycling Team (Lepisto, Klein, Ludwig, Moolman-Pasio, Koppenburg, Gaumnitz) took bronze.

The Women’s Elite Road Race takes place on Saturday 23 September.  Full television coverage on the BBC.

Bobsleigh

The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BBSA) announced this week that they are to withdraw funding for the women’s team.  The announcement comes just five months before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Apparently they were told there was no more money to fund them because of “an overspend”.

It will, however, continue to fund three men’s teams.

The BBSA issued a statement in which it said,

“The GB Bobsleigh programme is currently focusing resources on winning medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“We are actively seeking commercial funding to further support our world class programme and we will continue to do so.”

The women’s team has already met the Olympic standard, but this is obviously not enough for the BBSA, which is basically saying that the women’s team have no chance of winning a medal, and therefore disappear off their list of priorities when money is tight.

The team is now hoping to raise £30,000 in order to fund themselves.

The BBSA is no stranger to controversy.  It has received £10m of public funding in the four year cycle running up to Pyeongchang, but during the summer UK Sport cut its grant by £50,000 after athletes had complained about the “toxic atmosphere” surrounding the sport, including allegations of bullying, racism and sexism.

Bobsleigh driver Mica McNeill has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money.  You can contribute here: https://www.gofundme.com/teammcneill

Tennis

Heather Watson’s poor series of tournaments continued this week with a first round defeat in Seoul.  She lost to Spanish world number 92 Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3 0-6 6-1.

The top three seeds are all safely through to the second round; Jelena Ostapenko (1), Kiki Bertens (2) and Kristyna Pliskova (3).

Meanwhile, in Tokyo Johanna Konta was knocked out of the Pan Pacific Open by Barbora Strycova 7-5 7-6.  Strycova will now face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-final.

And finally,

The BBC’s “100 Women” challenge is back.  And one of the categories is sexism in sport.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-41044889.  Check it out and get involved in the conversation.

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 September 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column and it’s good to be back!  I don’t know about you, but I often think that following women’s sport must be one of the most frustrating things you can do.  Two steps forward, one back and throughout everything there still permeates the hideous whiff of misogyny.

In this summer that some are calling a “watershed moment” for women’s sport, I can’t help thinking that some will never ever be able to view women’s sport with an unjaundiced eye.  And while this is the case, will those in a position to make the biggest changes needed, i.e., the companies and marketers with the money for sponsorship and the high-ups in the media to report on it ever do what is needed?

Sorry, let’s crack on before the pall of doom becomes too overwhelming!  More than a tinge of autumn this week as cricket fades and football and rugby begin to take centre stage.  Stories this week come from football, cricket, tennis, cycling, boxing, netball and basketball.  Plus a humorous but poignant “And finally”, in case you haven’t already caught it elsewhere.  Here we go.

Football

Lots of football news this week.

England

With everything that’s going on off the pitch it’s easy to forget that England are about to embark on a new World Cup qualifying campaign next week.  Up first is Russia at Prenton Park, Merseyside, on 19 September.

Mark Sampson

As I said a couple of weeks ago, this one is going to run and run.  I get the feeling Sampson is now on borrowed time.  I don’t propose to go into the finer details as you’ve probably all been following it – ironically it’s the one women’s sports story that has garnered plenty of column inches.  The situation is developing and changing every day so whatever I write here is likely to be out of date by the time you read it.  So, as I say, keep up with it via other means and when a conclusion is finally reached, perhaps I’ll dissect it further.  The only thing I would say is that it could be a game-changer, now that Drew Spence has come out to say that it was she who was asked by Sampson “How many times have you been arrested?”

Scotland

New Scotland Head Coach, Shelley Kerr, announced this week that Seattle Reign defender Rachel Corsie will take over the captaincy of the Scottish national side after the retirement of Gemma Fay.  Arsenal midfielder, Kim Little, will be Vice-captain.  Little missed Scotland’s Euros campaign with a cruciate ligament injury.

Lorraine Watson has become the first woman to referee a senior men’s match in Scottish football. She took charge of Edinburgh City v Berwick Rangers in League Two on 9 September.

