Women’s Sports Column 13-19 October 2018

social mediaWelcome to this week’s column.  The motorsport issue is still causing fierce debate, but there’s so much more to offer this week with stories from winter sports, hockey, rugby league and union, netball, football, gymnastics, athletics, golf, tennis and cricket!  Unfortunately, also two disturbing and despicable “and finally” items this week.

So let’s crack on….

Winter Sports

The biggest story this week, as regards British athletes, has to be that Lizzy Yarnold, two time Olympic gold medallist, has announced her retirement from the skeleton.

She is Britain’s most decorated Winter Olympian, having defended the title she won in 2014 at Pyeongchang in 2018.  She also won World Championship gold in 2015 and bronze in 2012 and 2017, World Cup gold in 2013-14 and silver in 2014-15 and European Championship gold in 2015.

It is no secret that the skeleton has taken its toll on her body, with her back and knees taking the brunt of this punishing sport.  She also suffers from vestibular disorder which affects her inner ear and brain, causing dizziness.

Yarnold’s decision may have been hastened by former teammate Amy Williams’ revelation that her skeleton career has caused her so much back and knee pain that she has had to sell her house and move into a bungalow.

Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that Yarnold is a brilliant role-model for would-be winter sports athletes and I’m sure she’ll stay involved in sport, perhaps working with youngsters and their motivation and I would like to offer my congratulations to her on a stunning career.

Rugby League – Super League Grand Final

Leeds Rhinos 16-18 Wigan Warriors

Wigan defeated Leeds Rhinos in the Grand final on Saturday with a penalty in the last minute.

Leeds took the lead through Rhiannon Marshall, but Wigan were ahead at the break 8-6.  Rachel Thompson scored a hat-trick of tries and Georgia Wilson one try as Wigan pulled 10 points ahead.

But Leeds were not done.  They drew level to 16 points all with tries from Caitlin Beevers and Suze Hill with two goals from Courtney Hill.

With one minute to go, Wigan were awarded a penalty and Charlotte Foley calmly slotted it home to take the two points and the game.

Leeds have still had a great season, winning the League Leaders’ Shield and the Challenge Cup.

Tennis – on the court

Kremlin Cup

Jo Konta is through to the semi-finals of the Kremlin Cup.  She had a fine win in the first round of the beating seventh seed Elise Mertens 6-3 7-5.  In the round of 16 she defeated Daria Gavrilova in three sets 6-4 3-6 6-3 and in the quarter-final she overcame Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2 2-6 7-6.

She faces sixth seed Daria Kasatkina in the semi-final.  The first semi is between Ons Jabeur and fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Luxembourg Open

We are also at the semi-final stage of the Luxembourg Open where top seed Julia Goerges meets Eugenie Bouchard and Belinda Bencic comes up against ninth seed Dayana Yastremska.

Tennis – off the court

Britain’s Katie Boulter is into the top 100 of the WTA world rankings for the first time.

Last week she lost at the quarter-final stage of the Tianjin Open to world number six Karolina Pliskova.

Now the 22-year old from Leicester is ranked 96 in the world.

Race to Singapore

She was due to be number one seed at the WTA Finals which begin on 21 October, but Simona Halep has had to withdraw due to her ongoing back injury.  Kiki Bertens, who finished ninth in qualifying, takes her place.  The full line-up is as follows:

(1. Simona Halep)

Angelique Kerber
Caroline Wozniacki
Naomi Osaka
Petra Kvitova
Sloane Stephens
Elina Svitolina
Karolina Pliskova
Kiki Bertens

Gymnastics

After the hideousness of the Larry Nassar scandal, it is up to USA Gymnastics to get its house in order, and quickly.  Unfortunately, it seems they have failed spectacularly this week.

It had appointed Mary Bono as interim head, but after objections by Olympic champions Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, Bono has resigned after just four days in post.

First Biles criticised Bono for appearing to oppose Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advertising campaign.

Bono has responded that she did not oppose the campaign because of Kaepernick’s stance over racial injustice, but because of the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.  She said she was responding as someone who has lost family serving in the armed forces – the ultimate sacrifice.

But it Raisman has also raised the issue that Bono was a solicitor at the law firm that represented Larry Nassar in 2015.  Bono did not represent him directly, but the firm and the sport’s administrators were aware of abuse allegations at the time.

Nassar was sentenced to 300 years in prison for child pornography and sexual abuse charges.  He abused both Biles and Raisman while coaching for USA Gymnastics.

Time for USA Gymnastics to think again.

Football

World Cup Qualifying

Three more countries qualified for next year’s World Cup this week.  The USA and Canada qualified from the CONCACAF Women’s Championship as finalists.  USA beat Canada 2-0 in the final with goals from Rose Lavelle in the second minute and Alex Morgan in the 89th.

