Women’s Sports Column 10-16 September

img-20160915-006702Welcome to this week’s column.  Summer may be slipping away from us here in Britain, but there’s still plenty to look forward to in the world of women’s sport.

This week brings stories from the Paralympics, tennis, athletics, cricket, football, rugby union and a sailing update from Abby Ehler.

Paralympics

 Where to start?  As with the Olympics, there is so much to love, admire or indeed boggle at, that I can only cover a fraction.  So here are a few of my highlights from the last week:

Hannah Cockcroft

One of my sporting heroes, without doubt.  In Rio she has won gold in T34 400m with a world record and 100m.   And she’s still only 24!

Kadeena Cox

Wow, what a story!  To win gold in one Paralympic sport is amazing, but two in different sports?  On 10 September she took gold in the track cycling – the C4-5 time trial (and in a world record time) and then on 14 September she struck gold again, this time in the T38 400m (also a new world record).  Oh, and she also won a bronze in the T38 100m.

I know one shouldn’t refer it back to a person’s medical history and no-one should be labelled, but how can you not be amazed by this woman?  She’s 25 and suffered a stroke in 2014, leading to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.  She’s brilliant.

Canoeing

I love canoeing in all forms and Britain has done very well in this Paralympics.  Three golds in a day on 15 September with Jeanette Chippington winning the K1 200m KL1 title, 28 years after her first medal, a silver in the 100m backstroke L4 in Seoul in 1988.  Then Emma Wiggs blew the field away to take the k1 200m KL2 gold.  Thirdly Anne Dickens won gold in the KL3 200m final.  That was three golds in about half an hour!

Swimming

Numerous medals in swimming.  Seven golds and six silvers.  Bethany Firth took two golds and a silver, Hannah Russell, Steph Millward, Ellie Simmonds, Susie Rodgers, Ellie Robinson (just 15) all took golds with Claire Cashmore, Jessica-Jane Appleton, Rebecca Redfern, Steph Slater and Harriet Lee took silvers.

I’m sorry I’ve just concentrated on gold medals and silvers; every competitor has a story, a performance to be proud of and a unique experience.  Without descending into the mawkish, it’s exciting, awe-inspiring and moving.

Tennis

Germany’s Angelique Kerber went to world number one in the rankings this week when Serena Williams was knocked out of the US Open in the semi finals.  She then went on to win the title, beating the Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-3 4-6 6-4.

Kerber had already won the Australian Open in January and was runner-up at Wimbledon, but Pliskova was in a rich vein of form, having beaten Williams in the semi in straight sets 6-2 7-6.

Kerber was not to be denied though, becoming the first German to win the US Open since Steffi Graf in 1996.

The women’s doubles title was taken by twelfth seeds Bethany Mattek-Sands (US) and Lucie Safarova (CZ).  They beat the top seeded French pairing of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic 2-6 7-6 6-4.

In other tennis news, the result of Maria Sharapova’s appeal against her two-year doping ban will be revealed in the first week of October.

Sharapova was banned by the ITF after testing positive for the banned substance, Meldonium, at the 2016 Australian Open.  She had been taking the drug since 2006, but it has only been listed as a banned substance since January this year.

Athletics

In athletics, the testing and re-testing of samples from the 2008 Olympics is still causing many medals to be re-awarded.  The latest is set to go to British javelin thrower, Goldie Sayers.  The silver medallist, Russia’s Maria Abakumova, will be disqualified after her re-test showed positive for the anabolic steroid turinabol.  Sayers, who finished fourth, will now receive a bronze medal.

Sayers has long been a critic of doping in athletics, particularly the systematic state-sponsored scheme employed by Russia.  In May 2016 she said she had considered withdrawing from the Rio games if Russian athletes were allowed to compete.

Cricket

In cricket, the ECB has announced that England’s women will complete their busy year with a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka in November.  The three games will take place at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in Colombo on Saturday 12, Tuesday 15 and Thursday 17 November.

It will be England’s last series in the ICC Women’s Championship, the qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Cup, which will be held in England.

At the moment England is placed in third on 19 points.  Sri Lanka lies eighth.

Before the series takes place, England will have a six-day training camp in Abu Dhabi from 1-7 November.