After the game, in an interview with BBC Scotland, Watson said,

“It was brilliant. There was absolutely no reaction, they just treated me the same as they would any other referee.

“When they disagreed [with decisions], they shouted at me just the same as if it was a male in the middle.”

FA’s Women’s Football Awards

Jodie Taylor was named England’s player of the year at the FA Women’s Football Awards on Friday 8 September.

Taylor took the Golden Boot at this summer’s Euros with 5 goals.

Jordan Nobbs took the WSL Players’ Player of the Year award and Fran Kirby was also rewarded for finishing as top scorer in the WSL Spring Series.

Transfers

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk has joined Everton from Doncaster Belles on a two-year deal.

Chelsea Ladies have signed Norwegian international defender Maria Thorisdottir in a contract until 2019.

Wales internationals Laura O’Sullivan (Goalkeeper) and Hannah Miles (full-back) have signed for Yeovil Town Ladies.

Sunderland

Not sure what’s happening at Sunderland.  Having announced earlier in the year that they have gone part-time again, now they have been moved from their ground and training ground due to “scheduling conflicts”.

The club has put a good spin on it, I have to admit. The Lady Black Cats will now play their home games at South Shields’ Mariners Park, moving from the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground.  They will train at the Northumbria University in Newcastle, leaving the Academy of Light, Sunderland’s men’s training facility.

The clashes have come about due to the WSL moving to a winter season.  And while I can see the value in training at Northumbria University, which is one of eight designated FA Women’s High Performance Football Centres, I am seriously worried if they have been ejected from Eppleton so that under-8s don’t have to.

FA WSL 1 & 2

Needless to say, without a ball being kicked, there is already talk that the FA is planning to restructure elite women’s football (yet again –everyone got that guinea pig feeling?).  There is an exploration of what the FA may (or may not) be planning on the BBC website.  I suggest you all read it and pick the bones out of it yourselves – and good luck with that.  Here’s the link.

The new winter season begins on Friday 22 September.

Friday 22 September

FA WSL1

19:45 Everton Ladies FC v Liverpool Ladies FC (Select Security Stadium)

Sunday 24 September

FA WSL1

12:30 Chelsea Ladies FC v Bristol City Women (Kingsmeadow Stadium)
14:00 Arsenal v Birmingham City Ladies (Boreham Wood FC)
14:00 Reading FC Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies (Wycombe Wanderers FC)
14:00 Yeovil Town Ladies FC v Manchester City Women (Yeovil Town FC)

FA WSL2

12:00 Durham Women FC v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies FC (New Ferens Park)
14:00 Aston Villa Ladies FC v Brighton & Hove Albion (Tamworth FC)
14:00 London Bees v Doncaster Rovers Belles (The Hive)
14:00 Millwall Lionesses v Watford Ladies FC (St Paul’s Sports Ground)
14:00Oxford United Women v Sheffield FC Ladies (Oxford City FC)

Friday 29 September

FA WSL1

19:00Liverpool Ladies FC v Reading FC Women (Select Security Stadium)

TV and radio coverage is set to be more comprehensive than ever with games on the BBC Sport website, BBC 5 Live Sports Extra, the BBC Red Button and BT Sport.  14 games will be broadcast in some format before 12 November.

WSL One on the BBC

Friday, 22 September
Everton Ladies v Liverpool Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 24 September
Chelsea Ladies v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online
Saturday, 30 September
Manchester City Women v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 1 October
Birmingham City Ladies v Everton Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 8 October
Reading Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Arsenal Women v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 29 October
Manchester City Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Everton Ladies v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 12 November
Reading Women v Chelsea Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button

I would like to have done the same for BT Sport, but couldn’t find for the life of me which fixtures are being covered.  Apologies.

Cricket

Jan Brittin

We start the cricket news with some sad news.  Jan Brittin, England’s top female Test run scorer died this week, from cancer, aged just 58.

Brittin scored 1,935 runs in 27 Test matches, including five centuries.

