Welcome to the first Women’s Sports Column of the New Year and let me wish you all a happy, sport-filled 2018.
It’s the relative calm before the storm at the moment, but there is plenty to come this year. Stories this week come from taekwondo, tennis, a shocking story from cycling, New Year’s Honours, cricket, football and winter sports.
I’m also happy to say this week’s TWO “And Finally(s)” are positive ones.
Let’s crack on and start with taekwondo (don’t get to say that very often, but it’s a big (and a great) story.
Bianca Walkden may have missed out on any kind of recognition from the Great British Public at SPOTY, but she completed her stellar year by annihilating all-comers last week to win the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Series title for the +67kg category.
She beat An Saebom of South Korea 14-1 in the quarter-finals and then recorded an 11-0 golden point victory over Nafia Kus of Turkey in the semi-final.
In the final she faced Jackie Galloway of USA, defeating her 10-2 to take the title and £52,000 prize money.
In 2017 she defended her world title and won all four Grand Prix events.
Next to compete in the Grand Slam Series will be Wales’ Lauren Williams, who fights in the -67kg category. Charlie Maddock is next on 13 January in the -49kg category and Jade Jones competes on 20 January in her -57kg division.
The world’s best tennis players are currently gearing up for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which begins on Monday 15 January.
There are several warm-up events going on, the main ones being in Brisbane and Shenzhen, China.
Heather Watson bowed out early on. She won her first match, against Danielle Lao of the USA 7-5 6-3. She won her second versus Misaki Doi of China 6-2 6-4, but succumbed in the third to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4 6-1. She still advanced to the round of 32, though, to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-0 6-3.
British number one, Jo Konta, began well. She was seeded five at Brisbane and in the round of 32 she defeated American Madison Keys 4-6 6-4 6-3. In the round of 16 she beat wildcard Ajila Tomljanovic of Croatia 4-6 6-1 6-4. These have been two gruelling three-set matches. And this told on Konta as she withdrew with injury on Thursday as she played third seed Elina Svitolina.
Konta had been playing well up to that point, taking the first set 6-1 against the third seed. The second went to Svitolina on the tie-break and she was 3-2 up in the third when Konta pulled out.
Konta had treatment on her right hip on the court and the injury is thought to be in the right hip/groin area. There is no news yet as to whether she will compete in the Sydney International, the next warm-up tournament, which takes place next week and which she won in 2017. .
The other quarter-finals were:
Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 3-6 7-5 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia)beat Aleksandra Krunic (Serbia) 6-2 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(Belarus) beat Alizé Cornet (France) 3-6 6-2 6-3
In the semi-finals:
Sasnovich beat Sevastova 7-6 6-4
Svitolina beat Pliskova 7-5 7-5
The final is on Saturday 6 January.
Petra Kvitova had to withdraw before the start of the tournament with a virus and Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew during her second-round match after suffering a bout of cramp. It’s pretty worrying that some of the big players (both men and women) have already pulled out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
No British interest here, but the quarter-final line-up was as follows:
Irina-Camelia Begu (Romania) beat Timea Babos (Hungary) 7-5 7-5
Simona Halep (Romania) beat Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) 6-2 6-2
Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 6-3 6-3
Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) beat Kristyna Pliskova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-2
The semi-finals finished:
Siniakova beat Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-3
Halep beat Begu 6-1 6-4
The final is on Saturday 6 January
Meanwhile there was a disappointing announcement today as Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open, as she doesn’t feel quite ready yet:
“Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be,” she said.
It will be the first Australian Open she has missed since 2011.
Football – Off the pitch
No live football to report on at the moment, but plenty of transfer news.
The biggest news so far is that Natasha Harding has turned down a new contract with Liverpool, in favour of a move to Reading.
Harding is currently vice-captain of the Wales national side and has won 50 caps for her country.
Chloe Peplow, currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers Belles was out of contract at the end of December and not going to renew, while German international striker Isabelle Linden, also out of contract at the end of 2017 is to leave as well.
