Women’s Sports Column 18-24 May 2019

speedometerWelcome to this week’s column.  Not for the first time, last week’s offering was full of FA frustration.  Hopefully this week’s will be a bit calmer (stranger things have happened, although I can’t think of many).

News and results this week come from netball (didn’t see that result coming), motor racing, cricket, taekwondo, tennis, basketball, hockey, rugby league and football.

Let’s crack on……

Motor Racing – on the Track

It was Round Two of the W Series last weekend.  Dutch driver Beitske Visser took the win with Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell in second and third respectively.

Visser dominated the race, leading from start to finish.

There were two safety car periods; one when Sarah Tovy’s car got stuck on the grid at the start and one when Gosia Rdest and Esmee Hawkey collided.

Chadwick started on pole, but was overtaken by Visser at the start.  The Briton is still top of the leaderboard after this weekend’s result.

The third round is in Misano, Italy on 8 June.

Motor Racing – Off the Track

It was also confirmed this week that Jamie Chadwick has been offered a role as development driver with the Williams Formula 1 team.

Of course, Williams already have form for promoting women in motorsport.  Susie Wolff was a development driver for the team before she retired in 2015 and, of course deputy team principal is Claire Williams who said of the move,

“Promoting women in motorsport is extremely important and having a female role model as part of our driver academy will hopefully inspire young girls to take up racing at a young age.

“We hope to show that motorsport is inclusive and exciting, be that as a driver or on the engineering side. Jamie is a great talent and I look forward to working with her.”

Football

Champions League

Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 Barcelona

Yet another emphatic win for Lyon as they produced an exceptional first-half performance to mean that even in this season of ridiculous comebacks, the deficit was just too much for Barcelona to overcome after the break.

Ballon d’Or winner and now BBC Women’s Footballer of the year (see below), Ada Hegerberg, hit a hat-trick in the first-half.

If Toni Duggan had hit the target early on, rather than shooting wide, perhaps it would have been different.

Shanice Van de Sanden also starred, setting up the first two goals for Dzsenifer Marozsan and Hegerberg with excellent crosses.

Hegerberg then scored two more – a hat-trick in just 16 minutes and Lyon were four up by half-time.

Asisat Oshoala pulled one back for Barcelona late on, but it was a meagre consolation.

Nikita Parris

And it appears Lyon will only be stronger next season as it was announced this week that England’s Nikita Parris has signed for the French champions.  She will have to prove herself to make a place in such a successful side, but if anyone can, Parris can.

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019

Ada Hegerberg has been named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019.

As we already know, she has had yet another excellent season, culminating in her Champions League final hat-trick.  This season she scored 29 goals in 33 games for Lyon and the team won the French league (again) and French Cup as well as the Champions League title.

Pernille Harder was second and Sam Kerr third.  It is Hegerberg’s second title, having also won it in 2017.

It is just a shame that we won’t get to see her playing for Norway in the World Cup.

England

Talking of which, there are two warm-up matches coming up for England as they continue to prepare for the World Cup:

England v Denmark (25 May, Banks’s Stadium, Walsall, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)
England v New Zealand (1 June, Amex Stadium, Brighton, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)

Scotland

Scotland also play a warm-up:

Scotland v Jamaica (28 May, Hampden Park, Glasgow, 7.35m kick-off)

Wales

Wales play New Zealand in a friendly before they begin their 2021 Euros qualification campaign:

Wales v New Zealand (4 June, Leckwith Stadium, Cardiff, 7pm kick-off)

Netball – on the Court

Manchester Thunder 57-52 Wasps Netball

Well I can honestly say I didn’t see this result coming.  Wasps have been so dominant this year, I thought it was practically a foregone conclusion that they would win the Grand Final, but that, without hopefully sounding too sententious, is the beauty of sport.

Wasps started well and were leading throughout the first quarter. In fact, Thunder didn’t come into their own until half way through the second quarter, when they took the lead for the first time.

At the beginning of the third quarter Wasps roared back and went back into the lead, but couldn’t hold it and the lead changed hands almost with every goal.

It looked as if Wasps had regained their equilibrium towards the end of the third quarter, and going into the final period they had a lead of 45-39.

But it was the Thunder who took the initiative in the fourth and final quarter.  They achieved two turnovers in the first few minutes and from that point never looked back, scoring 19 goals in the last quarter as they secured their third Super League title.

Team Bath 62-56 Loughborough Lightning

By half-time Lightning had a five-goal lead at 30-25, but were unable to maintain their form until the final whistle.

But Bath came back in the third, scoring 18 to Loughborough’s 14 and reducing the deficit to just one.

But it was in the fourth quarter that Bath took control, scoring 19 goals to Loughborough’s 12, giving them a six point victory and a third place finish.

Netball – off the Court

England Roses Squad

Tracey Neville has named her squad of 12 for the World Cup in July.  One person who will not be there is captain Ama Agbeze who has been left out due to ongoing injury.

Unsurprisingly Agbeze is devastated to be missing out.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I think I’m dealing with it quite well but I’m really disappointed.

“I feel like I’m at peace with the decision, which I never thought I would say because I’m usually a wreck.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to go not to my full capacity. I did think I had time but obviously that has been taken out of my hands.”

Agbeze has been a star for England, leading them to the historic Commonwealth gold medal last year.  Let’s hope she can come back from injury and fight her way back into the team.

The squad in full:

Defence
Geva Mentor, GK
Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK/GD
Fran Williams, GK/GD
Layla Guscoth, GD/WD

Centre court
Jade Clarke, WD/C
Serena Guthrie, WD/C
Natalie Panagarry, WD/C/WA
Chelsea Pitman, WA

Shooters
Natalie Haythornthwaite, WA/GA
Helen Housby, GA/GS
Jo Harten, GS/GA
Rachel Dunn, GS/GA

It is a squad combining youth and experience with Geva Mentor, Rachel Dunn and Jade Clarke, all into their mid-thirties.  Eight of the squad played in the Commonwealth Games with just two making their big tournament debuts, Layala Guscoth and Fran Williams.  There is also a well-earned place for Loughborough Lightning captain Nat Pangarry.

You realise the strength of English netball when you realise who won’t be there; Agbeze, Sasha and Kadeen Corbin and Jodie Gibson all miss out.

Hockey – FIH Pro League

Great Britain 2-0 Belgium

The first-half was goalless, but Great Britain took the lead in the third quarter through Grace Balsdon.  Lily Owsley bagged the second.

Great Britain are now sixth in the table.

Next up is Germany at the Lee Valley Centre on 6 June.

Basketball – WBBL

Sevenoaks Suns won the play-off title for the second year running on Saturday, beating Leicester Riders in the final at the 02 Arena 60-55.

It was a tight game throughout and with four minutes to go the two sides were locked at 50-50.  But Sevenoaks stretched ahead to win the tie by five.

Suns’ top scorer was Janice Monakana with 23 points, while Riders’ was Brea Elmore with 17.

Tennis

Rome Open

Jo Konta got through to the Rome final with an excellent comeback against sixth seed Kiki Bertens in her semi-final, 5-7 7-5 6-2.

In the other semi-final, fourth seed Karolina Pliskova beat Maria Sakkari 6-4 6-4.

However, Konta fell short in the final, losing to Pliskova 6-3 6-4.

Konta’s performance at the Rome Open has earned her a seeding in the French Open, which starts on 26 May.

Strasbourg Open

We are at the semi-final stage of the Strasbourg Open.  Top seed Ash Barty withdrew at the round of 32 stage with an arm injury.  Hopefully she will be fit for the French Open.

The semi-finals look like this:

Dayana Yastremska (6) v Aryna Sabalenka (2)
Chloe Paquet v Caroline Garcia (4)

We are also in the midst of qualifying for the French Open.  Katie Swan is one win away from making the main draw and will face Slovakian Kristina Kucova in the final round, but Heather Watson is out, falling to world 193 Valentini Grammatikopoulou 7-5 6-7 7-6.

In the first round proper, Katie Boulter is scheduled to play 23rd seed Donna Vekic, although Boulter may still be nursing a back injury and the match could be in doubt.  Jo Konta is scheduled to play a qualifier.

There are some fascinating first round match-ups in prospect, including Jelena Ostapenko v Victoria Azarenka (both unseeded), Aryna Sabalenka v Dominika Cibulkova, Barbora Strycova v Sam Stosur and Venus Williams v ninth seed Elina Svitolina.

Taekwondo

Great Britain’s top two, Bianca Walkden and Jade Jones, duly claimed gold in their respective categories at the World Championships in Manchester last week – but in very different circumstances.

Bianca Walkden claimed her third successive world title after a bout mired in controversy.  She was 21-10 down to Olympic champion Shuyin Zheng of China, when Walkden forced her opponent into conceding penalties, aggressively getting her off the mat.  Eventually Zheng was disqualified.

Although Walkden fought within the rules, there was booing when she was declared champion and more boos when she received her medal on the podium.  Zheng refused to acknowledge the Briton’s win and then collapsed in tears on the podium when she received her medal.

Jade Jones finally secured the world title that had eluded her, after previously winning two Olympic golds.  She beat defending champion Lee Ah-reum of South Korea in the final 14-7.

A big shout-out too, to Aaliyah Powell, who became Britain’s youngest taekwondo medallist when she won bronze in the -53kg category.

Rugby League

I managed to miss the rugby league results last week, so here they are:

Super League – 12 May
Wigan Warriors 4-12 Leeds Rhinos
Castleford Tigers 30-14 St Helens
Wakefield Trinity 8-40 Featherstone Rovers
York City Knights 4-40 Bradford Bulls

So after four rounds of fixtures, Castleford Tigers are top with four wins from four and eight points. Then follow Bradford, St Helens and Leeds all on six points, but in this order on points difference.

Cricket – County Championship

Last weekend’s County Championship results:

Division One
Kent 235/7 (47.4 overs) 16 points beat Hampshire 233/6 (50 overs) 7 points
Nottinghamshire 207/9 (50 overs) 18 points beat Warwickshire 203/9 (50 overs) 8 points
Sussex 176/7 (50 overs) 5 points lost to Surrey 177/5 (47.2 overs) 16 points
Yorkshire 160/5 (48.3 overs) 17 points beat Lancashire 158 all out (46.2 overs) 5 points

Division Two
Cricket Wales 163/8 (50 overs) 12 points TIED with Middlesex 163 all out (47.4 overs) 11 points
Devon 203/5 (48.1 overs) 9 points ABANDONED Berkshire 22/2 (5 overs) Revised target 213 from 50 overs 7 points
Durham 152 all out (47.4 overs) 17 points beat Worcestershire 121 all out (43.4 overs) 6 points
Essex 124/9 (49.3 overs) 16 points beat Somerset 123 all out (45 overs) 6 points

England v West Indies

As I’m not here next week, I’d thought I’d just remind you of the upcoming England fixtures.  Tickets are still available, so if you’re in the vicinity, get out and watch the women in action.

West Indies have suffered a blow before the series starts with the withdrawal from the squad of Deandra Dottin through injury.  Her place is taken by Britney Cooper.

West Indies squad: Stafanie Taylor (capt), Shemaine Campbelle, Britney Cooper, Afy Fletcher, Chinelle Henry, Stacy-Ann King, Kycia Knight (wk), Kyshona Knight, Natasha McLean, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman.

There are three ODIs, all of which qualify for ICC Women’s Championship points.  There are also three T20s.