She was part of the World Cup-winning squad in 1993, top-scoring with 410 runs in eight innings.

Her entire domestic career was spent at Surrey and she is still their leading female run scorer.

Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, said,

“She was a legend and a class apart… For girls of my generation, she was our first real female role model. JB was born to play Test cricket and it’s unlikely that her record in this format will ever be beaten.”

England

Car makers Kia have announced it is to extend its sponsorship of the England women’s cricket team until 2020.

It will also continue its sponsorship of the Kia Super League for another two years.

Kia is one of the few (currently) companies actively looking to sponsor women’s sport.  Earlier in 2017 they bought the rights to sponsor the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA), covering seven tour events annually, including two majors – the ANA Inspiration and the KPMG Women’s PGA.

Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Award

It was one of the most reproduced images of the Women’s World Cup this summer.  And it has now led to Anya Shrubsole being given the CMJ Spirit of Cricket Award for 2017.

When England defeated South Africa in the semi-final with only two balls left, captain Dane van Niekerk was so devastated that she remained crouched at the edge of the pitch, clearly in tears.

England bowler Anya Shrubsole’s first move, before any celebrating, was to go to van Niekerk, put a hand on her shoulder and offered her commiserations.

It’s the first time a female cricketer has won the award.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway from 17-24 September.  Britain is fielding a full team of women for the road race and the time trial.  As I suggested a few weeks ago, Lizzie Deignan has recovered sufficiently from her appendectomy to take part in the road race.  The full team is as follows:

Time Trial
Elinor Barker
Hannah Barnes

Road Race
Elinor Barker
Alice Barnes
Hannah Barnes
Lizzie Deignan
Dani King
Mel Lowther
Hayley Simmonds

Tennis

US Open Singles Final

It was a fitting end to a bizarre US Open that the women’s semi-finals should be between four players from the USA.

The final was between unseeded Sloane Stephens and 15th seed Madison Keys.

To be honest, it was a bit of a damp squib (as was the men’s the next day).

Stephens dismantled the Keys game admirably and won 6-3 6-0.

Both of them were making their Gran Slam final debuts and it showed, especially in Keys whose unforced error-count – 30 to Stephens’ six was a telling factor.

The result, and the semi-final line-up will certainly serve as a fillip for US women’s tennis and let’s hope that both finalists go on to more Grand Slam success as they have promised so much for so long.

US Open Mixed Doubles

The doubles phenomenon that is Martina Hingis again took centre stage at Flushing Meadows.  She and Britain’s Jamie Murray, seeded one at this championships, took the Mixed Doubles title 6-1 4-6 10-8 against third seeds Michael Venus and Hao-Ching Chan.

US Open Women’s Doubles

Hingis then completed a stunning double of doubles when she and partner Chan Yung-jan, seeded second took the Women’s Doubles title, defeating Lucie Hradecká and Kateřina Siniaková of the Czech Republic, who were seeded seven, 6-3 6-2.

Hingis now has 24 Grand Slam titles over singles and doubles.

Rugby

As I said in my introduction, winter cannot be far away and this weekend sees the start of the new Premier 15s competition. I’m really hoping the buzz caused by the World Cup translates into bigger crowds and more media coverage for this excellent product.  The lower two divisions – Championship 1 North and Championship 1 South – are already underway.  Checkout www.womenseliterugby.co.uk for details.

The first round of Premier 15s fixtures is as follows:

16 September

Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Valkyries – 12.00pm
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Saracens 2.30pm
Wasps Ladies v Harlequins Ladies 3.00pm
DMP Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury Women 4.00pm

17 September

Bristol Ladies v Richmond Women 2.00pm

Boxing

Out of the Ring

The Inspiration Awards for Women

Katie Taylor has won the Sky Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport in 2017.

Taylor has won all six of her professional bouts since turning professional 10 months ago.

The Inspiration Awards were founded by Sky Andrew, who said that they were about

“Giving the next generation role models that show it is possible to have a sense of status, achievement and success by conducting oneself in a manner that is inspirational.”