There was an historic result in the third-place play-off as Jamaica defeated Panama 4-2 to qualify for their first World Cup finals.  The match ended 2-2 in normal time and the deadlock still could not be broken in extra-time.  So it went to penalties.  Jamaica coach, Hue Menzies, took off the first-choice goalkeeper in the last minute of extra time to bring on Nicole Mcclure, a renowned shot-stopper, a manoeuvre that paid off as Mcclure saved two penalties while the Jamaicans scored all their four.

Panama still have a chance to qualify, but they have to beat Argentina, who finished third in the Copa America Femenina.  First leg is Monday 5 November and the second is just over a week later on Tuesday 13.  Brazil and Chile have qualified for next year’s finals after finishing top and second respectively.

Champions League

Chelsea 1-0 Fiorentina

Chelsea may rue their missed chances when it comes to the second leg in Florence in two weeks.  Emma Hayes had made seven changes to the team that were demolished 5-0 by Arsenal at the weekend.

Chelsea played well and were most often on the front foot, with chances for Fran Kirby, Ramona Bachmann (who ran and ran all night) and Millie Bright.

The only goal of the game came from Karen Carney from the penalty spot on eight minutes.

Fiorentina seemed happy to sit back and try to hit Chelsea on the break, but in truth it would have been most unjust if they had scored an equaliser.

Some fine goalkeeping from Fiorentina’s Stephanie Öhrström kept the score down and Fiorentina will go into the second leg confident of overturning the 1-0 deficit.

Barcelona 5-0 Glasgow City

Glasgow contributed to their own downfall with a series of mistakes and now the tie seems to be over.

Barcelona were three-up at half-time with goals from Kheira Hamraoui, Aitana Bonmati and Patricia Guijarro.  After the break the onslaught continued and two more goals from Andressa Alves and Maria Leon ensured a thumping first leg win for the Spanish team.

Other Champions League scores:

Wolfsburg 4-0 Atletico Madrid
Zurich 0-2 Bayern Munich
Ajax 0-4 Lyon (a goal for Izzy Christiansen for Lyon in this match)
FC Rosengard 2-3 Slavia Praha
Linkoping 0-2 Paris St Germain
Lillestrom SK 1-1 Brondby

The Round of 16 second leg matches are 31 October and 1 November.

Football – English Domestic

Arsenal are on Fire, as the current idiom would have it.  They put five past Chelsea at the weekend away from home to stay top of the table, but they need to watch out as Manchester City also seems to be hitting their straps at last.

Super League Results from Sunday 14 October:

Bristol City 0-1 Birmingham City
Mannion 75’

Everton 3-3 Brighton & Hove Albion
Kaagman 27’, George 46’, Kelly 70’
Buet 2’, Brazil 75’ 78’

Liverpool 2-1 Yeovil Town
Linnett 18’, Clarke 87’
Heatherson 28’

Manchester City 7-1 West Ham United
Weir 2’, Parris 7’ 17’, Stanway 72’ 80’, Houghton 76’, Wullaert 86’
De Graaf 82’

Chelsea 0-5 Arsenal
Little 21’ (pen), Miedema 38’ 57’, Nobbs 52’ 67’

On the negative side for Arsenal, Scotland striker Kim Little fractured her leg in the match and will be out for approximately 10 weeks.  According to social media it was a bad tackle by Drew Spence that took her out and she should have been red carded, although she was only booked.

Arsenal are top from Birmingham City on goal difference.  Both teams have 12 points, the Gunners from four games and the Blues from five.  Manchester City are a point behind in third.  At the bottom, Yeovil are still without a point and Brighton are above them with just one.

Championship results from 14 October:

Millwall Lionesses 1-2 Leicester City
Lumsden 20’
Axten 61’ 77’

Crystal Palace 1-0 London Bees
Hincks 21’

Aston Villa 0-0 Durham

Lewes 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Kempson 14’
Baptiste 16’, Dean 32’ 45’

Manchester United 3-0 Charlton Athletic
Zelem 16’, Sigsworth 57’, Arnott 75’

Who can stop Manchester United from running away with it?  They are top with 13 points from five games.  Spurs are second a point behind, but from four games, and Leicester are third with nine from five.  At the bottom, Villa and Millwall have a point each but Villa have a terrible goal difference (-17).

Athletics

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  The introduction of the IAAF’s new testosterone rules has had to be delayed due to a legal challenge from Athletics South African (ASA) and 800m runner Caster Semenya.

The new ruling was due to come in on 1 November, but that has now been put back to 26 March 2019.

However, the ruling states that female athletes have to keep their testosterone levels below the prescribed amount for at least six months before competing.

This means that the athletes affected (primarily Semenya), will not be allowed to run for six months from the date the rule comes in.  If the March date happens, six months from then will be 26 September, just one day before the start of the World Athletics Championships in Doha.