ODIs
First ODI, Thursday 6 June, Grace Road Leicester, 2pm start
Second ODI, Sunday 9 June, New Road Worcester, 11am start
Third ODI, Thursday 13 June, County Ground Chelmsford, 2pm start

T20s
First T20, Tuesday 18 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Second T20, Friday 21 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Third T20, Tuesday 25 June, County Ground Derby, 7pm start

And Finally,

It’s not just the FA that sets the bar high in incompetence.  It seems that FiFA too (are we surprised) are excelling themselves once again.  There have been reports – and it is a number, not just one or two – that groups or families just receiving their World Cup tickets, have been split up and are sitting in different places.  Are these people who have ordered at the last minute and are picking up the odd one?  No, these appear to be people who have been in from the start.  Let’s just hope the problem isn’t as widespread as it first appears and that everyone has a fabulous experience in France.

No column next week as I’m out and about. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 December 2017

DSCN2151Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week in a short, but perfectly formed story of the week.  It’s the time of year when we see one awards ceremony after another, but the two biggies have to be BT Action Woman of the Year (women are winning that one!) and, of course, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (somewhat less of a chance of a woman winning that one).  The BT awards have been and gone – news below, but the opportunity to vote for your BBC SPOTY is still to come. I cover the runners and riders, so to speak, in this week’s “and finally”.  Other news comes from cycling, tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, horse racing, taekwondo, curling and football.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s results in the Premier 15s were:

2 December

Loughborough Lightning 43-33 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

DMP Sharks 3-26 Bristol Ladies

Firwood Waterloo Ladies 12-12 Worcester Valkyries

3 December

Richmond Women 0-44 Wasps Ladies

Harlequins Ladies 19-28 Saracens Women

After nine games, Saracens are top with 44 points, winning all of their games and missing out on just one bonus point.  Harlequins are second with 40, with Wasps seven points further back on 33.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries are marooned on two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on seven, with DMP Sharks one place above them on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures sees second placed Quins take on Wasps at Surrey Sports Park, while Saracens are at home to struggling Firwood Waterloo.  Here are the fixtures in full:

9 December

Harlequins Ladies v Wasps: Surrey Sports Park 1pm

Saracens Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies: Allianz Park 2pm

Worcester Valkyries v Loughborough Lightning: Sixways Stadium 2pm

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v DMP Sharks: TBC 4pm

10 December

Richmond Women v Bristol Ladies: Richmond Athletic Ground 2.30pm

Rugby union coverage

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of good news stories regarding the TV coverage of women’s rugby this week.  Firstly, Sky showed their first Tyrell’s 15 Premiership match last weekend.  Secondly came the news that England Roses’ Six Nations games will also be shown on Sky.  At last, some recognition for the progress the women’s game has made, particularly with the excellent staging and standard of the World Cup this summer.

Women’s Six Nations

Saturday 4 February

19:35: England v France – Twickenham (Sky Sports Mix)

Saturday 11 February

11:30: Wales v England– Cardiff Arms Park (Sky Sports 3)

Saturday 25 February

13:00: England v Italy – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday 11 March

20:00: England v Scotland – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2, delayed coverage, KO 13:00)

Friday 17 March

20:00: Ireland v England – Donnybrook, Dublin (Sky Sports Mix)

Taekwondo

There was double success for Britain’s women at the Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Ivory Coast this week.

Bianca Walkden won her fifth major title of the year when she took the +67kg category, beating Da- Bin Lee of South Korea in the final 16-9.  She won all four Grand Prix events in this calendar year as well as taking gold in the World Championships in June – the first fighter to do so.

Then Britain’s Jade Jones also took gold in the -57kg category.   She beat Marta Calvo-Gomez of Spain 26-7 in the final and ends the year as world number one in the -57kg category.

They now go on to compete for Britain the inaugural Taekwondo Grand Slam in China.

BT Action Woman

England footballer Jodie Taylor was named BT Action Woman of 2017 this week.  She beat off competition from Tammy Beaumont, Elise Christie, Hannah Cockcroft, Mallory Franklin, Johanna Konta, Katy McLean and Anya Shrubsole to take the award in a public vote.

Franklin was second, with Konta third.

Unsurprisingly the England Cricket Team took the team of the year award, while Judy Murray was given a Lifetime Achievement award for her contribution to tennis.

Rugby League World Cup

Semi-finals

England 4-52 New Zealand

England were well beaten by New Zealand at the Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney.

In truth, they were never really in it as the Kiwi Ferns took the lead in the second minute with a try from Maitua Feterika.  Shontelle Woodman and Krystal Murray added further scores before England could reply with a try of their own from Tara-Jane Stanley in the 21st minute.

England were only 14-4 down at half-time and would have been hoping for better in the second period, but it was not to be as New Zealand put on the afterburners and England had no response.

They scored seven tries in the second-half, Honey Hireme ending with a hat-trick and Krystal Murray with two.

Australia 58-6 Canada

Australia were dominant over Canada from the off.  They scored 42 unanswered points in the first-half.

The second period was more even as Australia eased through.  Natasha Smith scored Canada’s only try, while Ali Brigginshaw, Steph Hancock, Isabelle Kelly and Karina Brown all scored two tries, while Talesha Quinn, Ruan Sims and Nakia Davis-Welsh bagged one each.

Final – 2 December

Australia 23-17 New Zealand

It was an altogether tighter, and exciting, affair.  Australia took the lead on eight minutes with a try from Isabelle Kelly, with the extra points kicked by Caitlin Moran.  Four minutes later, New Zealand were level through Honey Hireme, extra points kicked by Kimiora Nati.

Hireme got her second on 20 minutes to send the Ferns into the lead.  But the Jillaroos were not to be outdone and on 36 minutes Moran scored a brilliant solo effort under the posts, converting it to give them a half-time lead of 12-10.

The second-half belonged to Australia.  Kelly scored her second try on 53, while just four minutes later Elianna Walton went over to take the game away from the Kiwi Ferns; 22-10 with just 20 minutes left.

New Zealand made a fight of it with Raecene McGregor going over in the 69th minute to take them back within a converted score of the lead.

But the Jillaroos were to have the last word.  Moran kicked a field goal in the final minute and Australia had won their second successive World Cup.

Cricket

The WBBL starts this weekend with many of the cricketing world’s biggest stars on show. Representing England are Tammy Beaumont (Adelaide Strikers) with Charlotte Edwards coaching, Georgia Elwiss (Melbourne Stars), Lauren Winfield (Hobart Hurricanes).

Coverage is on BT Sport at unholy times.  Check your TV listings for details.

Cycling

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the Track Cycling Cup in Milton, Canada, last week.

Katie Archibald won gold in the points race, winning the first four sprints and gaining a lap to take the title.  Jasmin Duehring of Canada finished second, nine points behind, with Jarmila Machacova of the Czech Republic, third.

Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson also then took gold in the madison with 29 points.  France came second on 24 and New Zealand third on 15.

Katy Marchant took silver in the keirin.  Kristina Vogel of Germany took gold, with Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands finishing in bronze position.

Curling

Scotland’s women’s Team, led by Eve Muirhead won the European Curling Championship in St Gallen, Switzerland, this week.  They beat Sweden, unbeaten up to this point, 6-3, on Saturday.

The team, Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray went behind early on, and were 2-1 down after the third end.  They took a double in the sixth end and one in each of the last three to take the match and the title.

Tennis

Serena Williams has entered the Australian Open in January.  She has returned to training after giving birth to a daughter in September and, if she takes part, this will be her first tournament back. There is no doubt that she’s still looking to equal (and break) Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles titles record of 24.  At the moment she has 23.  Who can bet against it?  Whatever happens, it will be great to see her in action again.

Horse Racing

Jockey Hayley Turner is to face a British Horseracing Authority inquiry after she was charged with a breach of betting rules.

The hearing will be on 14 December.

Football

Continental Cup

The final round of group matches took place this week:

Saturday 2 December

Bristol City Women 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Chelsea Ladies 8-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Sunday 3 December

Manchester City Women 2-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies 3-2 Durham Women

London Bees 1-1 Watford Ladies

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Reading FC Women

Oxford United Women 1-5 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Tuesday 5 December

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Liverpool Ladies

Wednesday 6 December

Chelsea Ladies 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-3 Manchester City Women

The quarter-final draw was made on 7 December:

Bristol City v Manchester City

Chelsea v Liverpool

Arsenal v Sunderland

Everton v Reading

Ties will be played over the weekend of 16/17 December.

And finally,

It’s that time again – the time when we look at the SPOTY shortlist and go, “seriously?  How many women?”  And this year is no exception.  In this year’s field of 12 twelve shortlisted, we have four women.  In the year of the Cricket World Cup, the Women’s Euros, the Rugby World Cup etc, etc, the BBC, in its wisdom, has managed to come up with four names.  Hey ho.  ‘Twas ever thus.  So the women to vote for (I’m not going to curse you if you vote for one of the men) are Elise Christie, Jo Konta, Anya Shrubsole and Bianca Walkden.

Voting has already closed in the Overseas SPOTY category.  The women shortlisted are Katie Ledecky (swimming), Tatyana McFadden (Para-athletics) and Sally Pearson (athletics).

No prizes for guessing who I’ll be voting for in the main event.  I’ve already said as much on social media – Anya Shrubsole gets my vote.  She made my summer and my year with her performance in the World Cup final.  I’m hoping the England team is nailed on for the Team of the Year award, but it would really be something special if Anya was at least close to winning it.

The programme is on Sunday 17 December and you will be able to vote by telephone on the night.

Women’s Sports Column 24 – 30 June 2017

water-815271_960_720Welcome to this week’s column.  Having seen my third cricket match in a row abandoned on Tuesday, I’m now officially considering myself a curse, so if I were you I wouldn’t be inviting me to a wedding or garden party-type event any time soon.

This week’s stories come from tennis, horse racing, cricket, golf, football, basketball, rugby union and taekwondo.

Football

Injuries

Two major injury blows for Scotland this week ahead of the Euros, which begin next month.  Defender Jen Beattie and striker Kim Little have both been ruled out.

Beattie, who plays for Manchester City in the WPL has an ankle injury, whilst Arsenal star Little ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament during training and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Horse Racing

Melbourne Cup-winning Australian jockey, Michelle Payne has been stood down from riding after testing positive for a banned substance.

After being tested on 11 June her urine sample showed traces of Phentermine, an appetite suppressant.

An enquiry into the findings will be held this week.

Rugby Union

England head coach, Simon Middleton, has announced his squad for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, taking place in Ireland in August.

He has clearly placed his faith in experience as between them the squad has 1,207 caps.

The squad in full:

Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 4 caps), Sarah Bern (Bristol, 10 caps), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries, 124 caps), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield, 28 caps), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 25 caps), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 61 caps), Sarah Hunter (C) (Bristol, 93 caps), Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 8 caps), Justine Lucas (Lichfield, 22 caps), Alex Matthews (Richmond, 31 caps), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield, 46 caps), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol, 31 caps), Marlie Packer (Bristol, 47 caps), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 17 caps), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 105 caps).

Backs: Rachael Burford (Harlequins, 67 caps), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield, 37 caps), Megan Jones (Bristol, 4 caps), La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 66 caps), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 85 caps), Amber Reed (Bristol, 39 caps), Leanne Riley (Harlequins, 10 caps), Emily Scarratt (VC) (Lichfield, 69 caps), Emily Scott (Saracens, 23 caps), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries, 34 caps), Danielle Waterman (Bristol, 70 caps), Kay Wilson (Richmond, 44 caps), Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol, 7 caps).