In the Ring

It was also announced this week that Katie Taylor will fight for the WBA World Lightweight title on 28 October at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.  She will take on Anahi Sanchez and the fight will be on the Anthony Joshua undercard.

Nicola Adams, meanwhile, fights this weekend in Las Vegas – the first time she has competed in the USA.  She fights Alexandra Vlajk of Hungary.

Netball

Taini Jamison Trophy

England Roses went down 2-1 in the three-match series to decide the Taini Jamison trophy in New Zealand.

Game One – 7 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

The Silver Ferns had only a two goal lead going into the final quarter, but eased away in the last 15, England’s woes compounded by a series of handling errors.  Top scorer for New Zealand was Maria Tutaia who netted 31 as did Jo Harten for England.

Game Two – 10 September
New Zealand 46-49 England

The Roses drew level in the series in dramatic fashion in Napier.  England had a four-goal cushion at half-time but the Ferns brought it back to lead by one going into the fourth quarter.  With three minutes to go it was all square on 45-45, until goals from Jo Harten took it away from the home side.

Game Three – 13 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

Unfortunately for the Roses, the third and deciding game was to go the way of the first, even down to the score!

England were four ahead at half-time, but again the Ferns roared back as England tired.  By the end of the third they were one-up, and although with ten minutes to go the teams were level, the Silver Ferns then drew ahead again to win, in the end, fairly comfortably.

With England defeating New Zealand in the Quad Series, they would have been confident of competing well in this competition.  On the whole they were three good performances and Geva Mentor was outstanding at GK, but Tracey Neville will have to tackle the handling error-count.

Basketball

There was an excellent piece on women’s basketball in Somalia last week in the most unlikely of places – New Yorker magazine.  It’s a good read and here is the link.  It’s a timely reminder that however bad we think women have it here, having to fight off the “back to the kitchen” and “who cares?” crowd, we have it easy compared to other women in the world.

And finally,

Thanks to all those who pointed out this video to me – I actually came to it first through George Takei’s Twitter feed!  (I love all the unexpected sources this week).  So here it is – enjoy.

Women’s Sports Column 26 August – 1 September 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  We’re coming to the end of a stunning summer for women’s sport and while there are those knuckle-draggers who will never give recognition to any woman playing sport, I’m glad to say there are many more of us (women and men) who take a very different view and the numbers are rising all the time.  I can’t help feeling a tad melancholy this week as it draws to a close, but hopefully the news and stories below will help restore my mood (and cheer you too!).

Stories this week come from rugby union (obviously) tennis, netball, cricket, badminton, modern pentathlon, hockey, golf and cycling.  But there’s only one place to start isn’t there – and what a game it was.

Women’s Rugby World Cup Final

Well I hope you were all watching, because although words are my business, I don’t think I can do justice to this match.  Prime time TV, ITV1 in the UK – social media and conventional media alike crying out that it needed to be a great match to engage the masses and move women’s rugby up a level.  And it didn’t disappoint.

England pressed from the off but were unable to convert pressure into points and were shocked after eight minutes when Selica Winiata pounced on a kick to score the first try.  Cocksedge, who had a relatively poor game with the boot, missed the conversion.

On 15 minutes New Zealand were penalised for a dangerous tackle and Emily Scarratt duly slotted over the resultant penalty.

On 20 minutes Sara Goss was yellow-carded for another dangerous tackle and England knew they had to take advantage.

England pressed on towards the line i a series of scrums, but as they got closer to the line the Black Ferns realised they had to scrum with just seven or risk losing cover on the wing.  This they did but broke up the scrummage illegally and the Red Roses were awarded a penalty try, taking it to 10-5 to England.

Eight minutes before half-time England were over again and looking confident.  Lydia Thompson went over on the wing and Scarratt converted well to take it 17-5.

England probably thought this would be the half-time score and perhaps relaxed early, but this proved to be a fatal error.  Toka Natua got in after they secured good line-out ball.   The conversion was missed and the half-time score was 17-10.

And breathe.

The second-half was completely different.  New Zealand came out a different team.  They hustled and harried from the first minute and England had no answer.