More to come as it happens.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey league Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

Holcombe 2-1 Canterbury
Beeston 4-3 Clifton Robinsons
Surbiton 1-0 University of Birmingham
Slough 0-3 East Grinstead
Buckingham 2-1 Bowdon

So the Surbiton juggernaut rolls on.  They are top on 10 points from four games.  Second are Holcombe with the same points but an inferior goal difference.  Buckingham lie third on eight points.  At the bottom Slough lost again and still have only one point.  Canterbury and Bowdon are just above them with two.

This weekend’s fixtures:

20 October:
Surbiton v Bowdon (12 noon, Surbiton Hockey Club)
University of Birmingham v Canterbury (4pm, Birmingham Uni P1)

21 October
Buckingham v Beeston (12 noon, Stowe School P1)
Clifton Robinsons v Slough (1pm, Coombe Dingle, P1)
Holcombe v East Grinstead (2pm, Holcombe Hockey Club, P1)

Rugby Union

Premier 15s

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

DMP Sharks 15-7 Richmond
Saracens 21-5 Wasps
Loughborough Lightning 36-18 Bristol Bears
Worcester Valkyries 19-69 Harlequins
Firwood Waterloo 10-43 Gloucester-Hartpury

After five games Saracens are top with 24 points.  Loughborough are second with the same number of points but an inferior goal difference.  Harlequins are third on 18.  At the bottom, Worcester have only two points having lost all of their games so far.  Firwood Waterloo lie above them on five.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

20 October
Wasps v Richmond (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Firwood Waterloo (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Harlequins v Saracens (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Worcester Valkyries (4.30pm)
Loughborough Lightning v DMP Sharks (5pm, Loughborough University)

Young Sports Personality of the Year

The shortlist for Young Sports Personality of the Year has been announced.  There are six girls and women in the list of 10:

Kare Adenegan (17) (Para-athletics)
Freya Anderson (17) (Swimming)
Georgia-Mae Fenton (17) (Gymnastics)
Anna Hursey (12) (Table tennis)
Georgia Roche (17) (Rugby League)
Maisie Summers-Newton (16) (Para-Swimming)

Check out the credentials of the contenders here

Netball

A full house at the Copper Box saw Wasps Netball win the second Fast5 Allstars tournament at the weekend.  They beat the benecosMavericks 42-32 in the final.

The series of results were as follows:

Double elimination stage

Loughborough Lightning 19-21 Surrey Storm
Strathclyde Sirens 4-15 Severn Stars
Team Bath 23-18 Manchester Thunder
benecosMavericks 31-41 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 12-28 Severn Stars
Team Bath 23-37 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 32-28 Strathclyde Sirens
Manchester Thunder 22-32 bencosMavericks
Surrey Storm 15-6 Loughborough Lightning
Team Bath 21-47 benecosMavericks

Semi-Finals
Wasps Netball 45-36 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 8-38 benecosMavericks

The Final
Wasps Netball 42-32 benecosMavericks

There are a number of “warm-up” tournaments before the Vitality Netball Superleague begins in January.  Check out your favourite team’s website to see who they’re playing.

Sunshine Series

Meanwhile England Roses have suffered a disappointing series defeat against Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls in Kingston.  England were without some of their star names, but with the World Cup next year, Tracy Neville will be concerned that none of the three matches was particularly close.

First Test
Jamaica 55-43 England

Second Test
Jamaica 58-39 England

Third Test
Jamaica 58-43 England

Cricket

It was an easy a start to a series as Australia could wish for as they demolished Pakistan in a rain-affected first ODI in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Pakistan 95 all out (37.2 overs)
Australia 95/5 chasing revised target of 92 (22.2 overs)
Australia won by five wickets with 112 balls remaining

The rain hit when Pakistan were 76/6 and reduced the game to 41 overs per side, but Pakistan were in deep trouble already by then.  Sana Mir made 21 not out and captain Javeria Khan also made 21, but Megan Schutt took 3/17 from 7.2 overs and Nicola Carey 3/19 off 7 as the home side slumped to 95 all out.

Australia’s target was revised to 92 via the D/L method.  They started well with an opening stand of 40 before Alyssa Healy was out for 26 in the seventh over.  Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry went cheaply (four and one respectively), both wickets falling to Sana Mir, who eventually took 3/26 in seven overs.  After Nicole Bolton was out for 22 it was up to Rachael Haynes and Beth Mooney to see it home.  Haynes was out with just one needed, but Ash Gardner came in to back up Mooney and take the win.

The only real positive for Pakistan is that they took five Australian wickets.

Reports from the rest of the series next week.

Golf

Laura Davies has won the Senior LPGA in Indiana.  She finished four ahead of the field on -8.  Helen Alfredsson of Sweden and Silvia Cavalleri of the US were tied for second on -4.  Of the other British players, Trish Johnson finished on +3 and Catriona Matthew +4.

This is Davies’ second senior major win of the year, after winning the US Senior Women’s Open in July.

And Finally,

I have neither the space nor time do justice to the subjects of this week’s “And Finally”.