As a reminder here are England’s pool games:

Pool B

England v Spain
Wednesday 9 August – UCD Bowl, Dublin (KO 2pm)
Live coverage ITV4 from 1.30pm

England v Italy
Sunday 13 August – Billings Park UCD, Dublin (KO 2.30pm)
Live coverage ITV1 from 2pm

England v USA
Thursday 17 August – Billings Park UCD, Dublin (KO 2.30pm)
Live coverage ITV4 from 2pm

Taekwondo

On Wednesday Bianca Walkden became the first British fighter to defend a World Championship title when she took gold in Muju, South Korea.

Walkden beat home favourite Saebom An 9-3 in the semi-final, before going on to defeat Jackie Galloway of the USA 14-4 in the final of the +73kg category.

Jade Jones had to settle for bronze on Friday after losing in the semi-final 14-8 to Lee Ah-reum of South Korea.

Golf

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is currently underway in Chicago.  The first round was cut short due to thunderstorms, but the leaderboard stands as follows:

-5 C Choi (Kor), A Yang (Kor)*, -4 B Altomare (US), J Klatten (Fra)*, -3 M Wie (US), B Henderson (Can), A Lee (IS), S Oh (Aus), K Kaufman (US)*, E Pederson (Den)*

Of the British players Jodie Ewart Shadoff (Eng) is -2 but is yet to complete round one.  Catriona Matthew of Scotland is +2 and also has to finish off her first round.  Mel Reid of England lies +3 and Charley Hull +4.

*Denotes unfinished round.

Tennis

Eastbourne

The top players are preparing for Wimbledon this week.  Eastbourne has its usual impressive line-up.

British players

Johanna Konta is seeded five.  She had a great start to the week, and on Thursday completed an impressive double as the tournament struggled to get back on track after severe rain delays.  However, during her defeat of Angelique Kerber in the quarter-final she fell heavily and suffered a back injury, causing her to withdraw from her scheduled semi-final with Karolina Pliskova.

What a good week it had been until then, though.  In the second round she easily defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2 6-2. On Thursday she had to play two matches; In the third round she faced French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko. Konta took the first set 7-5, Ostapenko hit back to take the second 6-3 and the decider went to Konta 6-4.  Later on she played world number one Angelique Kerber, defeating her in fine style 6-3 6-4.

Obviously there will now be concern over Konta’s participation at Wimbledon, which begins on Monday.  Let’s hope her withdrawal from Eastbourne is just precautionary.

Heather Watson has also had an excellent week.  In the first she defeated Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4 4-6 6-4.  In the second she had a fine win against fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 7-5 6-4.  In the third she faced Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and beat her 6-4 6-3.  In the quarter-final she faced Barbora Strycova and again won, this time in three sets, 6-1 1-6 6-4.  She plays Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated second seed Simona Halep 5-7 6-4 6-1.

Stop press:  Watson has just been defeated by Wozniacki in a tight match -6-2 3-6 7-5.  Wozniacki plays Karolina Pliskova in the final on Saturday 1 July.

Naomi Broady lost in the first round 6-2 6-7 6-1 to Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

Off the Court

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced this week that starting in 2018 the Davis Cup and Fed cup will combine to become a World Cup of Tennis.

The finals of the men’s and women’s tournaments will be brought together.  For the first three years the competition will be held in Geneva.   Geneva fought off bids from Copenhagen, Miami, Istanbul, Turin and Wuhan to win the right to host the event.

It may also be that the Fed cup semi-finals will also be included which would allow the ITF to expand the top group to 16 teams, the same number as are in the Davis Cup’s top group.

Wheelchair tennis

This year there will, for the first time, be a warm-up event before Wimbledon for the top wheelchair players.

It will be at Surbiton and will be over three days from 6 July.  The top 13 men and women players will take part and there will be both singles and doubles events.

Hockey

Women’s Hockey World League semi-finals
Quarter-final results:

New Zealand 2-0 Italy
Australia 0-2 China
Netherlands 2-0 Spain
South Korea 3-2 Belgium (After extra time.  1-1 after 60 minutes)

The semi-final line-up will now be:

South Korea v China
Netherlands v New Zealand

Both ties will be played on Saturday 1 July.

Wheelchair Basketball

Great Britain’s women lost in the semi-final of the European Championships this week.  They were defeated 59-42 by the Netherlands.  They will now play for bronze against France on Friday 30 June.

The final also takes place on 30 June.  The Netherlands will play Germany who defeated France 46-33 in the other semi-final.

Cricket

Women’s World Cup

Right, we’re eight games in and what do we know?  I don’t think my predictions have been too bad so far.  Australia have been excellent from the start, England have started slowly (as usual) and are improving, and India are looking ominous indeed.  West Indies look as if they’ve never met each other before and Pakistan show promise, but not enough.  South Africa and New Zealand are bobbling along, possibly under the radar, and Sri Lanka have a new star in Chamari Atapattu.  So far, so good.  So what have been the facts and figures:

Match 1:

Straightforward for New Zealand

New Zealand v Sri Lanka
Bristol – 24 June
New Zealand won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat.

Sri Lanka 188/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 189/1 (37.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 9 wickets with 74 balls remaining

Atapattu top scored with 53 for Sri Lanka, but 188 was never likely to be a challenging total for the powerful New Zealanders.  Holly Huddleston with 5/35 was the pick of the bowling.

As expected, New Zealand reached the target with plenty to spare, losing only one wicket, that of Rachel Priest for 2, in the process.  Captain Suzie Bates scored the first century of the World Cup, finishing on 106 not out.  She was ably backed up by Amy Satterthwaite who was 78 not out at the end.

Match 2:

Good Start for England (not)

England v India
Derby – 24 June
England won the toss and put India in to bat

India 281/3 (50 overs)
England 246 all out (47.3)
India won by 35 runs

Poor bowling and even poorer batting for England is only half the story.  India batted, bowled and fielded with talent and passion on Saturday, and England were lagging sadly behind.  In fact England got further than they should have done as India were clearly the better side.

The first wicket stand was 144 and when Smriti Mandhana was out for 90 it was captain Mithali Raj who took it on.  Punam Raut was second to go, but not until she had scored a fine 86.  Raj hit 71 and Harmanpreet Kaur 24 not out.  The bowling was not good with Katherine Brunt particularly being hit to all parts, conceding 50 from just seven overs.

England are not particularly known for their chasing either, so it was always going to be a battle to reach this target.

Captain Heather Knight scored 46 and there was a fine knock of 81 from Fran Wilson, but they were both run out.  In fact there were four run outs in the innings as England strove to score at the high rate required.  In the end they fell short.

Match 3:

Pakistan close to upset

Pakistan v South Africa
Leicester – 25 June
South Africa won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat

Pakistan 206/8 (50 overs)
South Africa 207/7 (49 overs)
South Africa won by 3 wickets with 6 balls remaining

When Pakistan posted a total of only 206, South Africa must have been confident they would chase it down easily.  But they were made to fight every step of the way.

Nahida Khan top scored for Pakistan with 79, with pretty much everyone else making a contribution.

When South Africa started with an opening stand of 113 they seemed to be cruising.  Laura Wolvaardt scored 52 and Lizelle Lee 60, but after that the scoring rate was relatively slow.  Three quick middle order wickets saw Pakistan in with a chance, but Sune Luus and Shabnim Ismail saw them home.

Match 4:

Controversy at the toss ends with West Indies batting when they should have bowled

Australia v West Indies
Taunton – 26 June
West Indies won the toss and batted

West Indies 204 all out (47.4 overs)
Australia 205/2 (38.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

There was confusion and controversy at the toss in Taunton when Stafanie Taylor, on calling correctly said “bat” and then changed her mind and said “bowl”.  It seemed that they were going with bowl, when Australian captain Meg Lanning decided to challenge the decision saying that they should go with what Taylor said first.  Taylor didn’t press it and said they would bat.

Turns out they perhaps should have bowled.  Opener Hayley Matthews made a fine 46 and Taylor 45, but the going was slow and the target a small one for a crack Australian side.   Ellyse Perry took 3/47 in nine overs.  But Australia also bowled eight wides, a total they would look to improve upon.

In response Nicole Bolton made 107 and Beth Mooney 70 as they reached their target with 12 overs to spare.

Match 5:

Sciver and Knight take it away from Pakistan

England v Pakistan
Leicester – 27 June
Pakistan won the toss and put England in to bat

England 377/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 107/3 (29.2)
Match abandoned – England won by 107 via D/L method

As I have already said, I was there to see the rain come down, but I was also there to see a heartening performance by England after their poor display against India.  England began badly. Both Taylor and Beaumont scratched around, timing very little and were both out cheaply.  But Knight and Sciver then took it on.  Knight began slowly, but it seemed as soon as Sciver came in it gave the captain confidence to play her shots.

It was a very enjoyable to see the battle to get to the century mark.  Both players scored their maiden centuries, Knight out first for 106 then Sciver for137.  Katherine Brunt came in and scored 9 off 5 balls, but was then out and was clearly so angry I was surprised she didn’t explode as she stomped off the pitch.  Jenny Gunn was out first ball – in fact she had a poor match but a nice cameo from Dani Wyatt (42 not out) in her fiftieth ODI and Fran Wilson (33) led England to an enormous score.  Pakistan were not helped by some friendly bowling and some less than sharp fielding.

In response Ayesha Zafar looked classy again.  In fact Pakistan batted well, but they were well behind the rate when the rains came.  Zafar was 56 not out and I would have liked to have seen more of her.

Great stuff from England though – a much needed shot in the arm after the first match and a large, appreciative crowd at Grace Road enjoyed the spectacle.

Match 6:

Nothing doing at a soggy Derby

New Zealand v South Africa
Derby -28 June
Match abandoned without a ball being bowled (no, I wasn’t there…)

Match 7:

West Indies snail’s pace no match for India

India v West Indies
Taunton – 29 June
India won the toss and put West Indies in to bat

West Indies 183/8 (50 overs)
India 186/3 (42.3 overs)
India won by 7 wickets with 45 balls remaining

This match just made us all who were watching or listening, say “what on earth were you doing, West Indies?”  Put in to bat they never got going at all.  Hayley Matthews did her best scoring 43 off 57 balls, but there was no back up.  With Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin on strike it should have been a run-fest, but when Dottin ran Taylor out it all went to pot.  Dottin went completely into her shell, scoring a terrible 7 from 48 balls and this timidity seemed to communicate itself through the team as the ball was repeatedly patted back to the bowler or just a few feet away.  The Indian spinners bowled ridiculously tightly with the pick Poonam Yadav, taking 2/19 off her 10 overs.

India were never going to have a problem in chasing it down.  Raut went for a duck but the classy Smriti Mandhana was great again, scoring 106 not out.  Mithali Raj chipped in with 46 and the result was never in doubt.

Match 8:

Lanning century eclipsed by new Sri Lankan superstar, but Australia still win

Australia v Sri Lanka
Bristol – 29 June
Australia won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat

Sri Lanka 257/9 (50 overs)
Australia 262/2 (43.5 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets with 37 balls remaining

Remember the name – Chamari Atapattu – potentially Sri Lanka’s first superstar.  Atapattu scored a marvellous 178 not out, over 68% of her team’s runs, the third highest score in women’s ODIs and second highest at a World Cup.  She hit 22 fours and 6 sixes off 143 balls.