Just five minutes in Natua went over for her second.  England still seemed to be in the dressing room.  And to make matters worse for the Red Roses Cocksedge began to find her kicking form as she popped over her first conversion to make it 17-17.

Five minutes later England were ahead again through another Scarratt penalty, but the lead was short-lived.  Two minutes later Charmaine Smith pushed over, hitting the sponge around the post and again it was converted – 20-24.

On 55 England scored again Thompson flying 40 metres down to wing to cross the line for her second try of the match.  Scarratt missed the conversion and England’s lead was just one point.

At this point England Head Coach Simon Middleton introduced a whole raft of changes, something that drew some criticism after the game.  But there can be no doubt England were tiring and the changes made were quality ones.

On 58 Natua got her hat-trick under the posts and Cocksedge converted. The tide was turning in the Black Ferns’ favour.

Five minutes later Cocksedge got a try of her own, but she missed the conversion. New Zealand were 36-25 ahead.  With 20 minutes to go, although the scoreline was still tight, it seemed to be one-way traffic.

On 69 Winiata went over for her second after another good kick from Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali.  Cocksedge missed yet another conversion, but it mattered not as England appeared to be a beaten side.

But England had not finished scoring.  Izzy Noel-Smith went over with three minutes to go and Scarratt converted.

Kefu was yellow-carded for New Zealand, but England didn’t have the time to make it count and before they knew it the game was over.

New Zealand had won 41-32.

The better team had won – no doubt about it.  England fought to the end, but the Black Ferns’ third quarter had battered England into submission.

Without wanting to sound mawkish or trite and realising that I sound both, it was women’s rugby that was the winner on Saturday.  So many people will now realise what a great product it is (and what a good scrum can look like guys).  Let’s hope it leads not only to young girls taking up the sport, but also that the new revamped championship gets the coverage it deserves (i.e., any at all –and yes, BBC Sport, I do mean you).

Football

Women’s Champions League

The round of 32 draw will be made on 1 September.  The 11 teams that made it through qualifying are:

Gintra Universitetas (LTU), Olimpia Cluj (ROU), Ajax (NED), Medyk Konin (POL), Apollon (CYP), Minsk (BLR), *Zürich (SWI), Stjarnan (ICE), BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ), Avaldsnes (NOR). PAOK (GRE)

*qualified as best runners-up.

The teams receiving a bye into the round of 32 are:

Lyon (FRA, holders), Wolfsburg (GER), FC Rosengård (SWE), Barcelona (ESP), Fortuna, Hjørring (DEN), Bayern München (GER), Brøndby (DEN), Rossiyanka (RUS), Manchester City (ENG), Glasgow City (SCO), Zvezda-2005 (RUS), Brescia (ITA), Slavia Praha (CZE), Sparta Praha (CZE), Linköping (SWE), Chelsea (ENG), Montpellier (FRA), LSK Kvinner (NOR), St. Pölten (AUT), Atlético Madrid (ESP), Fiorentina (ITA)

As you probably know, coverage in the UK will be absolutely minimal so I’d again recommend you check out the UEFA website for updates:

http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/index.html

These are the dates you need to know:

Round of 32: 4/5 & 11/12 October
Round of 16: 8/9 & 15/16 November

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Final: 24 May 2018, Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo StadiumKyiv

Other football news and signings

Lieke Martens was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 2016-17 this week.

The 24-year old plays for Barcelona and had a stand-out tournament for the Netherlands at the Euros earlier in the summer.

She finished ahead of Pernille Harder of Denmark in second and Dzsenifer Marozsán of Germany in third.

Final standings
1: Lieke Martens (Netherlands, Rosengård and Barcelona)
2: Pernille Harder (Denmark, Linköping and Wolfsburg)
3: Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany, Lyon)
4: Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands, Bayern München and Arsenal)
5: Eugénie Le Sommer (France, Lyon)
6: Wendie Renard (France, Lyon)
7: Jackie Groenen (Netherlands, FFC Frankfurt)
8: Lucy Bronze (England, Manchester City and Lyon)
9: Jodie Taylor (England, Arsenal)
10: Shanice van de Sanden (Netherlands, Liverpool)

Previous winners of the award:
2012/13 ─ Nadine Angerer (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2013/14 ─ Nadine Kessler (Germany, Wolfsburg)
2014/15 ─ Célia Šašić (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2015/16 ─ Ada Hegerberg (Norway, Lyon)

Arsenal

Striker Danielle Carter has signed a new contract with Arsenal.  The length of the contract has not been revealed although it is described as “long-term”.