This week Chelsea winger Karen Carney received abuse, rape and death threats on Instagram after Chelsea’s win over Fiorentina on Wednesday.

You will know how much I tend to “go on” about the abuse women receive on social media and on “Have Your Say” sections of websites, but there has been talk that the abuse of Carney is of “another level”.  Is it?  Is it not part of the same systematic degradation of women in sport (and in other areas of public life) that goes on every day?  It’s despicable and unacceptable and sends chills right through me, but I would say, seeing the stuff that gets through the comments pages, I would imagine it is probably on a level with those comments that are “moderated and removed because they have broken house rules.”

No-one should have to contend with this, be they woman or man – no-one should be threatened for doing their job, be that on the pitch, as a journalist, an administrator or an activist.

What is on “another level”, however, is the news from Mexico that a woman who spent her life working to promote women’s football, Marbella Ibarra, has been murdered.  It is not known whether her links to football made her a target, but it has certainly brought home to me yet again that while words are upsetting and unacceptable, women all over the world are being killed or suffer violence for their thoughts, actions and stances.

Read the full story of the death of Marbella Ibarra here

I in no way mean to belittle what Carney and many, many other women have gone through – goodness knows I try to highlight it and call it out as much as I can.  I also realise that violent words can often escalate into violent behaviour, so we should always investigate this kind of abuse and find out the motivation behind it.  But I also realise that social media is not the be-all and end-all of life.  Some people are living through real-life horror stories every day.  And some may not survive it.

More news and views next week.   

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2018

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  Lots to catch up with again this week with stories from cycling, tennis, netball, football, golf, cricket and athletics.

So let’s crack on.

Cricket

Just when you thought New Zealand had collapsed in a terminal heap, they came back in the third ODI to beat England convincingly and take a precious two points in the ICC Championship.

Third ODI
England 219 all out (47.4 overs)
New Zealand 224/6 (44.4 overs)
NZ women won by 4 wickets

It looked to be a case of same old, same old when England started with a stand of 10.  Beaumont was first to fall with 53 from 66 balls.   Winfield fell soon after on just five, but Jones was still going strong until she was stumped by Martin off the bowling of Watkin for 78.

After that, however, there was a succession of poor shots that saw England dismissed for 219.

Leigh Kasparek was, by far, the pick of the bowlers with 5/39 off 9.4 overs.

It should never have been enough, but we had seen collapses aplenty from this White Ferns side for nothing to be certain.

In fact it all went wrong to begin with when Jess Watkin was given lbw to Brunt for a duck in the first over.   But Sophie Devine was having none of it.  She smashed 117 not out from 116 balls, ably assisted first by Green (23), then Satterthwaite (25) and finally by Martin (23) to see them home with 32 balls to spare.

Sadly that sees the end of England’s international summer (July!) and now begins the women’s T20 showpiece, the Kia Super League.

The squads have now been announced.  It’s a quality product, so can I please suggest if you’re anywhere near a game, you go out and support it?  You can view all of the upcoming fixtures here:

https://www.ecb.co.uk/matches/super-league/fixtures

Loughborough Lightning

Georgia Elwiss (C),  Rachael Haynes, Sophie Devine, Kirsty Gordon, Georgia Adams, Tara Norris, Jenny Gunn, Sarah Glenn, Elyse Villani, Sonia Odedra, Lucy Higham, Abbey Freeborn, Amy Jones, Jo Gardner.

Western Storm

Heather Knight (C), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Stafanie Taylor, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Alice McLeod, Sophie Luff, Amara Carr, Naomi Dattani, Rebecca Silk, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Danielle Gibson, Freya Davies.

Yorkshire Diamonds

Lauren Winfield, Katherine Brunt, Beth Langston, Alice Davidson-Richards, Beth Mooney, Chamari Atapattu, Delissa Kimmince, Helen Fenby, Katie Levick, Sophie Munro, Bess Heath, Thea Brookes, Alice Monaghan, Gwen Davies, Katie Thompson.

Lancashire Thunder

Danielle Hazell (C), Kate Cross, Emma Lamb, Sophie Ecclestone, Natalie Brown, Natasha Miles, Amy Satterthwaite, Ellie Threlkeld, Nicole Bolton, Georgie Boyce, Rachel Dickinson, Alice Dyson, Alex Hartley, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur.

Southern Vipers

Georgia Adams, Suzie Bates, Arran Brindle, Ellen Burt, Izzy Collis, Charlie Dean, Mignon du Preez, Charlotte Edwards, Tash Farrant, Katie George, Hayley Matthews, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Linsey Smith, Danni Wyatt.

Surrey Stars

Nat Sciver (C), Aylish Cranstone, Sophia Dunkley, Grace Gibbs, Gayatri Gole, Eva Gray, Hannah Jones, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee, Laura Marsh, Bryony Smith, Sarah Taylor, Rhianna Southby, Dane van Niekerk, Mady Villiers.