But it was not enough.  Australia kept their heads and wickets intact.  Opener Mooney went for a duck, but Bolton scored fifty and the captain Lanning 152 not out as they won with over six overs to spare.

We can only wait with bated breath to see what happens in the second week!  Coverage continues on Sky (seems to be only occasionally on screen but mostly online) and BBC Test Match Special on 5Live Sports Xtra.

And finally,

No “and finally” as such except to say there will be no column next week as I am away, but it will be back the week after, packed with more World Cup news, Wimbledon news and anything else I can pick up along the way.

Women’s Sports Column 22-28 April 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  There is so much to get through this week I’m going to crack straight on!  Stories come from football, tennis, athletics, netball, squash, gymnastics, taekwondo, cricket, hockey and rugby.  You can probably guess my “And finally” again this week….

Football – Off the Pitch

World Cup 2019

The draw has been made for the European section of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.  England have been drawn in the same group as Wales along with Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.

The seven group winners will qualify automatically with the four best runners-up going into a two-round play-off to fill the last qualifying spot.

Qualifiers take place between 11 September 2017 and 4 September 2018

The draw in full:

Group 1: England, Russia, Wales, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan.

Group 2: Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, Belarus, Albania.

Group 3: Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland.

Group 4: Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia.

Group 5: Germany, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Faroe Islands.

Group 6: Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Moldova.

Group 7: Spain, Austria, Finland, Serbia, Israel.

PFA Awards

Lucy Bronze was awarded PFA Women’s Player of the Year this week.  The other shortlisted candidates were Jane Ross, Jill Scott, Ellen White, Karen Carney and Caroline Weir.

Jess Carter won the Women’s Young Player of the Year award.   Nikita Parris, Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir and Millie Bright were also shortlisted.

Kelly Smith was given a PFA Special Achievement Award.

On the Pitch

European Champions League

Saturday 22 April
Manchester City 1- 3 Lyon

Manchester City face an uphill battle if they are to overcome cup holders Lyon and qualify for the Champions League final.

Lyon went ahead after only two minutes after Carli Lloyd handled in the penalty area.  Saki Kumagai stepped up to score the penalty.

Kosovare Asllani equalised for City but the away side were quick to take the lead again, this time through Dzsenifer Marozsan.

French striker Eugenie Le Sommer scored a third in the second half.

The second leg takes place on Saturday 29 April.

Spring Series

The Spring Series is underway – without Notts County Ladies.

Saturday 22 April

Bristol City 1-3 Reading

After a goalless first half the visitors took the lead on 49 minutes when Rachel Furness headed home from a Rachel Rowe corner.

They were two up ten minutes later when Rowe carved out a chance to score herself and the tie was effectively over on 61 minutes when Melissa Fletcher poked home from a mistake in the Bristol defence.

Lauren Hemp pulled one back for the home side, but the points were gone.

Sunday 23 April

Birmingham City 0-0 Sunderland

With most of the possession and scoring opportunities, Birmingham City will be rueing missing their chances in this game, while Sunderland will be more than happy with a point.

Yeovil Town Ladies 1-4 Liverpool Ladies

The day started in a comedic fashion when it was revealed that Liverpool had forgotten to bring their away kit and so had to play in the home side’s away kit.  However, this was the end of the comedy for Yeovil Town’s as their first experience of the WSL1 was a tough one.

Liverpool took the lead on 23 minutes as Yeovil were penalised for handling in the box.  Alex Greenwood converted the penalty.

The away side doubled their lead in first-half injury time as Gemma Bonner poked home from a corner.

Yeovil were three down after 65 minutes when Katie Zelem scored from a Shanice Van De Sanden corner.  Zelem got her second on 75 to take it to 4-0.

Yeovil pulled one back in the 78th minute through a Sarah Wiltshire penalty.

Athletics

World Relays

Great Britain’s 4x400m team missed out on a bronze medal by 0.23 seconds in the Bahamas this week.  The team of Emily Diamond, Laviai Nielsen, Eilidh Doyle and Christine Ohuruogu finished fourth behind USA in first, Poland and Jamaica.

Germany took the 4 x 100m title ahead of Jamaica and China.

Kelly Sotherton

Heptathlete Kelly Sotherton has received her second upgraded bronze in five months after Russian athlete Tatyana Chernova was stripped of the bronze she won at Beijing in 2008 after she tested positive for a steroid.

She had already moved up to fourth from fifth after Ukrainian Lyudmila Blonska was disqualified.

London Marathon

Kenyan Mary Keitany won the women’s elite race, breaking Paula Radcliffe’s women-only record in the process.  She ran the marathon in a time of 2 hours 17 minutes 1 second, breaking the record by a massive 41 seconds.

Alyson Dixon was top British finisher in 12th, thus securing her World Championships place.   Jo Pavey was forced to pull out at around the 17 mile mark.

Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the wheelchair race, with Amanda McGrory of the USA in second and fellow American Susannah Scaroni in third.  Britain’s Jade Jones finished fifth.

 Cricket

It’s all change on the Subcontinent as both India and Pakistan have named new coaches just two months before the World Cup.

Pakistan

Sabih Azhar is the new Pakistan coach, taking over from Kabir Khan.  Pakistan also announced their squad for the upcoming tournament:

Sana Mir (Capt), Sidra Nawaz (wk), Ayesha Zafar, Nahida Khan, Marina Iqbal, Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan, Nain Abidi, Kainat Imtiaz, Asmavia Iqbal, Diana Baig, Waheeda Akhtar, Nashra Sandhu, Ghulam Fatima, Sadia Yousuf.

India

In a surprise move, Purnima Rau has been sacked by the BCCI and replaced by Tushar Arothe.  Arothe was women’s fielding coach and then head coach between 2008 and 2012.

Rau has voiced concern that she only found out about the sacking via the media.

“I was preparing the team for the World Cup when I heard of this from elsewhere.  I wasn’t given any explanation or reason by the board. In fact they didn’t even have the courtesy to inform me. In terms of results, we were successful. To be axed this way is disappointing and insulting.”

Arothe’s first test will be in May in a series in South Africa in a limited overs tournament that also features Ireland and Zimbabwe.

England v Ireland Series

England are currently playing Ireland in a three-match series in Abu Dhabi as their World Cup warm-up continues.

24 April

England XI 397/4 (50 overs)
Ireland 103 all out (44 overs)
England won by 276 runs

Jenny Gunn hit 94 not out and Georgia Elwiss 81 as England comfortably won the first match of the series.

The England bowling was equally impressive with Anya Shrubsole taking 3-11 and Alex Hartley 3-24.

Hockey

Surbiton did the double last weekend as both their men’s and women’s teams won their respective Hockey League Finals.

For the women it was their fourth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1.  Giselle Ansley scored Surbiton’s first and Rebecca Middleton the second before Eleanor Watton pulled one back for Holcombe.

Naomi Evans scored the third to ensure the title went to Surbiton.

Netball

Last weekend saw round 11 of the Netball Superleague.  Loughborough Lightning are still unbeaten and top the table by five points from Wasps as they won a thrilling game against the Thunder by just one point on Saturday.

Saturday 22 April

Team Bath 58-48 Celtic Dragons
Manchester Thunder 57-58 Loughborough Lightning
Team Northumbria 58-55 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Sunday 23 April

Wasps Netball 65-41 Sirens

Monday 24 April

Severn Stars 66-62 Surrey Storm

The next Sky televised game is on Saturday 29 when Mavericks take on the Storm (6pm), but all eyes will probably be on what happens an hour later when the top two, Lightning and Wasps, take on each other in Loughborough’s showcase game at the Leicester Community Arena.

Tennis

Lots of tennis news this week – mostly off the court, unfortunately.   Mr Nastase makes his appearance in my “And finally” comment, but there are other stories to cover.

Fed Cup

In amongst all the controversy and ill-feeling, there was actually some Fed Cup tennis going on last weekend.

Great Britain lost their World Cup Group II play-off against Romania, which means they are back in the Europe/Africa Zone.

Heather Watson lost the first rubber to Simona Halep 6-4 6-1.  Jo Konta levelled the tie when she beat Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-3.

On day two, though, Halep beat Konta 6-1 6-3 and Britain’s fate was sealed when Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Watson 6-4 7-5

In other Fed Cup news, it will be a USA v Belarus final.

USA beat the Czech Republic 3-2 and Belarus defeated Switzerland by the same margin.

Maria Sharapova

She’s back.  More pictures, film, social media comment and interviews have been devoted to Sharapova’s return this week than any other subject.

And she’s playing well.  After being given a wild card for the Stuttgart tournament she is now into the quarter finals.  She beat Roberta Vinci in the first round and powered past Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-1.

She faces Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit in the last eight.  Kontaveit put out fifth seed Garbine Muguruza in the previous round.

But not everyone is happy about her return.  Eugenie Bouchard has labelled Sharapova a “cheater” and said she should not be allowed back on the WTA tour.  The crowds have been respectful but cool.  It’s up to Sharapova to prove herself on the court if she is to win back the more general tennis watcher.

Stuttgart

In other Stuttgart news, Johanna Konta was knocked out in the second round by Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 7-5.

The last eight looks like this:

K Mladenovic v C Suárez Navarro
A Kontaveit v M Sharapova
A Sevastova v S Halep (4)
L Siegemund v K Pliskova (2)

Squash

England’s women’s squash team are through to the semi-finals of the European Team Championships after finishing top of their qualifying group.

They beat Denmark 3-0, the Netherlands 3-0 and Wales 3-0 and will now face the Netherlands again in the semi on Friday 28 April.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones has won gold at the World Taekwondo Federation President’s Cup in Athens.  It was her first competition since December 2016.

She won five contests to take the -57kg title.

Gymnastics

After reaching every final in the European Championships last week, Ellie Downie made good and took the all-round gold at the weekend.

She was in silver position going into the final rotation, but ended up beating Hungary’s Zsofia Kovacs by 0.333 points.   Downie scored 55.765 and Kovacs 55.432.  Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France finished in bronze on 55.065.

To cap a stunning weekend Downie also won a silver in the vault and floor and bronze in the uneven bars in the individual competition.

Ellie’s older sister Becky fell and injured her hands and was unable to participate in the beam final.  Her place was taken by Claudia Fragapane, but she fell in the final and finished eighth.  Fragapane also finished seventh on the floor.

Rugby

Premiership Finals

Aylesford Bulls Ladies were the perhaps surprise winners of the last Premiership final before the new Super League starts next season.

Aylesford Bulls 17-8 Bristol

Although they finished third in the table in the regular season, Bulls brought their best rugby to finals day to beat top of the league Bristol.

Aylesford took the lead in the third minute with a try from Hanna Field under the posts.  Jess Wooden converted to make it 7-0.

Bristol were then awarded a penalty, which Amber Reed kicked, but Aylesford hit straight back with their second try, this time from Michela Sillari in the corner.  The conversion was missed and the half-time sc ore was 12-3.

In the second half Bristol got their game together.  On 54 minutes Chantelle Miell went over in the corner.  The conversion was missed, but the deficit was cut to just four points.

But it was not to be for Bristol as Sillari scored her second to take the match away from them and take the game 17-8.

In the 3rd/4th play-off Lichfield took the honours as they beat Saracens 41-14.

Lichfield went ahead in the 16th minute when Emily Braund went over.  Emily Scarratt then added a penalty.