Liverpool

Liverpool, however, have not had such a good week.  Their Dutch star Shanice van de Sanden has left to join Champions League holders Olympique Lyonnais Feminin.

Golf

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed another title at the weekend when she won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open by two shots from compatriot Lee Mi-rim.

She finished on -13, with M Lee on -11, with a tie for third between Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, Chun In-gee of Korea, Shanshan Feng of China and Cristie Kerr of USA on -10.

Park hit a seven-under 64 in the final round to overcome a four shot deficit from the third round.

Holly Clyburn was top British finisher on -3 while Charley Hull was way back in the pack on +6.

American star Michelle Wie had to withdraw before the start of the final round when she had to undergo surgery to remove her appendix.  This seems to be catching – see cycling below!

Hockey

England’s women secured a bronze medal at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam with a 2-0 win over Germany.

Hannah Martin and Alex Danson scored the goals.

The gold medal went to the Netherlands who beat Belgium 3-0 in the final.

Their goals came from Margot van Geffen, Kelly Jonker and Ireen van den Assem (Penalty stroke).

Modern Pentathlon

A sport featuring rarely in this column, but as the World Modern Pentathlon Championships were held in Cairo this week it should be in.

The events were pistol shooting, fencing, 200m swimming, show jumping and a 3km run (apologies if you already knew this).

In the women’s events the results were as follows:

Individual

Gold went to Gulnaz Gubaydullina of Russia with 1,292 points.  Silver was taken by Zsófia Földházi of Hungary, who was a mere seven points behind on 1,285 and in bronze position was Anastasiya Prokopenko of Belarus, again just behind with 1,281 points.

Team

The team title went to Germany with 2,815 points.  Second were Russia on 2,797 and third Italy on 2,791.

Relay

The relay winners were Germany on 1,276 points with Egypt in second on 1,243 and Japan third on 1,238.

Badminton

Women’s singles

Kirsty Gilmour was defeated in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Glasgow.  She lost 21-19 18-21 21-15 to Saina Nehwal of India.

The gold medal went to Nozomi Okuhara of Japan who beat PV Sindhu of India 21-19 20-22 22-20.

Bronze medals went to Chen Yufei of China and Saina Nehwal.

Mixed doubles

Chris and Gabby Adcock lost in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles to Chinese pair and top seeds  Zheg Siwei and Chen Qingchen 21-15 23-21.  This meant they secured a bronze medal but they were still disappointed with the outcome.  Gabby Adcock spoke to BBC Sport:

“We’re disappointed because we felt we had a chance today.

“It was one of our worst performances of the week and I’m struggling to find a reason as to why but we just couldn’t get going.”

The gold medal winners were Tontowi Ahmed and Liliyanna Natsir of Indonesia who beat the Adcocks’ vanquishers 15-21 21-16 21-15 in the final.

Women’s Doubles

The Women’s Doubles title was taken by Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China who beat Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan in the final 21-18 17-21 21-15.  Bronze medals went to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, also of Japan, and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark.

Netball

The Quad Series in Brisbane is in full swing.  England are finally showing how much they have improved recently and have so far recorded one loss and one win.

Australia 54-50 England

So tight and so close for the Roses!  But it wasn’t always that way.  At half-time England were trailing by 10 points 32-22 and it looked as if the Diamonds were in for yet another easy win.

By the end of the third quarter England had cut the deficit to six and were getting closer by the end but Australia managed to hold on.

Helen Housby top scored for England with 30 goals, an 88% conversion rate, but this was knocked into a cocked hat by Australia’s Caitlin Bassett who scored 43 goals at a conversion rate of 93%.