On the other hand Marisa Ewers and Andrine Hegerberg have both extended their contracts with the club.
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Belles have pulled off somewhat of a coup with the news that former Rotherham and Leeds United manager, Neil Redfearn is to be the club’s new manager.
On the Pitch
Meanwhile the on the pitch action starts again this weekend with the following fixtures:
Saturday 6 January
Bristol City v Everton (17.30, Stoke Gifford Stadium)
Liverpool v Yeovil Town (17.30, Select Security Stadium)
Sunderland v Birmingham City (18.00, Mariners Park)
Sunday 7 January
Chelsea v Arsenal (13.30, Kingsmeadow Stadium)
Reading v Man City (16.00, Wycombe Wanderers FC)
Oxford United v Durham (12.00, Oxford City FC)
Aston Villa v London Bees (14.00, Tamworth FC)
Millwall v Sheffield FC (14.00. St Paul’s Sports Ground)
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00, Cheshunt FC)
Watford v Doncaster Rovers Belles (15.00, Kings Langley FC)
Caroline Buchanan, Australian cyclist and two-time Olympian, is in hospital after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in New South Wales.
She suffered a broken nose, broken sternum and collapsed lung in the accident.
The 27-year old has three BMX world titles to her name, as well as five mountain bike world titles.
Needless to say, she will be out of action for some time.
Cricket – WBBL
We’re about half-way in this year’s tournament. Top of the pile lie Sydney Thunder with five wins from six with the Sixers in second with five wins from eight. Hobart Hurricanes are yet to get off the mark with no points from six games. Second from bottom with one win from six.
Most recent matches:
30 December 2017
Sydney Sixers 138 all out (19.5 overs)
Perth Scorchers 139/4 (18.5 overs)
Alyssa Healey was out for a first ball duck, but Ellyse Perry scored 45 and Dane van Niekerk 29 as the Sixers posted 138. But it was not enough. Elyse Villani scored 63 off 43 and Nicole Bolton 42 off 49 as the Scorchers eased home.
Hobart Hurricanes 112/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 116/3 (17 overs)
Stafanie Taylor took 4/15 off her four overs as the Hurricanes slumped to 112 off their 20. Rachael Haynes then took on the Hurricanes’ bowlers, scoring 64 off 49 balls as the thunder won with three overs to spare.
Hobart Hurricanes 97 all out (19.4 overs)
Sydney Thunder 99/2
The Hurricanes were comprehensively beaten by the Thunder on Sunday. Samantha Bates took 3/12 four and Stafanie Taylor 2/13 off 2.4 as the Hurricanes could only manage 97 off 19.4 overs. The Thunder took no time in knocking off the runs, scoring 99 in 15 overs. Alex Blackwell top-scored on 43 not out.
Adelaide Strikers 119/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 122/2 (16.2 overs)
The Strikers could only post 119 and it never looked enough. Most of their top names got a start but no-one could kick on as Bridget Patterson top-scored with 37. It seemed as if Beth Mooney wanted to do it all on her own in reply as the scored 81 not out off 48 balls. She was supported well by Kirby Short, who scored 27.
Sydney Sixers 128/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 92 all out (19 overs)
Ellyse Perry top scored with 64 of 56 balls as the Sixers posted an average total against the Renegades. But their opponents never got started in response with van Niekerk taking 4/13 off her four overs with Kapp and Aley taking two each as the Renegades subsided to 92 all out.
Bizarre and miraculous goings-on at Geelong as the Renegades v Sixers game went to a super over, but it would not have even got there if it hadn’t been for some smart work on the part of the Sixers.
Melbourne Renegades 120/7 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 120/7 (20 overs)
It had looked as if the Sixers had it in the bag until Perry was out and Chamari Attapatu had taken 2/6 in two overs. It went down to the last ball – the Sixers needing three to win.