Saracens came back with a try from Lotte Clapp.

But Lichfield hit back themselves with a second try from Braund just on half-time to take the score the 15-7 at the break.

In the second-half Lichfield consolidated their lead with tries from Sarah Bonar and Carys Williams.  Tash Jones and Amy Cockayne scored two more for Lichfield taking the game, with Saracens having the last word with a try from Bryony Cleall.

And Finally

And finally, let’s talk Ilie Nastase.  Great player and entertainer in his time, yes.  But last week he showed that his off-court behaviour is not all it should be.  Firstly he made a racist comment about Serena Williams’ baby (not going to repeat it here), and then he seemingly had a complete meltdown at the Fed Cup tie between Great Britain and Romania.  In my relatively sheltered, liberal world I watched and listened to the unfolding events with shock and, I’m afraid, disbelief.  Do people really speculate about the colour of someone’s baby?  Naive I am, possibly, and if so I apologise, but I’m still struggling to understand why anyone would even say what he did.

As regards his Fed Cup behaviour, I feel pretty much as I did about the David Moyes situation.  Not acceptable in any sense, ever.  I listened to BBC Tennis correspondent Russell Fuller as her tried to make sense of what was going on and you could hear the shock in his voice.  He couldn’t believe what he’d heard and when he interviewed the head of the Romanian Tennis Federation who said basically it was “Ilie being Ilie” you could tell Fuller was biting his tongue to prevent himself giving an inappropriate response.

It is not acceptable that anyone reduces an opposing player to tears.  It is not appropriate that anyone is called “F****** bitches” on a tennis court.  It is up to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to see that it doesn’t happen again.  Will they?  I hope so.

Women’s Sports Column 1-6 January 2017

2012adidasrunningshoesmenssize40-45_012Welcome to the first column of 2017 and a Happy New Year to all my readers.   It’s going to be (yet another) big year for women’s sport with world cups in rugby union (in Ireland), rugby league (Australia), lacrosse (UK) and cricket (UK) as well as the football Euros and EuroHockey, both taking place in the Netherlands.  It’s going to be tricky (and fun) keeping up with it all!

So let’s start with a relatively gentle first column of the year with stories from tennis, cricket, football, athletics, skeleton, UFC and “The Jump”.  In place of the usual “and finally” section, I’ll go through some of the highlights of the New Year’s Honours.

Tennis

Johanna Konta made it to the semi-final of the Shenzhen Open before she was defeated, somewhat surprisingly, by world number 52 Katerina Siniakova.

Konta won the first set 6-1 in just 22 minutes.  Siniakova drew level , winning the second 6-4.  Konta was 4-2 up in the third when Siniakova put together a run of four games to take the set 6-4 and thus the match.

Altogether, though a good warm up for the first grand slam, the Australian Open, which takes place later this month.

Siniakova, who also beat Simona Halep in the second round, will face the American Alison Riske in the final.

Riske, 39 in the world rankings, beat Camila Giorgi 6-3 6-3 in her semi-final to reach the final of the Shenzhen tournament for the second year running.

At the ASB Classic in Auckland Serena Williams was knocked out by fellow American and world number 72 Madison Brengle  4-6 7-6 4-6.  It was her second game back after four months out through injury.

In the same round Venus Williams also retired with an arm injury.

The final will be between Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who beat Julia Goerges in her semi-final 6-3 4-6 6-3 and Lauren Davis of the USA, whose semi-final opponent Jelena Ostapenko retired in the third set at 1-4, the other two sets going 6-4 4-6.

Football

Bad news for women’s football as it was announced yesterday that Sunderland Ladies are to revert to being a part-time club.

In a statement the club said that after three years of employing some players full-time and some part-time was not working,

“Having a mix of full-time and part-time players was not working as effectively as the club, and indeed the players, had envisaged.

“With a number of the squad committed to careers or study, full-time football careers were not an option for them.

“A part-time model for players therefore ensures that students and those with careers such as teaching, can continue to be committed members of the first team squad, without having to make a choice between their career and football.”

The Lady Black Cats finished fourth in their first season in WSL1 in 2015 and seventh last season.

But whatever way you dress it up (and make no mistake, this is dressing it up), this is a backward step.

Sunderland saw a dramatic drop in their attendances last season, down nearly 24%.  Surely it’s no coincidence that they have now gone part-time?

The FA needs to see this for what it is – a backward step and a cry for help.  WSL1 clubs are receiving an increase in their central funding from £70,000 to £92,500.  It’s a drop in the ocean when it comes to running a football club.  If the women’s leagues are to thrive the FA needs to look into this.  But not just look into it, but to act.  They need to make ongoing plans for support – not just one-off payments, go away sort yourselves out and we’ll see you next season.

It seems to me that (and I’ve said this before), that when it comes to women’s sport, governing bodies talk a good game.  They introduce one initiative after another and don’t back it up.  They tinker with the format season after season meaning no consistency for supporters.

This is not just in football, but in all of the major team sports.  There are no easy answers, but governing bodies need to stop the talk and put their “real” backing into women’s sport.

Rant over.

Transfer window

Chelsea continue to strengthen their squad.  This week they signed US international Crystal Dunn from Washington Spirit on a contract until 2018.

Arsenal, meanwhile, seem to be losing players rather than signing them.  Former England player Rachel  Yankey and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Emma Byrne have both been released by the Gunners.

Current WSL1 champions Manchester City Women have signed England under-23 forward Melissa Lawley from Birmingham City Ladies on a two-and-a-half year contract.

Skeleton

Lizzie Yarnold now lies joint third in the World Cup standings after finishing ninth in the third race in Altenberg, Germany.

She had been leading the field, but the winner of the third race, Germany’s Jacqueline Loeling, has now taken her place.

Tina Hermann took silver with Janine Flock taking bronze.  Britain’s Laura Dees finished sixth and is now eighth in the standings.

The next race, number four of eight, will be on 15 January at Winterberg in Germany.

UFC

I don’t mind admitting I struggle with the idea of this as a sport, but this is big news so it gets into the column.

Ronda Rousey lasted only 48 seconds in her comeback fight against Amanda Nunes.

It is thought that she may now consider retirement.

Nunes landed 27 punches in the 48 seconds.

Athletics

This week Scotland’s Laura Muir broke the British indoor 5,000m record by an astonishing 14 seconds.

The record, previously held by Liz McColgan, had stood for 25 years.

She ran the record at the Glasgow Miler Meet in a time of 14 minutes 49.12 seconds.

“The Jump” 

I’m not quite sure why anyone would want to take part in this after the injuries sustained in the last series, but both taekwondo champion Jade Jones and Paralympic double gold medallist Kadeena Cox have signed up to take part in the new series of the Channel 4 series, “The Jump”.

But this is only half the story.  Cox has had her UK Sport funding suspended while she takes part.  Cox is both an athlete and a cyclist and has had the funding withdrawn by British Athletics with the support of British Cycling.

In a statement, British Athletics said,

“Due to the nature of the activities on the show, the athlete cannot continue to be supported by the WCPP (World Class Performance Programme) during this time.

“Her UK Sport funding will be suspended until she returns to training and proves her fitness.”

It is understood that both governing bodies have advised her against taking part in the show.

GB Taekwondo has also expressed their reservations to Jade Jones, but the Welsh champion will go ahead and her funding remains in place.

UK Sport has announced that it is up to each individual governing body to decide whether to continue funding for the duration of the programme.

Cricket

The Rebel WBBL proceeds apace.  Currently Sydney Sixers are top with five wins from eight games but are ahead only on net run-rate.

  played won lost No result points Net run- rate
Sydney Sixers 8 5 3 0 10 0.395
Perth Scorchers 8 5 3 0 10 0.375
Hobart Hurricanes 8 4 3 1 9 -0.026
Melbourne Stars 8 4 4 0 8 0.306
Sydney Thunder 10 4 5 1 8 -0.022
Brisbane Heat 8 4 4 0 8 -0.237
Adelaide Strikers 9 3 4 2 8 -0.128
Melbourne Renegades 9 3 6 0 5.5 -0.628

England opener Lauren Winfield has been drafted in by Brisbane Heat to replace the injured Deandra Dottin.

Dottin fractured a cheekbone after she collided with team mate Laura Harris on 27 December.

And finally,

The honours system may not be to everyone’s taste, but this year’s New Year’s Honours have been good for sportswomen.  Among those honoured include Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katherine Grainger, who are awarded dame-hoods.  There were CBEs for Laura Kenny, Charlotte Dujardin and Sophie Christiansen.  OBEs went to Kate Richardson-Walsh, Katie Archibald and Nicola Adams and MBEs to the whole GB hockey team, Saskia Clarke and Kadeena Cox.

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 December

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to the last column of the year.  It’s been a big year for women’s sport (but isn’t every year?).  I’ve tried to reflect that in the best way I know how, and looking back over the last twelve months, I’m pleased with the breadth of stories I’ve been able to include.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.

So without further ado, let’s crack on with stories from speed skating, rugby, netball, cricket, Aussie Rules and Australasian sports administration, football, golf, boxing, cycling, bowls, taekwondo, the BT Action Woman Awards and SPOTY.  This week’s “And finally” is probably predictable, but bears repeating one more time….

Rugby Union

Bristol won again this weekend to leave them top of the table over the Christmas break.

The scores were:

10 December

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 17-24 Lichfield Ladies

Wasps Ladies 33-12 Richmond Women

11 December

Worcester Valkyries 15-22 Saracens Women

Bristol ladies 48-0 DMP Sharks

As ever, a longer round-up of these matches, written by me appears on the Women’s Sports UK website.

Bowls

Wales’ women won a silver medal in the triples at the World Bowls Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand this week.

Anwen Butten, Kathy Pearce and Emma Woodcock were beaten in the final by Carla Krizanic, Natasha Scott and Rebecca Van Asch of Australia.

They had beaten England (16-12) and Malaysia (18-16) on the way to the final.

Australian Rules Football                                                                                   

Good news for Aussie rules fans this week as it was announced that every game in the inaugural AFL women’s competition will be shown live on television.

Fox Footy is to show all 28 league games and the Seven Network will broadcast eight prime-time matches, including the first game of the season and the Grand Final on 25 March.

The action begins 3 February 2017.  Not sure if they will be streamed in Britain, but nevertheless it’s great news for AFL fans.

Australasian Sports Administration

1) Kate Palmer has been appointed the Australian Sports Commission’s first female chief executive.  She joins after an historic spell as the head of Netball Australia, in which she brokered a landmark pay deal for players and also oversaw a huge increase in revenue for the sport.

2) Dr Farah Palmer, three-time World Cup winning captain has been elected to the Board of New Zealand Rugby.  She is currently a member of the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board and will replace the former Maori representative, Wayne Peters, who has retired.

“Women on sports boards” seems to be the in-vogue cause at the moment.  Not surprising really, as the current percentage of women on sports boards in the United Kingdom is 30%, having risen from 21% in 2009.  There is progress, undoubtedly, and more needs to be done.  Personally, I’m still more concerned with lack of media coverage which stubbornly stands at 7%.  But progress cannot not be concentrated on a single issue and we should celebrate any victories we achieve, however small.

Cricket

New England central contracts

The ECB has announced new and improved central contracts for England’s women.  Two-year contracts have been issued to:

Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Georgia Elwiss, Natasha Farrant, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight, Beth Langston (rookie contract), Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

Becky Grundy has lost her contract and Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway are no longer a part of the set-up having retired from international cricket last season.

