Women’s Sports Column 6-13 January 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Nearly half way through January already!  Plenty to get our teeth into this week with stories from hockey, tennis, football, cricket, rugby, winter sports and yet more awards.  This week’s “and finally” is a tricky one and I’ll leave you to form your own opinions.

Tennis

Johanna Konta has continued her good start to the season by winning the Apia International in Sydney.

She beat world number three, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4 6-2 to take the final in straight sets.

She broke Radwanska in the third game of the match and hit 18 winners in the first set alone.  She went 4-0 up in the second and never looked like letting it slip, winning the match with an ace.

Without wishing to curse her, she looks in great form going into the Australian Open.  She has, however, got a tough opening match in the first grand slam of the year; she faces the Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.

Laura Robson and Tara Moore have failed in their attempts to qualify for the Australian Open.  Both players lost in the first qualifying round.

Robson said she felt “flat” in losing in straight sets 6-2 6-4 to Amandine Hesse of France.

Moore was beaten 6-7 (7-2) 6-3 6-1 to Dalma Galfi of Hungary.

The Australian Open begins on Monday.  The top ten women’s seeds are as follows:

  1. Angelique Kerber (GER)
  2. Serena Williams (USA)
  3.  Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
  4.  Simona Halep (ROU)
  5.  Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
  6.  Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
  7.  Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)
  8.  Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
  9.  Johanna Konta (GBR)
  10.  Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)

The date for Maria Sharapova’s comeback has been announced.  She will return at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart on 26 April.

The tournament begins two days before her suspension ends and she will not be able to attend until the day of her first match.

Football

Kelly Smith

Biggest news of the week has to be the retirement from football of Arsenal and England striker Kelly Smith at the age of 38.

And what a playing career it was.  In 1999 she became Britain’s first female professional when she signed for American side New Jersey.

She won 117 England caps, scoring 46 goals.  She played in two World Cups and four European Championships.

She also had a prodigious career with Arsenal, winning five FA Cups in the process and in 2006-07 the UEFA Cup (now Champions League).

She was awarded an MBE in 2008 and was named FA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007.

For the past two seasons she has been assisting manager Pedro Martinez Losa at Arsenal.  She is studying for her coaching badges and is looking to go into coaching as soon as she can.

One thing‘s for sure, you’ll never be able to keep her out of the game and the game would indeed be poorer without her.

She Believes Cup

The schedule for this year’s cup was announced this week.  England will play on the following dates:

France – 1 March (Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania)

USA – 4 March (Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey)

Germany – 7 March (RFK Stadium, Washington)

FA Cup

The FA Cup third round draw was made this week:

Blackburn Rovers v Tottenham Hotspur
Charlton Athletic v Sheffield FC
Aston Villa v Cambridge United
Millwall Lionesses v London Bees
Leicester City v Liverpool Marshall Feds
Keynsham Town v Durham
Coventry United v Oxford United
West Bromwich Albion v Lewes
Doncaster Rovers Belles v Watford
Derby County v Nottingham Forest
Brighouse Town v Everton
AFC Wimbledon v Brighton & Hove Albion

Ties will be played on 5 February.

Rugby Union

World Cup

The schedule for the World Cup, taking place in July in Ireland, has been announced.

Wednesday 9 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

England v Spain 2pm

USA v Italy 4.30pm

Ireland v Australia (7pm)

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

New Zealand v Wales 2.55pm

USA v Italy 4.30pm

Canada v Hong Kong 5.15pm

Sunday 13 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

USA v Spain 2.45pm

Ireland v Japan 5.15pm

France v Australia 7.45pm

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

New Zealand v Honk Kong 12 noon

England v Italy 2.30pm

Canada v Wales 5pm

Thursday 17 August

UCD Bowl Dublin

Italy v Spain 2.45pm

Wales v Hong Kong 17.15pm

France v Ireland 19.45pm

Billings Park, UCD Dublin

Canada v New Zealand 12 noon

England v USA 2.30pm

Australia v Japan 5pm

Tuesday 22 August

Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

Semi-finals 5pm and 7.45pm

Saturday 26 August

Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

Final 7.45pm

Women’s Premiership

Bristol lost their second game of the season at the weekend.  Their lead is now cut to one point – gained from the bonus point loss at Lichfield.  For a full report see WSUK.

8 January 2017

Saracens Women v Wasps Ladies
Postponed

Richmond 17-50 Aylesford

DMP Sharks 24-10 Worcester

Lichfield 15-12 Bristol

Winter Sports

Skiing

Lindsay Vonn is nearing her return to competition after breaking her arm nine weeks ago.

She will compete at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee in Austria on 14 January.

Over recent years Vonn has had to cope with several injuries.  She missed most of 2013 and 2014 with a knee injury.  She then fractured a knee again in February 2016.

Speed skating

Elise Christie has announced that she will not compete in the European Championships in Turin later this month.

She is going to use the extra time to prepare for the World Championships in March.

Christie won overall gold at the last European Championships and so will not be defending her title.

The European Championships begin on 13 January and the World Championships take place in Rotterdam from 10-12 March.

Cricket

The WBBL continues.  The current table is as follows:

played won lost points Net run- rate
Sydney Sixers 10 7 3 14 0.413
Hobart Hurricanes 10 5 4 11 -0.038
Melbourne Stars 10 5 5 10 0.342
Perth Scorchers 10 5 5 10 0.196
Brisbane Heat 10 5 5 10 -0.167
Sydney Thunder 10 4 5 8 -0.022
Adelaide Strikers 10 3 5 8 -0.249
Melbourne Renegades 10 4 6 7 -0.536

Indoor Hockey

The four semi-finalists of the Women’s Super 6s hockey have been decided.