This weekend’s fixtures are on Sunday 22 July:

Surrey Stars v Southern Vipers (Woodbridge Road, Guildford, 2.30pm)
Western Storm v Yorkshire Diamonds (County Ground, Taunton, 2.30pm)
Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Trafalgar Road Ground, Southport 2.30pm)

Tennis

Wimbledon

Angelique Kerber took the singles title at Wimbledon, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets 6-3 6-3.

The doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Katerina Siniaková, who beat Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke (12) 6-4 4-6 6-0

Alexander Peya and Nicole Melichar (11) took the mixed doubles title, who defeated the unseeded Jamie Murray and Victoria Azarenka 7-6 6-3.

In the wheelchair singles, number one seed Diede De Groot beat the unseeded Aniek Van Koot 6-3 6-2

Diede De Groot then went on to take the doubles title with partner Yui Kamiji, as the number one seeds  beat Sabine Ellerbrock & Lucy Shuker 6-1 6-1.

The tournament has caused plenty of movement in the world rankings.  Serena Williams is up to 28th, but Jo Konta is down to 50th.

Netball

Mikki Austin has been appointed as Surrey Storm’s first Director of Netball.

Austin has played for the Storm since 2015, but she was injured for much of the 2018 season.

In an interview with the Netball Superleague website, Austin said,

“I am thrilled to be appointed as Director of Netball at Surrey Storm and, whilst the new season seems like a long way off at the moment, I cannot wait to get started on our preparations to make it a successful one.

“I am focusing on making sure we can attract some new players to add strength and bolster our already strong squad, so we are ready to compete at the highest level as we aim to compete for a top four spot.

“I have enjoyed every moment of my time with Storm so far, especially as we have enjoyed some great successes which I really want to be part of again; I have big aspirations for what we can achieve and I look forward to building an exciting next generation of Surrey Storm.”

Golf

Dame Laura Davies has won the first US Senior Women’s Open.

She took the title by a huge 10 shots at the Chicago Golf Club at the weekend.

Davies finished on 16 under par.  American Juli Inkster was second on six under and England’s Trish Johnson in third on four under.

Football

The biggest news of the week is that Marieanne Spacey-Cale is to leave the FA to take up the role of Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at Southampton FC.

With 91 England caps to her name, Spacey-Cale is considered to be one of England’s best ever female players.  She had been at the FA for 11 years as was part of Mark Sampson’s staff at the 2015 World Cup.

She was also Under 23s head coach and, most recently, England Women’s Player and Coach Developer.

This is a big move for Spacey-Cale and a big loss for the FA.  Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s Head of Women’s Football, must be wondering how to replace her.

“On behalf of everyone at The FA, I would like to wish Marieanne well – she leaves behind a great legacy through her work which has had a positive impact on the female game,” Campbell said on the FA website.

It also shows Southampton’s commitment to their women’s programme.

The transfer roundabout shows no sign of slowing.

This week:

  • England international Lianne Sanderson signed for Juventus, thus joining up with good friend Eni Aluko.
  • Scotland striker Christie Murray has signed for Liverpool.
  • Kirsty Smith and Lizzie Arnot also left Glasgow City this week, having been offered contracts at Manchester United.
  • Goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley has left Birmingham City to join Bristol City.
  • West Ham are still in the market and this week have signed American defender Brooke Hendrix from Brescia and Republic of Ireland striker Leanne Kiernan from Shelbourne Ladies.
  • Erin Cuthbert has signed a new three-year contract with champions, Chelsea.

Manchester United

Of course the major hoop-la of the week surrounded the announcement of the Manchester United squad.  England defender Alex Greenwood is club captain.  It is, no doubt, an impressive squad, packed with talent.  They have, however, got to work from scratch to make it into a team.  It will be fascinating to see what happens this season.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers
1 – Siobhan Chamberlain, 13 – Emily Ramsey, 22 – Fran Bentley

Defenders
2 – Martha Harris, 3 – Alex Greenwood, 4 – Amy Turner, 12 – Naomi Hartley, 15 – Lucy Roberts, 20 – Kirsty Smith

Midfielders
6 – Aimee Palmer, 8 – Mollie Green, 10 – Katie Zelem, 14 – Charlie Devlin, 16 – Lauren James, 17 – Lizzie Arnot, 21 – Millie Turner

Forwards
7 – Ella Toone, 9 – Jess Sigsworth, 11 – Leah Galton, 18 – Kirsty Hanson, 19 – Ebony Salmon

Athletics

The largely unheralded inaugural Athletics World Cup went to United States.  The US finished 57 points ahead of Poland, with Great Britain a further seven points behind in third.

The top GB women’s performance came from the 4 x 100m relay team of Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot, Bianca Williams and Shannon Hylton in 42.52 ahead of Jamaica in second in a time of 42.60 and China third in 42.94.  The US team didn’t finish.