Australian contracts

Just when you’re feting all things Australian, Cricket Australia drops an enormous clanger.

The executive general manager of strategy at Cricket Australia has confirmed that female cricketers’ new one-year contracts will have a clause that will require them to “warrant” that they are not pregnant when they sign.

They insist that the clause is there “for the player’s safety and that of their unborn child” and that that any disclosure would be confidential and made to the medical officer.

Female players are also excluded from the parental leave policy, although women in non-playing roles can have four to 12 weeks’ paid leave.

And, as ever, although things are improving, there is a great discrepancy in pay; the national minimum for men is $270,000 excluding superannuation, but for women it is $40,000 including superannuation.

Cricket Australia says that it is all being negotiated, but the union says contract conditions are ‘contrary to acceptable employer behaviour’,

Watch this space for further fallout.

WBBL

After the first weekend of WBBL matches it’s all square all the way down as each team won one and lost one!  Sydney Sixers are top on net run rate, but it’s early days.  The results so far are as follows:

10 December

Perth Scorchers 119/6 off 20 overs

Hobart Hurricanes 120/5 19 overs

Hurricanes won by 5 wickets

 

Adelaide Strikers 116 all out (19.3 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 102 all out (19.1 overs)

Strikers won by 14 runs

 

Melbourne Stars147/8 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 141/4 (20 overs)

Stars won by 6 runs

 

11 December

 Adelaide Strikers 128/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 131/3 (19.3 overs)

Renegades won by 7 wickets

 

Perth Scorchers 142/4 (20 overs)

Hobart Hurricanes 125/9 (20 overs)

Scorchers won by 17 runs

 

Sydney Sixers 138/6 (20 overs)

Brisbane Heat 142/5 (19.2 overs)

Heat won by 5 wickets

 

12 December

Brisbane Heat 83/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 86/2 (16 overs)

Sixers won by 8 wickets

 

13 December

Melbourne Stars 116/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 121/2 (18.5 overs)

Thunder won by 8 wickets

Live matches and highlights are on BT Sport and the WBBL also has a very detailed website:  www.bigbash.com.au/wbbl

BT Action Woman Awards

The ceremony for the BT Action Woman of the year took place this week.  Winners of Team of the Year were the GB Hockey team for their brilliant gold medal in Rio.  Katherine Grainger won a Lifetime Achievement award, which she knew nothing about and looked a bit grumpy about to start off with!

Winner of Action Woman of the Year 2016 was mountain biker Rachel Atherton.  She won all seven rounds of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup this year and took the world title for the fourth time.

Boxing

Katie Taylor won her second professional bout against Viviane Obenauf of Brazil last week.  She won on points 60-53.

Obenauf was knocked down in the second round and also suffered a cut near her left eye, but she managed to take it distance before being outpointed.

Netball

It was announced this week that New Zealand will play Wales in two test matches in February 2017.

The two games will take place at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff on 7 and 8 February.

Sports Personality of the Year 2016

Although the main event is not broadcast until 18 December, the winner of the Young Sports Personality of the Year award has already been announced.

Swimmer Ellie Robinson is this year’s winner.

She won a gold medal and a bronze at the Rio Paralympics aged just 15.

She won the S6 50m butterfly in a Games record time and broke the British record in the 100m freestyle to take bronze.

Earlier in the year Robinson had bagged one silver (50m butterfly) and three bronzes (50m, 100m and 400m freestyle) at the IPC European Championships.

Taekwondo

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the World Grand Prix Final in Baku last weekend.

Charlie Maddock set the ball rolling as she beat Olympic champion Sohui Kim in the -49kg to take gold.

Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden followed suit on Saturday as Jones beat Hedaya Malak of Egypt in the -57kg final and Walkden defeated Zheng Shuyin of China to take gold in the +67kg category.

Rachelle Booth lost to South Korea’s Lee Ah-reum in -62kg bronze-medal match.

Speed Skating

Great Britain’s Elise Christie won double gold at the World Cup event in Shanghai last weekend.

She won the first of two 500m races in 43.590 seconds and took the second in 42.590.

Christie leads the 500m overall ranking from Fan Kexin from China and Marianne St-Gelais of Canada.

Shanghai is the third in the series of World Cup events.  The fourth is in Gangneung, South Korea, from 16-18 December.

Golf

Shanshan Feng won a record fourth Dubai Ladies Masters at the weekend.  She took the title on -10, two ahead of England’s Charley Hull.

Going into the final round, Felicity Johnson was leading, but she faded in the last carding a three over 75 to finish six shots off the lead.

Cycling

The dispute between British Cycling and cyclist Jess Varnish continues.

After last week’s revelation that only one of nine of her complaints against Shane Sutton was upheld, Varnish has now requested that British Cycling release her personal data under the Data Protection Act so that she can see Sutton’s text messages and the organisation’s report into his conduct.

I feel there’s still probably plenty to come out of this story yet.

Football

Birmingham City Ladies

David Parker resigned as Birmingham City ladies’ manager on Monday.  He had been in charge for five years.

There was no delay in announcing his successor as the WSL1 club announced they have appointed Marc Skinner to the post.

Skinner had been director of the Blues Ladies’ centre of excellence.

Casey Stoney

After a period of silence it has been announced that former England captain, Casey Stoney, has signed for Liverpool Ladies.

She left Arsenal at the end of the season causing much speculation as to her future plans.

Liverpool manager Scott Rogers said,

“Her reading of the game and ability on the ball is fantastic so I have no doubt that she will prove to be a great signing for us.”

New rules for WSL2

It was announced this week that WSL2 will introduce relegation for the first time in the 2017-18 season, when the league swaps to a winter season.

This means that the bottom team will drop into the Women’s Premier League.

In other WSL news, the league has also revealed that applications for WSL licences for the 2018-19 season will only be open to the existing clubs.  If, however, a club fails to meet the specified criteria, other clubs will be allowed to apply.

FA funding will increase as follows:

WSL1 up to £92,500 (up from £70,000)

WSL2 up to 62,500 (up from £35,000)

Whilst any increase is welcome, make no mistake, this money is still just a drop in the ocean when it comes to running a WSL club. 

Nigeria’s continued protest

As I reported last week, the Nigerian women’s football team is currently fighting for outstanding payments due to them after they won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations on 3 December.

On Tuesday, one of the players, quoted anonymously by the BBC, said that they are prepared to continue their sit-in at the Agura hotel until they receive all bonuses, believed to total £23,650 USD per player.

“We are tired of the lies and false promises from the NFF,”

The NFF is directly funded by the Nigerian government and is currently strapped for cash after Nigeria slipped into recession in August.

But the Super Falcons coach, Florence Omagbemi and her assistants have only received one month’s pay since March.

The NFF general secretary, Mohammed Sanusi, met with players and officials at the hotel on Tuesday. In a statement he said,

“The NFF is not happy owing players and coaches, but present severe economic challenges inform that it can only continue to seek the understanding of these persons, as well as hoteliers, travel agents, management and staff until the situation improves,”

“We know we have financial commitment to you (players and officials of Super Falcons) and we have not at any time stated otherwise. But the money is not readily available.

“I have come to appeal to you, to understand the situation of the federation, to understand the situation of the country at the present and exercise patience.

“We will pay you all monies you are being owed as soon as we receive same from the government.”

The stalemate continues.

And finally, I’m sure you’ve all seen it already but it’s three boos for the Football Association this week (God bless ‘em).

In their wisdom, the FA have revealed their ideas for attracting more girls into football.  The plan, posted on the Sussex FA website includes:

Pink whistles

Nice smelling bibs (we all want those, don’t we?)

Allowing girls breaks so they can check their phones.

Advertise “where girls go” such as “coffee shops or the backs of toilet doors”

Slogans to attract girls could include:

“You won’t even notice you’re getting fit!” and “Who needs Facebook friends?”

Not saying anything else.  Don’t need to, do I?

 

As I said at the beginning, that’s all for this year.  I’m currently writing a history of women’s field hockey for WiSP Sports, so please check in to read that if you’re so inclined.

Also next week, although there will be no column, I am publishing something which means a lot to me.  Earlier this year I interviewed someone and got some great copy.  I tried to sell the resultant article but to no avail.  Although he has now moved on from his post, the subject of the article has just read it and he loved it, so I would like to reproduce it on my site.  Look out for it – I’m really happy with it and I hope you like it too.

Hoping you all have a lovely, peaceful and sporting Christmas and let’s all wish for more sporting success in 2017

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 December

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Not so much in the way of results this week, plus lots of news from around the world.  It’s a truly global column this week as you’ll see.  So read on for stories from football, cricket, rugby, golf, netball, tennis, taekwondo, cycling, sailing and, wait for it, kabbadi!  Also an “And finally” guaranteed to make you say, “Not before time….”  Let’s crack on.

Firstly this week, it’s official, “This Girl Can” (as if we didn’t know this already).

Figures published by Sport England this week have revealed that the number of women playing sport regularly in England has reached an all-time high of 7.21m.

This is an increase of 250,000 on the figures before the “This Girl Can” campaign was launched in 2014.

The gap between men’s and women’s participation has narrowed to 1.55m.

This is obviously good news but is not reflected by the coverage given to women’s sport in the media, which is still at a woeful seven per cent.

Netball

England 57-64 Jamaica

I was there at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 4 December to see a tight, excellent game between two well-matched sides.

It was my first in-person experience of a netball international and I can thoroughly recommend it.  I must say hell hath no fury like a crowd of mainly young girls when their team is behind……

England were ahead by two after the first quarter.  Jamaica came back to lead at half-time by four.  During the third quarter the crowd really got behind the Roses, stamping and cheering for all they (we) were worth.  The Jamaican goalkeeper and captain Malysha Kelly incurred the crowd’s wrath as she repeatedly fouled Joanne Harten shooting for England and the game got a bit physical.  In fact I hadn’t seen that much bumping and boring in netball since I played goalkeeper for my school against our local convent school.

Anyway, the barracking worked as Jamaica had a loose period and England pressed.  It was all square going into the final quarter and the noise was deafening.

Unfortunately for England, they couldn’t maintain their form and Jamaica pulled away with the final score 57-64.  They also took the series 2-1.  Epic stuff.

Special mention must go to England’s defence, Ama Agbeze and Ebony Beckford-Chambers who had the unenviable task of marking the Sunshine Girls’ goal shooter, Jhaniele Fowler, who is just the six feet six inches tall.  And she jumped too (unlike Peter Crouch).

Hockey

Shameless piece of self-promotion, I’d like to tell you about my latest series for WiSP Sports.  This time I’m writing a four-part history of women’s field hockey.  The first part has just been published, so here’s the link:  History of Hockey part 1

Sailing with Abby Ehler

Team Magenta 32 is the second match racing team to receive their Tour Card for the World Match Racing Tour season 2017. Sally Barkow from USA is together with her all-female team preparing for their second full season and their challenge for the World Championship title in match racing.  Founded in 1999, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is the world’s leading professional sailing series. It features world class sailors and Olympic champions, with tour events staged around the globe.  Each stage, or World Championship event, now takes place in identically supplied one-design M32 high-performance catamarans to place the focus on teamwork and skill.

British professional sailors Dee Caffari and Hannah Diamond are this week working with Oman Sail to train and prepare 2 all-female Middle East teams for next year’s Sailing Tour of Arabia.