Football

England 5-0 Estonia

Carter (3), Scott, J, Carney (pen)

Meadow Lane, Nottingham

Attendance 7,052.

I was at Meadow Lane on 15 September for England’s latest qualifier.  England have already qualified for next year’s Euros, but Mark Sampson is obviously keen to send a signal to the other top teams in Europe that England will be a force to contend with next year.

The first half-hour was excellent from England.  They came out quickly and never gave Estonia a chance to gain a toe-hold, let alone a foot-hold.  There were some lovely passing moves, close control was good, as was communication.

They were 3-0 up at half time with two goals from Danielle Carter and a Jill Scott header.

Towards the end of the first half focus slipped.  Sampson will be aware that better sides would have taken advantage of this and when they came out in the second they had regained concentration.

However, the game was disrupted in the second-half with substitutions and England found it harder to put moves together.  There were too much convoluted play, and although they had plenty of chances, there was never going to be the hatful of goals that the first half promised.

They did score two though, with Carter claiming her hat-trick and Karen Carney calmly slotting home a penalty for the fifth for a comprehensive win.

Poor Siobhan Chamberlain was reduced to running on the spot to get warm.

Quite rightly, Carter was Player of the Match; her record stands at two caps, two hat-tricks, but my other stand-out player was Gemma Davison.  She flew down the right wing in the first half; her markers hadn’t got a clue how to deal with her.  With fifteen minutes to go until half-time, she had obviously had so much fun on the right that she swapped wings with Demi Stokes to cause mayhem on the left.  Truly the best half of football I have seen from Davison.

Wales 3-0 Israel

Ward (2), Estcourt

Newport

Wales put in an impressive display to beat Israel.  Wales record scorer, Helen Ward, scored two with Charlie Estcourt adding a third in the second half.  Jess Fishlock also missed a penalty.

Although Wales are third in Pool H, they cannot qualify for next year’s finals.

Sad news from football this week as it was announced that Sylvia Gore, the scorer of the first official goal for the England’s women team, has died from cancer at the age of 71.

In 1972 she scored England’s first goal in a 3-2 win against Scotland in Greenock.

Gore had a career in football that spanned over 60 years.  As a player she once scored 134 goals in a season.  After her playing career ended, she went on to become Wales manager.  She was also an FA Women’s committee member for 20 years.  Earlier this year she was unveiled as a Manchester City Women’s FC Club Ambassador.

Rugby Union

England Rugby has announced the Elite Player Squad for 2016/17 season.  As reported in an earlier column, this will be the first time England has awarded 15-a-side professional contracts.

The 54 names are split into full-time, part-time, short-term and non-contracted players.  38 contracts have so far been awarded.

The move is with the Women’s Rugby World Cup in mind, which takes place in Ireland in August 2017, where England will be looking to retain their title.

Full time contracts – 18
Claire Allan (Saracens)
Abbie Brown (Bristol)
Rachael Burford (n/a)
Amy Cokayne (Lichfield)
Heather Fisher (n/a)
Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Megan Jones (Bristol)
Alex Matthews (Richmond)
Sarah McKenna (Saracens)
Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park)
Marlie Packer (Bristol)
Amber Reed (Bristol)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Emily Scott (Thurrock)
Danielle Waterman (Bristol)
Kay Wilson (Richmond)
Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol)

Part time – 9
Natasha Brennan (n/a)
Lauren Cattell (Saracens)
Lotte Clapp (Saracens)
Deborah Fleming (Saracens)
Katie Mason (Bristol)
Fran Matthews (Richmond)
Kelly Smith (Worcester Valkyries)
Millie Wood (Lichfield)
Rachael Woosey (Darlington Mowden Park)

Short Term – 11
Emily Braund (Lichfield)
Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries)
Vickii Cornborough (Aylesford Bulls)
Sarah Hunter (Bristol)
Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries)
LaToya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park)
Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol)
Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park)
Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park)
Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries)

Non Contracted – 16
Sasha Acheson (Bristol)
Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park)
Sarah Bern (Bristol)
Bianca Blackburn (Worcester Valkyries)
Poppy Cleall (Bristol)
Emma Croker (Richmond)
Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)
Abby Dow (Wasps)
Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park)
Ceri Large (Worcester Valkyries)
Poppy Leitch (Bristol)
Justine Lucas (Lichfield)
Fiona Pocock (Aylesford Bulls)
Alice Richardson (n/a)
Leanne Riley (Aylesford Bulls)
Joanne Watmore (n/a)

