Welcome to this week’s column. Last week I asked “what more does Elise Christie have to do to win a medal?” Well, unfortunately that was answered this week by “wait until Beijing 2022” as she had a terrible experience x 2, crashing out in one and being disqualified from the other of her two remaining events. But there has been plenty more to celebrate this week. Stories come from the Winter Olympics, football, rugby union, cricket, netball and hockey.
So let’s crack on!
This week Marit Bjorgen of Norway became the most decorated Winter Olympian. She has won four medals at Pyeongchang, taking her total to 14.
At this Olympics the cross-country skier won Bronze in the 10km, bronze in the team sprint with Maiken Caspersen Falla, silver in the pursuit and gold in the ridiculously exciting 4 x 5km relay.
Love her or loathe her (and many do), she’s always good entertainment value. Personally, I feel gutted on her behalf – is she under an Olympic curse? There’s no denying her talent, she is a multiple world champion, after all. So what happens when she sets foot on an Olympic course?
For the record, in the 1500m she crashed out on the final lap, colliding with Li Jinyu of China in the process. She was taken to hospital and her place in the 1000m was severely in doubt. She sustained ankle ligament damage and was not really fit to take part. But she lined up in the 100m heat, even though she was obviously in pain. She fell on the first lap, but the heat was restarted. She finished second and would have qualified, but the judges said she had committed an offence during the race and was disqualified.
For all the trials and tribulations, British performance of the Games must go to Lizzy Yarnold. She retained her skeleton title, taking the gold 0.45 seconds ahead of Jacqueline Loelling of Germany and with a fabulous performance by Laura Deas to secure bronze 0.62 seconds behind the winner.
Yarnold has shown such enthusiasm – she had such a poor season that no-one really expected her to win. But when she did, it was with an abundance of joy that was clear to see. It was also good to see her celebrate with her good friend Laura Deas. A great competition all round.
There was a shock in the ice hockey final as the USA defeated Canada in a shoot out. The scores were level after 2-2 after five penalties each. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the sixth for the USA but Meghan Agosta’s for Canada was saved by goalminder Maddie Rooney.
It’s the first time USA have beaten Canada in 20 years.
Mica McNeill and Mica Moore finished eighth in the bobsleigh. Not bad for a crowdfunded team, who were not deemed to be deserving of mainstream funding. Let’s hope this brings them further funding that sees them compete again in Beijing.
Team Muirhead fell to Sweden in the semi-finals 10-5. The Swedes went ahead early, and although GB pulled it back to 3-3 after five ends, that’s as close as they got to being in front.
Team GB will now compete for Bronze against Japan on Saturday.
Another woman to have had a mixed games is US skiing star, Lindsey Vonn. Before the Games started she endured some serious social media trolling criticising her for her political stance against President Trump. More than once she was accused of being “un-American”. She was also still grieving the loss of her Grandfather, who died in November and, it has been revealed that she scattered his ashes on the course in Pyeongchang where she won her bronze medal earlier in the week.
In competition, as already stated, she won a bronze in the Alpine downhill. Gold went to Sofia Goggia of Italy with Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway in silver.
But it all went horribly wrong in the Alpine combined. She was top after the first run, but in the slalom she went off course and failed to finish. Michelle Gisin of Switzerland took gold with Mikaela Shiffrin silver and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, bronze.
Hopefully she will continue to compete, although we will not see her in another Olympics.
Football – on the pitch
FA Cup Fifth Round
Birmingham City 1-3 Manchester City (after extra time)
Arsenal 1-0 Millwall Lionesses
Cardiff City 1-3 Charlton Athletic
Chelsea 6-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Chichester City 0-3 Liverpool
Durham 5-2 Leicester City
Lewes 0-6 Everton
Sunderland AFC 3-2 Aston Villa
The draw has been made for the quarter-finals:
Sunderland v Manchester City
Liverpool v Chelsea
Arsenal v Charlton
Durham v Everton
Fixtures to be played the weekend 18-19 March.
It was Round 2 of the Vitality Superleague this weekend. The scores were:
Saturday 17 February
Severn Stars 52-64 Wasps Netball
Team Northumbria 43-65 Loughborough Lightning
Monday 19 February
Celtic Dragons 35-54 Team Bath
Manchester Thunder 60-43 UWS Sirens
Benecos Mavericks 64-62 Surrey Storm
After two rounds, the table is split – five teams have two wins each and five have none from two. Top are Team Bath on goal average, with Wasps second and Loughborough, third.
It’s a double-header this long weekend, beginning on Thursday and continuing until Monday. The Sky televised match is on Monday 26 February:
Thursday 22 February
Wasps Netball 69-37 UWS Sirens
Friday 23 February
Team Bath v Surrey Storm (7.30pm)
Manchester Thunder v Team Northumbria (7.30pm)
Saturday 24 February
Benecos Mavericks v Severn Stars (4pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons (6pm)
Monday 26 February
Loughborough Lightning v Manchester Thunder (7pm live on Sky Sports)
UWS Sirens v Team Northumbria (7pm)
Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm (7pm)
Severn Stars v Team Baath (7.30pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Wasps Netball (7.30pm)
Football – off the pitch
The England squad for the SheBelieves Cup, which starts on 1 March has been announced. Anita Asante is picked for the first time since 2015:
Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Carly Telford (Chelsea).
Defenders: Anita Asante, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright (all Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes (both Manchester City).
Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh (all Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Fara Williams (Reading).
Forwards: Karen Carney, Fran Kirby (both Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Melissa Lawley, Nikita Parris (both Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Melbourne City), Ellen White (Birmingham City).
All England’s games are being covered by the BBC:
England v France (1 March, 9pm)
Germany v England (4 March, 8pm)
USA v England (8 March, midnight)
Not one of sport’s best kept secrets, this week it was announced that Casey Stoney will join Phil Neville’s coaching staff when she hangs up her boots on Wednesday 21 February.