Since 2008 Oman Sail has been running sailing programmes for thousands of young Omani women and men. EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is contested in a fleet of identical Farr 30 yachts – one of the most exciting boats on the professional sailing circuit – along a course, which stretches each crew to the full, testing their skill, teamwork and versatility.

In its short history, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has gained global recognition, attracting top amateur and professional sailors from four continents and blue-chip sponsors. Now in its seventh year, The Tour has become one of the most respected and dynamic sailing regattas on the international circuit.

Mike Slade’s British Maxi Leopard 3 crossed the finish line in, Grenada at recently to take Monohull Line Honours and win the International Maxi Association (IMA) Trophy for the 2016 RORC Transatlantic Race.  The Maxi yacht was navigated by Britain’s Libby Greenhalgh, the only women in the crew of 17.  Libby Greenhalgh was the navigator onboard Team SCA in the last Volvo Ocean Race, and it is fantastic to see her continuing in that role at the elite level of the sport.

Football

Africa Cup of Nations

Nigeria won their eighth Cup of Nations this week with a 1-0 victory over hosts Cameroon, in front of a 40,000 crowd in Yaounde.

Desire Oparanozie scored the only goal late in the game to ensure Nigeria retained the trophy they won in Namibia in 2014.

Cameroon were runners-up for the second tournament in succession.

Ghana finished third after they beat South Africa 1-0 in the bronze medal match on Friday.

In a further development, the Nigerian squad refused to leave their hotel in Abuja until they were paid allowances and bonuses for winning the Cup.

The total owed to each player amounts to $23,650 per player.

More details in next week’s column.

Chelsea

Chelsea Ladies have signed Swiss international striker Ramona Bachmann until 2019. She will join the Blues in January 2017 when the transfer window opens.  All the early signs are that Chelsea will be the big spenders (relatively speaking) going into the new season.

Women in Football Awards

On Tuesday I attended the Women in Football Awards, which were held at the BBC TV Centre in London.

It was a night not without its hitches, but discretion forbids me from saying more….

The awards were given as follows:

Woman of Inspiration Award: Lucy Oliver
Journalist of the Year: Amy Lawrence
Club Best Practice Award: Susan Whelan (Leicester City)
Coach of the Year: Kelly Chambers (Reading LFC)
Player of the Year: Lucy Bronze
Performance of the Year: Scotland Women for qualifying for 2017 Euros
Referee of the Year: Mary Harmer
Women in Football Business Award: Amy O’Brien (Fulham FC)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sylvia Gore
Woman of the Year: Dr Eva Carneiro

Kabaddi

Pakistan will be holding its first ever women’s Kabaddi National Championships in Lahore this December.

At least seven clubs are expected to take part including Islamabad, WAPDA, Higher Education Committee and the Pakistan Army.

The tournament starts on 14 December.

Pakistan Kabaddi Federation Secretary, Muhammad Sarwar is excited about the move:

“The event is a huge step forward.  We want to encourage girls to develop an interest in the sport and even represent the national side in the future,” he said.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones will be part of the British taekwondo team that is taking part at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix finals in Baku on Saturday.

The other women in the team are Bianca Walkden, Rachelle Booth and Charlie Maddock.

Cycling

The BBC revealed this week that British Cycling only found its former technical director Shane Sutton guilty on one of the charges laid against him by cyclist Jess Varnish.

He was found guilty of using the word “bitches” to Varnish but eight other charges were dismissed including Varnish’s key complaint that Sutton told her to “go and have a baby.”

Sutton was also cleared of using any other offensive or discriminatory language and all bullying allegations.

Varnish has responded to the report with shock.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I am shocked and upset by this latest news and have instructed my solicitor to appeal against the findings of the internal investigation on my behalf.

“Having provided substantial evidence to back up my complaints, to now learn that the majority were not upheld is heartbreaking. I know what was said, and I know I’ve told the truth.

“I have requested from British Cycling the full investigation report to understand why the weight of evidence provided by me and others wasn’t sufficient for the board to uphold my complaints.”

Unfortunately, this story shows no sign of ending, with both sides unhappy with the results and British Cycling’s reputation taking a battering.

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards

Well it didn’t take long for former England captain Charlotte Edwards to announce her next move.  She has joined Hampshire.  She already sits as a non-executive director with Hampshire and Southern Vipers, so this clearly fits into the plan.

It will be a different experience for Edwards who is used to winning County Championships with Kent as Hampshire play in division two.

I surmise she will move into a coaching role once she finally hangs up her boots, but currently she clearly has an on-field contribution to make.

She will also be playing for the Adelaide Strikers in the upcoming WBBL.

Women’s Big Bash League

And talking of which, the WBBL starts this weekend.

The opening fixtures are:

10 December

Hobart Hurricanes v Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Renegades
Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars

11 December

Melbourne Renegades v Adelaide Strikers
Perth Scorchers v Hobart Hurricanes
Sydney Sixers v Brisbane Heat

There are plenty of England players in action:

Charlotte Edwards and Tammy Beaumont are at the Strikers, the Hurricanes have England captain Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt is at the Renegades and the Stars have Dani Hazell and Nat Sciver.  Becky Grundy comes in for Anya Shrubsole until 29 December and will play alongside Katherine Brunt at the Perth Scorchers.

If you have access to BT Sport keep an eye out as they are covering some of the matches.

Women’s cricket in Bangladesh

This is a great initiative.  Please read this piece on developing women’s cricket in Bangladesh.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/04/breaking-boundaries-bangladesh-women-cricketers-charity

Rugby Union

Bristol were back to winning ways at the weekend.  The scores were as follows:

Lichfield Ladies 75-17 Wasps Ladies
DMP Sharks 15-29 Aylesford Bulls Ladies
Richmond Women 10-52 Saracens Women
Bristol Ladies 34-10 Worcester Valkyries

For a more in-depth report see here

Golf

Dubai Ladies Masters

After two rounds of the Dubai Masters, there are two English players at the top of the leaderboard.  Top is Felicity Johnson on -7 with Florentyna Parker two behind on -5.  Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark and Aditi Ashok of India are tied in third on -4.

Charley Hull is tied 23 on -1.

Tennis

There will be three women in the main draw of the Australian Open in January.  They are Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Naomi Broady.  It was at the 2016 tournament that Konta made her first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final.  Let’s hope she can repeat this form in 2017.

And finally,

Three cheers for the Government of South Australia which this week decided to withdraw its support for the hideous tradition of “podium girls” at the 2017 Tour Down Under.

You will have seen them – I’m not going to produce images – of scantily clad young women doing nothing much but providing “window dressing” for the presentation parties at cycling events.  And not before time, at least at this event, they will be no more.

Instead there will be a number of junior cyclists helping to present the prizes.

The same authority has already withdrawn its funding of “grid girls” at the Clipsal 500 motor race.

Let’s hope that’s the kick that other governments/governing bodies need.

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 August

netball2Welcome to this week’s sports column.   The Rio Olympics may be over and we are all crying into our beer because of it, but life (and sport) goes on – plus the Paralympics are just around the corner.

So, in addition to my last few Rio highlights, we also have stories from cricket, football, indoor netball (Nets), netball, rugby union and tennis.

As regards Rio highlights, for me it’s the hockey, first and foremost.  I was pacing up and down the room for most of the second half of the final and watching through my fingers for the penalty shoot out.  Maddie Hinch!  What guts, what calm, what a player.

Nicola Adams also is on my list.  Wish she’d stop doing that thing running her hand through her hair, but a great performance from a great champion – and an amazing role model.

I’m going to come back to Simone Biles again and again, because she was so stunning.

Also Jade Jones.  Taekwondo  is a bizarre sport I’m never actually going to understand, but I know that Jade Jones is flipping good at it.  And good on Bianca Walkden for overcoming the disappointment of her semi-final to take a bronze.

From a political point of view there is a case for saying the Olympics should never have been awarded to Rio – the levels of poverty, the money spent on venues that may or may not be redundant in the coming years, and all of the problems leading up to the Games – it’s a wonder they ever took place at all.  But as a spectacle it was excellent – not sure if I’ll ever get over that green pool though……

On to other sports news..

In cricket, the inaugural Kia Super League has come and gone.  By and large it was a success, but far too short.

Finals Day took place on Sunday 21 August at Chelmsford.  As described last week, it was a slightly strange format in that only the top three teams qualified.  The second and third place teams played each other in a “semi-final” for the right to meet the Vipers, who finished top of the league, in the final.

Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning

Lightning 124/7 (20 overs)

Storm 128/5 (19.3 overs)

Storm won by 5 wickets

Lightning never looked to have enough runs on the board as they struggled to post a paltry 124 off their 20 overs.  Ellyse Perry made a sparkling 64 (she was just coming into form as the tournament ended), but there were no other significant batting contributions.  The Storm bowling was tight with Stafanie Taylor the pick of the bowlers taking 3/31 off her four overs.

In the end it was tighter than it should have been as the Storm didn’t chase too hard to reach their target.  Taylor again took the lead with 34, then Heather Knight with 52 and Fran Wilson broke the back of it.  There were a few nervous moments when Lizelle Lee (0) and Knight were out in the space of three balls, but really the result was never in doubt.

 

Southern Vipers v Western Storm

Western Storm 140/5 (20 overs)

Vipers (143/3 18.5 overs)

Vipers won by seven wickets

The final followed a similar format to that of the semi.  The Vipers won the toss and inserted the Storm.  Although they posted 140, there was a general feeling that this would not be enough.  Taylor scored 35 and Rachel Priest 57, but Knight was out for only six, and this was, in the end, the key wicket.    Fran Wilson chipped in again with an unbeaten 16.  Arran Brindle, looking rejuvenated in this tournament, took 2/15 off her four and Suzie Bates 2/37.

The Vipers never seemed phase by their chase.  Bates and Charlotte Edwards put on an opening partnership of 78 with Georgia Adams, Sara McGlashan and Lydia Greenway all contributing as they won with seven balls to spare.

In the end the title went to the best, most consistent team.  They were favourites before the competition started and never looked like being bested.

 

In other cricket news, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has voted to increase the daily allowance of the Indian women’s team to be in line with the men’s.  They will now receive $125 per day on international tours and $100 during a home series.

 

In tennis, Laura Robson is through to the third and last round of qualifying for the US Open.  World number 247, Robson, beat Su Jeong Jang of Korea 6-3 6-2 in round one and world number 142 Isabella Shinikova of Bulgaria in round two 6-4 6-4.  She will now face Tatjana Maria from Germany for a place in the first round.

Tara Moore lost in second qualifying match to Germany’s Antonia Lottner 1-6 6-3 6-2, after beating Tereza Mrdeza 6-4 6-1 in the first.

No such travails for Johanna Konta who is seeded 13 in the US Open main draw, her highest seeding to date.  Top seed is Serena Williams.

The last grand slam of the year starts on Monday 29 August.

 

I don’t mind admitting that I am a complete newcomer to the world of indoor netball, otherwise known as “Nets”.  Many of you will know I have been writing a four-part history of netball for the WiSP Sports and as I was researching the final part – netball in the 21st century, I came across the phenomenon that is Nets.

And, as it happens the Nets World Cup is taking place in New Zealand as we speak!    There is so much going on and so many categories that I haven’t got time or space to go into detail.   So can I suggest you check out the World Indoor Netball Association’s (WINA) Facebook page for all the details: https://www.facebook.com/worldindoornetballassociation/. (It’s safe to say that Australia and New Zealand will win everything).