Sarah Aley went for the single and the game looked to be over, but Renegades keeper Emma inglis was too intent on celebrating and didn’t break the wickets to end the game. Aley spotted the error and ran the second to tie the scores and send the game into a super over.
Sydney Sixers 8/2 (1 over)
Melbourne Renegades 9/0 (1 over)
Alyssa Healey perished for a first ball duck and Perry four, but the Sixers still posted a decent eight runs off their super over.
But the Renegades kept their cool with Jess Duffin hitting a single off Marizanne Kapp’s last ball to take the match.
Adelaide Strikers 144/5 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 122//9 (20 overs)
Tammy Beaumont top-scored for the Strikers with 46 from 48 balls as they posted a competitive total. The Stars fell well short despite Lizelle Lee’s 44 of 42 balls. Three ducks in a row down the order (King, Kearney, Faltum) put paid to any chance the Stars had of reaching the Strikers’ score.
The Winter Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, so between then and now I’m going to try to get as many winter sports snippets into the column as I can.
Eleven Russian winter sports athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics after they were found to have committed doping offences at Sochi in 2014. Out of the eleven, four are women:
Tatyana Ivanova (luge) – won silver in Sochi
Natalia Matveeva (cross-country skiing)
Liudmila Udobkina (bobsleigh)
Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina (ice hockey)
She’s odd-on to retain her Olympic slalom title, and Mikaela Shiffrin is already in fine form as she warms up for the big one. Although she was upset in the giant slalom in Lienz, Austria , last week, she already has a 371 point lead in the World Cup standings with 881. Viktoria Rebensberg lies second.
Meanwhile, in skeleton, the latest World Cup event, in Altenberg, Germany, the home nation made it a clean sweep with Jacquelline Loelling taking the title in 1:57.54 for the two runs. Tina Hermann came second 0.13 seconds behind with Anna Fernstaedt in third 0.43 behind the winner.
For Great Britain, Laura Deas finished eighth, 1.35 seconds behind Loelling and Lizzie Yarnold nineteenth, a massive 3.22 seconds back.
There is no place in the GB Paralympic squad for Sochi skiing gold medallist Kelly Gallagher.
GB has two places available for visually impaired skiiers – these have gone to world champion Millie Knight and newcomer Menna Fitzpatrick.
There may still be a place for Gallagher, though, as other teams may not take up their full allocation and will be re-allocated elsewhere.
The Winter Paralympics begin on 9 March. Top of Form
Queen’s New Year Honours
Several sportswomen were honoured by the Queen:
Heather Knight (OBE)
Tammy Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole (MBE)
Mark Robinson (women’s coach) (OBE)
Clare Connor (CBE) – tweet about Geoff Boycott notwithstanding, for services to cricket.
Stef Reid (MBE)
Sarah Lewis (OBE) International Ski Federation secretary, for services to sport.
Joyce Cook (OBE) for services to sport and accessibility.
Sue Anstiss (MBE) for services to grassroots and women’s sport.
Christine Bower (MBE) British Olympic Association athletes services co-ordinator, for services to British Olympic sport.
Helen Phillips (MBE) for services to Welsh gymnastics and the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales.
Patricia Reid (MBE) Dunfermline Tennis Club secretary, for services to tennis and lacrosse in Scotland.
And finally, the Women’s Sport Trust has just issued its calendar of women’s sport for 2018. So, if you missed it here’s the link: www.themixedzone.co.uk. And if you don’t already subscribe to The Mixed Zone, a fantastic resource of articles by both professional athletes and writers, I suggest you do!
And and finally,
I don’t usually do endorsements, but in this case I’ll make an exception. My friend Joanne is not just an ace yoga teacher, but also nutritionist par excellence. She’s just started a new venture called “The Ravenous Athlete” with advice and help on what to eat and when if you’re serious about your sport. If you need any help with your nutrition – given in a non-patronising, non-jargon way, please check her out: www.healthandhart.com.