She will play her last game against Sunderland and then will travel with the squad and staff to the USA for the SheBelieves Cup.
Neville could not ask for a more knowledgeable, more respected addition to the team. Her view of the game and her knowledge of the both the current squad and potential newcomers will be vital to the new manager.
Needless to say, the article on the BBC website prompted some unbelievable bile masquerading in some cases, but not in all of them, as “banter”, directed at Stoney, her sexuality, England women’s football, women’s football in general, Neville, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Really chaps (and yes, it is chaps), I know I’ve said this before, but for people who profess to have no interest in or knowledge of the women’s game, you all have an opinion. And judging by what was left in by the moderators, I’d hate to see what was taken out as unacceptable……
Last weekend’s Tyrell 15s Premier League results were:
Harlequins 80-7 Worcester Valkyries
Wasps 26-12 Bristol
Saracens 29-29 Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough Lightning 21-15 DMP Sharks
Richmond 20-12 Firwood Waterloo
All the teams have now played 15 matches. Saracens’ draw sees their lead at the top of the table cut to just three points. They lie on 68, with Harlequins on second with 65 and Wasps third on 54. Worcester are still tethered at the bottom with two points, with Firwood Waterloo second from bottom on 11.
This weekend sees the third round of the Six Nations:
Scotland v England (Scotstoun, 7.05pm, live on Sky Sports)
France v Italy (Stade Furiani, 8pm GMT, French TV)
Ireland v Wales (Donnybrook, Dublin, 3pm, RTE & S4C)
Argentina v Great Britain
Well, this series completely passed me by, for which hearty apologies. GB avoided a series whitewash by winning the fourth game of five.
10 February: Argentina 2-1 Great Britain
GB took the lead through Susannah Townsend, but the hosts hit back through Maria Campoy and Eugenia Trinchinetti. The GB team included players winning their first caps.
11 February: Argentina 3-1 Great Britain
Alex Danson’s 100th cap saw another loss for GB. The visitors took the lead on seven minutes through Elena Rayer, but again Argentina hit back. Delfina Merino scored the equaliser. By half-time Argentina were ahead, their second goal scored by Maria Granatto. In the third period they grabbed another, through Julieta Jankunas.
14 February: Argentina 5-2 Great Britain
After two tight games, the third was a convincing win for the home side. Maria Granatto scored after just five minutes, but shortly afterwards Alex Danson equalised. Granatto grabbed another and Bianca Donati two to take it to 4-1. Milagros Fernandez added a fifth, before Danson grabbed her second and fiftieth for Great Britain to make the final score 5-2..
17 February: Argentina 2-4 Great Britain
There was at last something to cheer about for GB fans in the fourth match. Danson scored twice in the first quarter and sealed her hat-trick with nine minutes to go. The fourth GB goal came from Laura Unsworth. The Argentine goals came from Campoy and, with just five minutes remaining, Noel Barrionuevo got a second for the hosts.
17 February: Argentina 1-0 Great Britain
It was back to winning ways for the home side in the fifth and final match of the series. Eugenia Trinchinetti scored the only goal of the game in the tenth minute.
Investec Hockey League Premier Division
University of Birmingham 5-0 Clifton Robinsons
Canterbury 3-2 Buckingham
Surbiton 1-1 Bowdon
East Grinstead 2-1 Leicester
Slough 0-1 Holcombe
After 13 games, University of Birmingham are top with 26 points, one point ahead of Surbiton. Holcombe are third on 23. At the bottom, Leicester prop up the table with 10 points. Just ahead of them are Slough on 12.
South Africa 142/7 (20 0vers)
India 144/1(19.1 overs)
India won by 9 wickets with 5 balls remaining
India went 2-0 up in the five-match series on Friday. Again the batters mostly got starts, but no-on e could make the big score that would seriously cause problems. Sue Luus top-scored with 33. Poonam Yadav and Anuja Patil took 2/18 from four overs and 2/37 from four overs respectively.
In response Mithali Raj was in majestic form yet again. She scored 76 not out from 61 balls with fine back-up from Smriti Mandhana with 57. Harmanpreet Kaur came in when Mandhana was out in the fifteenth over, scoring seven to get India home comfortably.
India 133 all out (17.5 overs)
South Africa 134/5 (19 overs)
South Africa won by five wickets with 6 balls remaining
Shabnim Ismail produced an excellent spell of 5/30 from 3.5 overs to help skittle India out for just 133. But it was Marizanne Kapp who began the rout, taking the wicket of Raj for a duck in the first over.
Although Lizelle Lee was also out for five, in the first over of the response, Sune Luus scored 41off 34 balls and the middle order all contributed as South Africa won with an over to spare.
South Africa 130/3 (15.3 overs)
Match abandoned due to rain
India went into an unassailable 2-1 lead as the fourth match at Centurion was abandoned.
The last match in the series, and South Africa’s opportunity to draw it, is on Saturday 24 February at Newlands.
Australia’s vice-captain, Alex Blackwell has announced her international retirement.
The 34-year old is Australia’s most-capped female player making 251 appearances over all formats. She scored 5,250 international runs.
She will continue to play for Sydney Thunder in the WBBL.
Just a quick note to say it’s been a mixed week for reaction to women and women’s sport. The Winter Olympics has been exciting and enthralling and, as several commentators on women’s sport have pointed out, no-one seems to say “it’s only women’s skiing” or “It’s only women’s short track.” Why is this? Why is it deemed “ok” for women to compete in these events, but not to play football? Ah, but if I had the answer to this question, I would be a rich woman indeed….
Sorry, no column next week as I’m out and about.