 

The first ever (traditional) Netball Quad series begins at the end of the month and will be televised on Sky Sports.

The four teams involved are England, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and it will be held in Australia and New Zealand.

Four of the games will be shown on Sky’s new channel, Sky Sports Mix.  Part of Mix’s remit is to show more women’s sport, so watch this space to see if they come through with this promise.

Saturday 27 August

0400-0600: Live – Australia v South Africa (Sky Sports 3)

0600-0800: Live – England v New Zealand (Sky Sports 3)

 Wednesday 31 August

0800-1030: Live – South Africa v New Zealand (Sky Sports Mix)

1100-1300: Live – England v Australia (Sky Sports Mix)

 Sunday 4 September

0430-0630: Live – England v South Africa (Sky Sports Mix)

0630-0830: Live – New Zealand v Australia (Sky Sports Mix)

 

England Women U20 39-12 Canada Women U20

In the second of this three-match series in Nottingham, England ran in seven tries to emerge victorious again and give them an unassailable lead in the series.

They were 22-5 up at the break through a hat-trick of tries from Abi Dow and a fourth from Sally Stott.  Zoe Harrison kicked one conversion.

Kasselle Menin scored Canada’s only points of the half.

In the second half Poppy Leitch went over again for England and Dow scored her fourth.  Sarah Bern scored England’s seventh try with Lagilagi Tuima kicking a conversion to seal a convincing win.

Jordyn Orlando scored a consolation try for Canada.

 

In football, US goalkeeper, Hope Solo has been suspended from international football for six months as a result of her outburst after the States’ defeat to Sweden in the quarter-finals of the Olympic football tournament.

She called the Swedes a “bunch of cowards” and that the better side did not win on the day.  US Soccer President, Sunil Gulati called the comments “unacceptable”.

In reality Solo will only miss two games against Thailand and Netherlands in September, although it is possible more matches will be scheduled.  She will be eligible for selection again in February 2017.

 

And finally, Ryan Lochte’s punishment for “exaggerating” the mugging incident in Rio is apparently to be chosen to be on Dancing with the Stars (the US version of strictly Come Dancing).  This is a somewhat different punishment from the six months ban handed out to Hope Solo.  Some have made this a sexist issue, but actually I feel it may be the respective governing bodies that may be at the heart of it.

USA Swimming released a statement:

“The last five days have been difficult for our USA Swimming and United States Olympic families. While we are thankful our athletes are safe, we do not condone the lapse in judgement and conduct that led us to this point. It is not representative of what is expected as Olympians, as Americans, as swimmers and as individuals.

“That this is drawing attention away from Team USA’s incredible accomplishments in the water and by other athletes across the Olympic Games is upsetting. The athletes and their remarkable stories should be the focus.

“We’re extremely thankful of the support and efforts from the USOC, Department of State and U.S. Consulate General throughout this process. USA Swimming will undergo a thorough review of the incident and determine any further actions, per our Code of Conduct.”

So they’re certainly not in any hurry to dole out sanction, unlike US Soccer, who were very quick off the mark.  Mind you, Hope Solo has form…..

So although I’m usually the first to shout “Sexist foul!”, on this occasion I may just think twice.

No column for the next couple of weeks as I am away, but will hopefully be back on 16 September.

 

Women’s Sports Column 23-29 April

netball2It’s still all go in the world of women’s sport. The newspapers are full of it (not). Well actually they are, full of the crisis enveloping British Cycling. That’s because it’s scandal and has the potential to be titillating. As for match reports, scores and achievements, not so interesting.

Still, here I have news from triathlon, football, cricket, netball, swimming, taekwondo, cycling and athletics, – plus a classic “and finally”

Wales’ Non Stanford staked her claim for Rio gold by winning the World Triathlon Series event in Cape Town on 24 April. She took the title in 59 minutes, 49 seconds, seven seconds ahead of England’s Jodie Stimpson, with Bermuda’s Flora Duffy in third.

 

The women’s Super League season is back up and running with Manchester City and Chelsea stamping their authority already.

Birmingham City 0–2 Manchester City

Three out of three for Manchester City as they took the points at Birmingham this week. Daphne Corboz scored the first after Nikita Paris had hit the post to go in one up at half time. In the second half Manchester took control, but it wasn’t until stoppage time that they sealed the points with a Jane Ross header.

Notts County Ladies 2-2 Reading Women

Notts County came from behind to earn a point against a strong Reading side. The visitors took the lead after only seven minutes through a long-range shot from Helen Ward. County equalised from a Jess Clarke penalty after Fern Whelan had handled. Reading took the lead for a second time through a headed goal from Kirsy McGee. But County didn’t give up and the classy Clarke lobbed the Reading goalkeeper on 64 minutes to snatch a point. It won’t be much consolation for either side, though, as both are still looking for their first win of the season.

Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland

In contrast, both Liverpool and Sunderland remain unbeaten this season as they fought out a keenly-contested draw. Liverpool must have thought they were home and dry as they took a 2-0 lead through Caroline Weir and Laura Coombs, but Sunderland were not to be outdone.   Brooke Chaplen scored just before half time to get the Lady Black Cats back into it and then netted a second at the beginning of the second half to earn the draw. Liverpool looked to snatch it at the end, but couldn’t convert their chances.

Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea

Chelsea looked very impressive as they easily put away a poor Arsenal side. Mini-Messi, Fran Kirby scored twice – the first a neat lob over Sari van Veenendaal in the Arsenal goal and the second thumped in from just three yards after a scramble.

 

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) awards took place this week.

Izzy Christiansen was named PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year 2016.

The Manchester midfielder has had a stunning twelve months. She scored six times in the last seven games to help City finish second in the league. She also scored on her debut for the senior England side against Estonia in September.

Beth Mead was named the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year 2016.

In 2015 Beth finished as top scorer in FA WSL1 with 12 goals in 14 games for Sunderland. She was named FA WSL1 Players’ Player of the Year and Young England Player of the Year. She played in the 2014 Under-20 World Cup in Canada and is now training with the senior England squad, although she is yet to make her senior debut.

 

The shortlist for the 2016 BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year award has been announced this week.

The players are:

Gaelle Enganamouit (Cameroon)

Amandine Henry (France)

Kim Little (Scotland)

Carli Lloyd (USA)

Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)

The award is given by the World Service. You can vote online or by text. The closing date is Monday 9 May. For more information on the shortlisted candidates see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/36102460

 

This Bank Holiday weekend sees the start of the new Royal London One-Day Championship

It could well be the last, as next year the Kia Super League will not only comprise a T20 tournament but a 50 over one too. The current county players will be keen to do well if they are to break into the Super League. Can anyone topple Yorkshire from top spot in Division One?

The first round of fixtures in the top two divisions are as follows:

Division One

Sunday 1st May 2016

Middlesex v Surrey at Eastcote CC

Somerset v Kent at Taunton CC

Staffordshire v Berks at Wolverhampton CC

Warwickshire v Sussex at Edgbaston Foundation Ground

Monday 2nd May 2016

Staffordshire v Somerset at Meakins CC

Surrey v Berks at Reed’s School

Sussex v Kent at The Saffrons, Eastbourne

Yorkshire v Warwickshire at Harrogate CC

Division Two

Sunday 1st May 2016

Essex v Wales at Billericay CC

Hants v Devon at Hursley Park CC

Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire at Welbeck CC

Monday 2nd May 2016

Essex v Devon at Felsted School

Lancashire v Nottinghamshire at Wigan Sports Club

Leicestershire v Wales at Empingham CC

 

The semi-finals of the Vitality Netball Super League have been decided. The last round of results were:

Saturday 23 April

Loughborough Lightning 55-75 TeamBath

Hertfordshire mavericks 48-52 Surrey Storm

Team Northumbria 60-47 Celtic Dragons

It was an amazingly tight finish at the top, with Thunder top and Mavericks, Storm and Bath all finishing on 30 points. Final placings had to be decided through goal average. The semi-finals are this weekend and will be:

Saturday 30 April

Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (Thunderdome) 4pm

Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks (Surrey Sports Park) 6pm

Both games will be live on Sky Sports.

 

Qualifying for Rio, for both Olympics and Paralympics, is in full swing, particularly in swimming.

Among those to achieve the qualifying standard time this week was 12-year old Abby Kane, who set a new British record in the heats of the S13 100m backstroke with a time of 1 minute 11.92 seconds. She then broke this in the later heats to take it to one minute 11.19 seconds.

Steph Slater also qualified in the backstroke in the S3 category.

Ellie Simmonds and Bethany Firth also broke their own world records to secure their Rio berths. Simmonds, who has already won four Paralympic golds, qualified for the S6 400m freestyle with a time of five minutes 18.69 seconds.

Firth beat her own record of 2 minutes 4.44 by 0.74 of a second to qualify for the S14 200m freestyle.

 

Olympic taekwondo champion Jade Jones came back from injury with a vengeance this week to win gold at the German Open.

She won four bouts in total in the -57kg category– winning by default in the final as her Canadian opponent Ivett Gonda withdrew.

Bianca Walkden also took gold in the +73kg category.

The European Taekwondo Championships take place in Switzerland in May.

 

The London Marathon took place last Sunday. Jemima Sumgong of Kenya took the title in a time of two hours 22.58 seconds. Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia was second two hours, 23.03 seconds and Florence Kiplagat from Kenya third in a time of two hours, 23.29 minutes. Sumgong recovered from a fall, hitting her head in the process before picking herself up to make her way through the field to win.

The Marathon was also a trial event for qualifying for Rio. Alyson Dixon and Sonia Samuels finished as the top British women in 13th and 14th respectively. They had already secured their places by running the standard.

In the women’s wheelchair race, the amazing Tatyana McFadden won her fourth consecutive victory in a time of one hour 44.14 seconds, only 0.01 seconds ahead of Manuela Schar from Switzerland, with Wakako Tsuchida of Japan a further one minute 14 seconds behind.

 

Now to the cycling. Every time I write something, there’s another development, but here’s the story to date. I think it’s not too dramatic to say that British Cycling is in crisis, even though it insists it isn’t. It’s also safe to say that the sport is split straight down the middle. And with fewer than 100 days to go to Rio, it would be redundant of me to say that they need to get their act together and sort it out as soon as possible.

I reported last week that Jess varnish had been dropped from the Performance team because, according to technical director Shane Sutton, she “had not made the necessary gains in performance compared to the rest of the world.” Varnish countered with claims of gender discrimination including that she was told to “go and have a baby” by Sutton.

Since then Sutton has been suspended pending an investigation and in the latest turn of events he has resigned his post. Further claims and counter-claims have arisen, including accusations of Sutton’s attitude toward para-cyclists and to other female riders.

Inevitably, some have come out in favour and some against and we certainly haven’t heard the last of it. Things were further complicated by a separate scandal this week when it was suggested that some elite British Cycling gear, including a top-range bike, were being sold on e-bay.

 

And finally, a 12-year old girl “accidentally” ran a half marathon this week (believe me I’d know if I’d run a half marathon by mistake). Lee was supposed to be running a 5km in Rochester in the US, but she turned up just as the half marathon runners were setting off and joined them thinking it was her race. Her parents were worried when she didn’t turn up and a police motorcycle tracked her down, but by that time Lee was determined to finish the 13 mile race. She completed in a time of two hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds.

Isn’t that a better “And finally” than reading about Bernie Ecclestone’s inanities last week?