England’s upcoming fixtures:

 Old Mutual Wealth Series:

England v France, Wednesday 9 November,The Twickenham Stoop 7.30pm

England v New Zealand, Saturday 19 November, The Twickenham Stoop 12pm

England v Canada, Saturday 26 November,Twickenham 5.05pm
Free entry after the men’s game

Also one-off:

Ireland v England, Sunday 13 November,University College Dublin 2pm
 

Sailing news from Abby Ehler

Paralympics from the British side: Helena Lucas, who became Britain’s first Paralympic sailing champion winning gold at London 2012 sailing the 2.4mR, 1-person keelboat is defending her Gold medal and currently leading the fleet, with more racing scheduled over the next few days, weather permitting.  In the 3-person Keelboat, Hannah Stodel and her team mates who have been together for 4 consecutive Games are currently placed 5th in the fleet with 5 races to go and all to play for.

In the single handed offshore racing circuit, Justine Mettraux (SUI) and Sophie Faguet (FRA) are 150 miles from their finish, having been at sea since September 10th up against gruelling conditions as they race from the Azores to France in the 15-strong fleet. The teams are expected into Douarnenez, near Brest this weekend.  Justine is currently lying in a respectable 7th place, neck and neck with 3 other competitors, so it will be a nail biting finish for the leading pack.

 

 

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Women’s Sports Column 21-27 May

boxing_gloves-2

 

This week’s stories come from football, tennis, athletics, boxing, horse racing and hockey. There are also not one, but two “and finally” snippets for your delectation – couldn’t decide which one was worse so I thought I’d feature both.

 

The last FAWSL fixtures before the mid-season break took place this week. Manchester City have had their lead cut to four points.

Saturday 21 May

The game between Doncaster Belles and Arsenal was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. No date has been announced for the re-arranged fixture.

Wednesday 25 May

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City

Liverpool had the better of the game, with their best chance coming 12 minutes from the end of the match with Rosie White heading against the bar from a Laura Coombs corner.

These are the first points dropped by City this season.

Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland

Chelsea kept the heat on City with a 2-1 triumph against Sunderland, who are still looking for their first win of the season.

Steph Roche gave the Lady Black Cats the lead after just six minutes, but Chelsea captain Katie Chapman equalised with a fine header from Karen Carney’s free-kick just 90 seconds later.

In truth, Chelsea could have had six if they hadn’t been so profligate in front of goal. As it was, Fran Kirby scored in the 21st minute to seal the three points. She perhaps deserved another in the second half, for sheer audacity if nothing else, when she bicycle-kicked just over the bar.

Sunderland remain second from bottom.

 

Kim Little has been voted BBC World Service Women’s Footballer of the Year 2016. The 25-year old Scotland midfielder beat Gaell Gaelle Enganamouit (FC Rosengard, Sweden), Amandine Henry (Olympique Lyonnais), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash) and Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City) to win the award.

This is not the Seattle Reign’s first award. She was named the FA’s Women’s Player of the Year in 2010 and was the first winner of the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year award in 2013.

 

Thursday 26 May

Women’s Champions League final

Wolfsburg 1-1 Lyon
Lyon win 4-3 on penalties

Lyon won their third Champions League title on penalties after keeper Sarah Bouhaddi saved two spot kicks to seal the win.

Lyon took the lead in just the 12th minute through the competition’s top scorer, Ada Hegerberg. It looked as though this could be the winner until Alex Popp equalised with a fine header two minutes from time.

The teams couldn’t be separated in extra time, and the tie went to penalties. Although Hegerberg missed hers, the Lyon keeper saved from Nilla Fischer and Bussaglia. The winning penalty was converted by player of the match, Saki Kumagai.

 

Not much to be cheery about if you’re a British tennis fan. As I suggested last week, all four British women had tough first round draws at the French Open at Roland Garros. The only one of the four to get through to the second round was British number two, Heather Watson.