But England would have been buoyed by this performance going into their second game against New Zealand.

New Zealand 45-49 England

On Wednesday 30 England registered their first win against New Zealand in a Quad Series.

The Roses were down by just one point 37-36 going into the fourth quarter in Auckland and they had a storming last period to take it by four.  Kadeen Corbin scored seven goals in the final quarter as the Roses pulled away.

Helen Housby was top scorer again for England with 26 goals at a conversion rate of 81%.  Bailey Mes scored 28 for the Silver Ferns.

England play South Africa on Sunday to see if they can finish second in a Quad Series for the first time.

South Africa have lost both of their first two games, against New Zealand 63-56 and Australia 58-52.

Cycling

Lizzie Deignan’s participation in the World Championships is in doubt after she had her appendix removed this week.

The Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway, from September 17-24.  The women’s road race is on 23 September.

Deignan would be one of the favourites if she recovers in time to take part.

Tennis

It’s been a bizarre old start to the US Open with seeds falling like dominoes.  Everyone has an opinion on the participation of Maria Sharapova, including former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki who branded the scheduling of Sharapova’s matches all on the show courts to be “questionable”.  I’ll leave you to make up your own minds on that one.

Some of the high (and low) lights so far:

Both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson lost in the first round.  Konta lost to unseeded world number 78 Aleksandra Krunic 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Watson lost to Alizé Cornet of France in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber also departed in round one, losing in straight sets to world number 45, Japanese 19-year old Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-1.

Maria Sharapova, who is, as I’ve already said never far from the headlines, is through to the third round.  Her first round defeat of world number two, Simona Halep 6-4 4-6 6-3 sent shockwaves around Flushing Meadows.

She defeated Timea Babos of Hungary in the second 6-7 6-4 6-1 and faces the unseeded Sofia Kenin of the United States in the third.

Other players of note to go through to the third round are world number one, Karolina Pliskova, who had to fight off a strong challenge from Nicole Gibbs to win 2-6 6-3 6-4.  French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is still in the mix after she defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4 6-4.

One seed to bite the dust in the second round was number 23, Barbora Strycova, who was soundly beaten by American Jennifer Brady 6-1 6-1.  Three more Americans through to the third round are Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

I think it’s safe to say it’s wide open!

Cricket

The past week has seen and will see the culmination of the women’s cricket season in England.  Last weekend the County Championship was decided and on Friday 1 September it’s Kia Super League Finals day.

County Championship

Lancashire have been crowned Division 1 champions, having won five of their seven games this season.  The full standings were as follows:

Team Played Won Lost Points
Lancashire 7 5 2 99
Yorkshire 7 5 2 98
Warwickshire 7 5 2 96
Nottinghamshire 7 4 3 88
Middlesex 7 3 4 76
Kent 7 3 4 71
Sussex 7 3 4 66
Berkshire 7 0 7 24

Sussex and Berkshire are relegated to Division 2.  Their places are taken by the top two finishers in the second division this year, which were Hampshire and Somerset.

Kia Super League

The last three matches took place on Saturday 26 August.  Loughborough won again, but with Western Storm also taking the points it was not enough for the Lightning to go through.  To be honest, they didn’t deserve to anyway on the performances I saw.

Match 13
Bristol County Ground
Lancashire Thunder 122/5 (20 overs)
Western Storm 123/5 (17.1/20 overs)
Western Storm won by 5 wickets

Match 14
The Oval
Loughborough Lightning 171/3 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 90 all out (18 overs)
Loughborough Lightning won by 81 runs

Match 15
Arundel Castle
Southern Vipers 138/6 (20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 108 all out (18.3 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 30 runs

Finals Day – Hove

Southern Vipers automatically qualify for the final with the other place being fought out between Surrey Stars and Western Storm.

And Finally,

This has just popped up into my inbox and so I had to share it, especially as it is about my Leicestershire neck of the woods.  Good grief Cycling Weekly.  Sort yourselves out:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-41122033

Apologies, but there will be no column next week as I am out and about elsewhere.