The other GB performances of notes: Lorraine Ugen continued her good form with a win in the long jump with a distance of 6.86m.  Holly Bradshaw also won the pole vault with a season’s best 4.75m.

Beth Morgan won silver in the high jump, while Adelle Tracey also took silver in the 800m. Sophie Hitchon came second in the hammer with a season’s beat 73.48m and Meghan Beesley was also second in the 400m hurdles.

Beth Dobbin won bronze it the 200m as did Jemma Reekie in the 1500m.

Final Athletics World Cup standings:

  1. United States 219 points
  2. Poland 162 points
  3. Great Britain 155 points
  4. Jamaica 153 points
  5. France 146 points
  6. Germany 137 points
  7. South Africa 135 points
  8. China 81 points

Cycling

La Course

Annemiek van Vleuten retained her La Course title on Tuesday after overtaking Anna van der Breggen in the final 25 metres.

The one-stage race from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand was undertaken by 112 riders from 20 teams.

Van der Breggen looked odds-on to take the title as she pulled away up the final climb on the Col del a Colombiere and then further ahead on the descent.

But Van Vleuten was not to be beaten and took her chance as Van de Breggen tired at the very end.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa had kept up with the two Dutch riders, but falling away hung on to take third.

Top Ten Finishers:

  1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned/Mitchelton-Scott) 3hrs 20mins 43secs
  2. Anna van der Breggen (Ned/Boels-Dolmans) +1sec
  3. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SA/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 22secs
  4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 58secs
  5. Megan Guarnier (US/Boels-Dolmans) +2mins 19secs
  6. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol/Canyon SRAM) same time
  7. Katharine Hill (US/UnitedHealthcare) +2mins 22secs
  8. Amanda Spratt (Aus/Mitchelton-Scott) same time
  9. Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spa/Ale Cipollini) +2mins 24secs
  10. Erica Magnaldi (Ita/Bepink) same time

And so ends the women’s version of the Tour de France for another year.  Although it was a good race, there is no doubt that it is still a very unsatisfying experience, both for fans of women’s cycling and the cyclists themselves.

When will the (growing amount of) muttering stop and the action start?  When will we see a multi-stage event for women alongside the Tour de France?  I’m not holding my breath.  Until the big sponsors get on board there will be no change.  The will is there from the athletes and the teams, but without proactive movement from the governing body, the UCI, don’t expect anything to happen.

Other Cycling News

Lizzie Deignan will head up the new Trek Factory Racing team when she returns to the sport next season.

She is expecting her first child in September, but plans to be back in training in December.

In a telling statement she said,

“I chose Trek because rather than see me as a risk in pregnancy, they saw me as an investment and as a valued athlete.

“For me that was the biggest sign towards truly believing in equality.”

She leaves Boels-Dolmans at the end of the season, having ridden for them for five years.

And finally,

I’ve been listening to the BBC 5 Live coverage of The Open over the last two days.  And while I could definitely do without John Inverdale, there was a great discussion this morning about the perception of golf and how young people, minority ethnic people and women can be more attracted to it.  Absolutely loved Iain Carter’s impassioned arguments – brave of him to declare that however much the clubs and governing body say they are doing to be inclusive, there is, without doubt, still a problem with women in the game and they could and should be doing so much more.  I have a great respect for Carter – I pulled him up once for calling Caroline Wozniacki “Rory’s Belle” – she was engaged to Rory McIlroy at the time.  He responded to me immediately and was very apologetic that he had not recognised Wozniacki in her own right, but only as an appendage to McIlroy.  Keep at it Iain, perhaps they’ll listen eventually.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 February 2017

12928352_10201803729532769_8195423317764149816_nWelcome to this week’s column.  There are things good and bad this week, as usual.  I have found it difficult to be upbeat this week, some of the reasons for which I outline in “And finally”, but I hope that the news I give here is largely positive and makes you all feel positive about women’s sport.

This week’s stories come from rugby, football, cricket, golf, athletics, netball, winter sports and tennis.

Football

Notts County

Things are looking up for Notts County.  I reported a couple of columns ago that a winding-up order had been issued.  This threat now seems to be receding.

The petition has now been adjourned for 49 days.  The new Notts County owner, Alan Hardy, attended the hearing.

They still have to find the money to pay off their debt to HMRC.

But there seems to be no exodus of players from the club – in fact they are still making signings.  They are also advertising for a physio, so hopefully they will pull through.

Watford

Another club seemingly in trouble is Watford Ladies.

Last week they conceded their FA Cup tie against Doncaster Belles without a ball being kicked.  The club statement said that this was done,

“in order to ensure necessary preparations were fully in place ahead of the start of the league fixture programme”.

But since then they have appointed a new head coach, Keith Boanas, and held a series of meetings to discuss the future.  They have assured the league and their fans that “we believe we’re now on a very firm footing”.