Most disappointing was the performance of British number one, Johanna Konta, who lost in straight sets by Julia Goerges, 6-2 6-3.

Laura Robson, who faced the hardest task, was ousted by 28th seed, Andrea Petkovic, 6-2 6-2.

Naomi Broady also perished in the first round, although she did manage to take it to three sets against American Coco Candeweghe, before losing 4-6 6-3 3-6.

Heather Watson beat her doubles partner, Nicole Gibbs, 5-7 6-2 6-2 in the first round, but couldn’t cope with 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second, 6-1 6-3. She tried hard, especially in the second set, but was outclassed by the 13th seed.

 

In other tennis news, Maria Sharapova, who is currently serving a suspension for doping, has been named in the Russian Olympic team for Rio in August. Sharapova is only provisionally suspended at the moment, and is waiting for the result of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) investigation.

If she is given a confirmed ban she will be replaced in the team by Ekaterina Makaraova.

 

Jockey Michelle Payne suffered a serious fall this week which will put her out of action until at least August. She is currently in hospital recovering from abdominal surgery. It means she will not be able to compete in the Shergar Cup team event at Ascot on 6 August.

 

The race to Rio is hotting up with athletes of all disciplines still working on qualifying. However, one athlete this week has expressed a doubt as to whether she wants to compete in the Games if Russia are allowed to take part. Russian athletes are currently banned due to allegations of widespread state-organised doping.

Goldie Sayers, British javelin record holder has said that she would think long and hard about competing if Russia were re-admitted for Rio. But she admits,

“But if they are reinstated and I didn’t compete I’d be cheating myself out of another opportunity at the Olympics.”

Let’s hope she doesn’t have to make the choice.

 

Brilliant news from boxing on 27 May. Nicola Adams has claimed gold in the flyweight division at the AIBA World Championships in Kazakhstan.

She beat Thailand’s Peamwilai Laopeam by a split decision.

Surprisingly this is Adams’ first World Championships gold, with three previous silvers in the bag. It now completes her set; Olympic, Commonwealth, European and World titles.

She has already qualified for Rio and who would bet against her taking gold again?

 

One event of which I have been made aware (thanks Martin) is the Euro Hockey Club Champions Cup (EHCCC). This is the hockey equivalent of the football Champions’ League. This year’s was won by Den Bosch in an all-Dutch final against SCHC – a replay of the 2015 final.

16 May
Bilthoven
Den Bosch 1-1 SCHC
Den Bosch win on penalties

Den Bosch opened the scoring through a penalty corner converted by Pauman. They held the lead until the 40th minute, when SCHC were awarded a penalty stroke, which was taken and scored by van Massakker.

Den Bosch took the title in a shoot out.

The teams for next year’s tournament have already been announced. England’s representation will be from Canterbury and Surbiton, who also took part in this year’s competition, finishing fifth and sixth respectively. The countries are allotted a number of places as a result of their ranking.

Currently the Netherlands are top of the tree and will have two places, as will England. Germany, Spain, Ireland and Russia have one place each. This is the position at the moment, but Belarus and Belgium are closing fast in the rankings and could yet take one of the spots for next year’s contest.

 

Take your pick of “and finally” stories this week. The first is all too familiar and possibly a bit too predictable, but the second is something special – and no, I’m not providing photos.

Chris Gayle has struck again this week with another embarrassing interview with a female journalist. He bragged to Charlotte Edwardes from The Times that he has a

“very, very big bat….You think you could lift it? You’d need two hands.”

He asked Edwardes “how many black men I’ve had” and whether she had ever been in a threesome.

Don’t think I need to say anymore about that.

 

And finally (2), Ayr United plumbed the depths this week in launching their new kit for next season. They have done it by having a topless model with the “shirt” painted on in body paint, posing in several provocative situations. They have form. They have done it before regardless of the criticism faced, which shows a complete lack of sensibility. And of course, in reporting the story – yes you Daily Mail and Independent, the pictures had to be reprinted. This gives more publicity to a grimy idea – which is exactly what they want.

So Ayr United, who do you want at your games. Is it women? Is it children? Er no, probably not. I would suggest that they probably don’t matter to you.

This time they could be fined by the Scottish FA. Hit them in the pocket, I say.