Hopefully the club is in the process of ironing out its problems and will be back on course soon.

Indian Women’s League results

5 February

FC Pune City 0-5 Rising Student FC 

6 February

Aizawl FC 0-3 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Jeppiaar Institute 1-1 Alakhpura FC

8 February

FC Pune City 4-0 Aizawl FC

Rising Student FC 7-0 Jeppiaar Institute

9 February

Alakhpura FC 0-1 Eastern Sporting Union FC

That concludes the league stage.  The semi-finals, which take place on 11 February line-up as follows:

Rising Student FC v FC Pune City

Eastern Sporting Union FC v Alakhpura FC

I’m sorry I’ve only been able to bring the bare results, but it is all the information I have been able to glean.  I wish I could have seen some of the action, but I think it’s important just to mention it.

Cricket

The Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament is underway in Colombo.  The top three finishers go through to a “Super-6” section (it’s never simple with the ICC).  This is how it stands at the moment:

Team Matches played Won Lost tied No result Points
GROUP A            
India 2 2 0 0 0 4
Sri Lanka 2 1 1 0 0 2
Ireland 2 1 1 0 0 2
Zimbabwe 1 0 1 0 0 0
Thailand 1 0 1 0 0 0
GROUP B
Pakistan 3 2 1 0 0 4
South Africa 2 2 0 0 0 4
Bangladesh 3 2 1 0 0 4
Scotland 2 0 2 0 0 0
Papua New Guinea 2 0 2 0 0 0

Tennis

Great Britain have made a fine start to the Fed Cup this week.

Britain are seeded third out of the 14 nations taking part in Tallinn and first in their group.

They began their group C campaign with a 3-0 win against Portugal:

Both Heather Watson and Johanna Konta won their singles matches and then Jocelyn Rae and Laura Robson won the doubles to make it 3-0.

Heather Watson beat Ines Murta 6-1 6-1

Johanna Konta beat Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-2 6-4

Rae and Robson beat De Brito and Murta 6-2 6-3

The team then went on to beat Latvia by the same margin

Heather Watson beat Diana Marcinkevica 6-3 6-0

Johanna Konta beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-3

Rae and Robson beat Daniela Vismane and Marcinkevica 6-0 6-7 6-2

Great Britain play Turkey today (Friday).   The four group winners will play promotion play-offs on Saturday.  The two winning nations will then qualify for World Group II play-offs in April .

The group winners will play-off against the Group B winners on Saturday.

The groups line-up as follows:

Pool A: Poland, Georgia, Austria

Pool B: Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia/Herzegovina

Pool C: Great Britain, Turkey, Latvia, Portugal

Pool D: Serbia, Israel, Bulgaria, Estonia

Golf

Britain’s Laura Davies equalled the course record with an eight-under-par 65 in the first round of the Oates Vic Open in Victoria, Australia.  She hit six birdies and one eagle in the process.

She heads the leaderboard by two going into the second round:

-8 L Davies (Eng), -6 N B Larsen (Den), H Clyburn (Eng), S Gal (Ger), W Hillier (Aus), M Reid (Eng), -5 H-J Choi (Kor), K Kirk (Aus), M Parra (Spa), A Yin (US)

Speed Skating

 Elise Christie will miss a second World Cup event because of concussion.  She was unable to compete in Germany last week and will also miss this weekend’s event in Belarus.

Christie is now focussing on the World Championships which take place in the Netherlands from 10-12 March.

Athletics

 US athlete and former Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson has been banned from athletics for three months after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

She said she was given hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure but didn’t understand the ramifications regarding doping.   Her ban has been in place since 1 December.

Netball

England were disappointingly well beaten by New Zealand in their second game of the Quad series in Liverpool.  They lost the game 61-37.  By half-time they were 11 behind and were never going to make up the difference.

They needed to improve greatly if they were to make it a game against Australia.  And this they did.  They still lost 47-46, but the improvement in their work-rate, shooting and defending will give coach Tracey Neville great heart.

With 10 seconds to go England only needed one goal to take into extra time, but Sharni Layton, so often the thorn in her opponents’ side intercepted to prevent the goal and win the game.

As expected, Australia retained their Quad series title this week, but they were made to fight for it every step of the way by the England Roses.

To some extent Neville will be frustrated.  She will wonder how three such different performances were produced.  They won in extra time against the Proteas, lost catastrophically to the Silver Ferns and ran the Diamonds close.  I don’t envy her trying to draw conclusions from this.

It was also good to see the BBC covering some of the games.

Wales v New Zealand

After the Quad series was over the Silver Ferns played two tests against Wales this week.  Although Wales are improving as a netballing nation, in truth it wasn’t much of a contest.  It was, however, a chance for netball fans to see Wales play one of the world’s best teams in Wales.

Wales 27-92 New Zealand

Wales 39-72 New Zealand

Wales were somewhat overawed in the first game, but fought well in the second to produce a much-improved display.  Wales will now be working towards the Commonwealth Games which take place on the Gold Coast in 2018.

Rugby

 Six Nations

There were wins for England, Wales and Ireland in the first round of the Six Nations last weekend.

Scotland 15-22 Ireland

Broadwood Stadium 3 February

Ireland took a bonus point win in the first game of the 2017 Championship to leave them top of the table after the first round of matches.

Scotland scored first through Jade Konkel, powering over after just five minutes.  Sarah Law scored the conversion to make it 7-0 to the home side.

Then Ireland had a period of sustained pressure which resulted in Sene Naoupu going over from close range.  The conversion was missed.

Ireland then scored their second, this time through Alison Miller, who went over in the corner, but the conversion was missed again.

Scotland hit back as Player of the Match Konkel went over again.  Law missed the conversion but then put over a penalty to make it 15-10 to the Scots at half-time.

After the break the Scots went down to 14 when Lindsey Smith was sin-binned.  Ireland took advantage and scored a try through Lindsay Peat that went unconverted.  The score was tied at 15-15.

Scotland had their chances to take the game away from the visitors, but first Law then Helen Nelson missed kickable penalties.

But Ireland made them pay and in the 82nd minute, Jenny Murphy crashed over under the posts to take the game.  Stapleton kicked the conversion and it was 15-22.

Scotland will see this as a definite chance missed to win their first championship game in seven years.

Italy 8-20 Wales

Stadio Comunale Pacifico Carotti, 4 February

Wales scored first with a penalty from Elinor Snowsill after eight minutes.

Prop Caryl Thomas then crashed over for the first try of the afternoon with Snowsill adding the conversion and it was 10-0 after 20 minutes.

Italy came back into it with a penalty from the boot of Michela Sillari, which was followed up soon after by a try for the home side through Manuela Furlan after good work from Isabella Locatelli.

Italy were unable to convert the try, however, and went in at the break 8-10 down.

Early in the second-half Wales stretched their lead as Dyddgu Hywel went in and then a third try came soon after from a driving Welsh maul and scored by captain Carys Phillips.

Italy did their best to pull it back, but were unable to breach the Wales defence again.

England 26-13 France

Twickenham 4 February

England came from 13-0 down at half-time to take the win at Twickenham on Saturday.

Shannon Izar drew first blood for the French as she intercepted a Katy McLean pass and ran 70m to score.  The conversion was missed but it was 5-0.

Emily Scarratt missed a penalty, but then Christelle Le Duff put one over in front of the posts to take it to 8-0.

Gaelle Mignot powered over from a maul for France’s second try of the half to go in 13-0 up at the break.

England came out for the second-half with renewed vigour and took the initiative from the off.

First Scarratt scored a penalty, then Danielle Waterman went in for England’s first try, converted by Scarratt to take it to a 10-13 game.

France then conceded another penalty for a high tackle.  Scarratt slotted home again and the game was level.

Another penalty saw England go in front for the first time and a second for another infringement at the scrum took the lead to six.

Amy Wilson-Hardy scored England’s second try, again converted by Scarratt to make the final score 26-13.

This weekend Tamara Taylor will make her 100th appearance for England when they face Wales on Sunday.

This weekend’s Six Nations fixtures:

 Saturday 11 February

Wales v England

Cardiff Arms Park

11.30am

France v Scotland

Marcel Deflandre

8pm (GMT)

Sunday 12 February

Italy v Ireland

Stadio Tommaso Fattori

1pm (GMT)

And finally,

I have to confess I’m feeling a bit low about the women’s sports world at the moment.  I won’t turn it into a rant as I don’t think I’ve got the energy, but it just seems to me that for every step forward there are two back.  Those in the “bubble” (I have mentioned this before), still maintain that great progress is being made, but you only have to look at two things to see that it’s not quite as easy as that; one is media coverage, the other the response to media coverage.

I’ve seen both that has caused me pain this week.  Firstly, the success of the expansion of netball has led Sport England to reward it with £16.9m of funding.  How was this greeted in the press?  I saw two articles, by women, one which said that no amount of money would make her go back to netball and the other by a woman who plays netball, who wrote a supposedly tongue-in-cheek piece on why netball isn’t “cool” and not “as much fun” as basketball.

The responses to coverage are even more depressing.  Women’s cricket journalist, Raf Nicholson, wrote a great piece this week for Cricinfo on the pros and cons of cricket double-headers.  There were some good and interesting comments on the piece at the bottom.  But the one that stood out was a man who thought this would be the correct platform to tell us all that women (in general, not cricketers or any specific group) will never be any good at sport because they get pregnant.   This wasn’t a one sentence reply either – it was lengthy.  Why this chap thought this was the place to air this view isn’t clear, but it was the comment that drew the eye.

Consequently, this week my store of optimism is at a low ebb.  Hopefully next week I’ll be back to my normal self and celebrating the world of women’s sport to the full!