Slough finished top with five wins from eight games and one loss.

Also through are Bowdon Hightown, Canterbury and Sutton Coldfield.

The finals take place on Sunday 29 January at the SSE Arena, Wembley.  Gates open at 10am and the action starts at 11am.

Outdoor Hockey

The third part of my history of women’s hockey was published by WiSP Sports this week.  You can read this and all my other pieces for WiSP here: www.wispsports.com

Laureas World Sports Awards

The Laureas shortlists were released this week.  Two female Britons made the lists:

Sportswoman of the Year award

Simone Biles (US) gymnastics, Allyson Felix (US) athletics, Angelique Kerber (Germany) tennis, Katie Ledecky (US) swimming, Elaine Thompson (Jamaica) athletics, Laura Kenny (GB) cycling.

Action Sportsperson of the Year award

Rachel Atherton (GB) mountain biking, Pedro Barros (Brazil) skateboarding, John John Florence (US) surfing, Chloe Kim (US) snowboarding, Kelly Sildaru (Estonia) freestyle skiing, Tyler Wright (Australia) surfing.

The winners, as voted for by members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, will be announced in Monaco on 14 February.

And finally,

In a survey by England Athletics, more than a third of 2,000 women surveyed said they had suffered some form of harassment when out jogging alone and more than 60% said they feel anxious while running on their own.

It has been suggested that an answer to this is to go out running in groups.  Now I see the value of this, I really do, but it’s not the answer.  There are plenty of benefits to be gained by running with others; the feeling of comradeship, someone to encourage you, making new friends, giving confidence, etc.  Women new to running would especially benefit.

England Athletics has put together a new programme called “Run Together”.  You can access the details here: www.englandatheltics.org

However, I would also point out that running in groups is not for everyone.  Some people run specifically to have time on their own.

And, of course, the real issue is that the women running should not have to change their habits due to the harassment.  Gone are the days (almost) when we say a woman was “asking for it” when they wear short skirts or drink too much.  So why is it the fault of the runner that they receive such abuse?  The harassers should surely change their attitudes and behaviour, not the runners?

I’ll leave it with you.

Apologies but there will be no column next week as I’m away.

Advertisements

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 16-22 April

ecclestone2I’m back. And not a moment too soon, by the looks of it. So much to go through, both good and bad.

This week’s stories come from snowboarding, cycling, tennis, rugby union, cricket, football, sailing, netball and Formula 1.

Let’s start with the worst –Swiss snowboard champion, 21-year old Estelle Balet, was killed this week in an avalanche. She had been filming above Orsieres, a village in the Swiss Alps when the accident happened.

In 2015 Balet became the youngest champion of the Freeride World Tour. She won it again earlier this year.

 

Bad news for cyclist Jess Varnish this week as she has been dropped from British Cycling’s Olympic progamme.

She and Victoria Pendleton broke the team sprint world record in qualifying at London 2012, but now it appears her track career could be over.

Varnish had been critical of governing body, British Cycling:

“We have been basically playing catch-up for two years after decisions that were [made] above us, and bad luck.”

But she and Katy Marchant finished only fifth in the World Championships last month and Varnish has failed to qualify for Rio.

Performance Director of British Cycling, Shane Sutton insists that the decision not to renew her contract was made purely on performance grounds and has nothing to do with her criticism of the governing body.

“Since her gold medal at the London World Cup in 2012, Jess had not made the necessary gains in performance compared to the rest of the world,” he said.

 

Bad news also for British tennis this week as Laura Robson lost in qualifying for the WTA event in Stuttgart. Robson won her first qualifier against Klara Koukalova, but lost to Oceane Dodin, 6-2 6-2 in the second. Robson will use her protected ranking of 58 to enter the French Open in May.

British number one and world 22, Johanna Konta, lost in the first round proper of the same event. She lost in straight sets 6-3 6-3 to Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam.

 

Great news from rugby union this week as England beat New Zealand to win the fourth World Sevens Series event in Canada on 18 April. England have been getting better throughout the tournament and although Australia have won the first three events of the series, England were obviously determined not to see them win a fourth.

They beat Australia in the semi-finals and went on to beat New Zealand 31-14 in the final to claim the win.

Australia look to have an unassailable lead overall with one event to go. They stand on 76 points, with New Zealand in second on 64 and England a further 16 points behind on 48. Even if New Zealand win the last event, Australia would have to finish eighth or lower not to win the title.

The final tournament takes place in France, in Clermont-Ferrand, on 28-29 May.

 

The second tranche (one should never turn down the chance to use the word “tranche”) of Kia Super League signings has been announced. The overseas signings are as follows:

Lancashire Thunder: Deandra Dottin (WI), Sarah Coyte (AUS), Hayley Matthews (WI)

Loughborough Lightning: Ellyse Perry (AUS), Sophie Devine (NZ), Dane van Niekerk (SA)

Southern Vipers: Suzie Bates (NZ), Sara McGlashan (NZ), Megan Schutt (AUS)

Surrey Stars: Meg Lanning (AUS), Marizanne Kapp (SA), Rene Farrell (AUS)

Western Storm: Stafanie Taylor (WI), Rachel Priest (NZ), Lizelle Lee (SA)

Yorkshire Diamonds: Shabnim Ismail (SA), Beth Mooney (AUS), Alex Blackwell (AUS)

There was some furore as the BCCI (Indian Cricket Board) asked why their top players hadn’t been invited, but the ECB replied that they had and the BCCI hadn’t put anyone forward.

In other domestic cricket news, England international Jenny Gunn has left Nottinghamshire to join Warwickshire. Nottinghamshire were relegated at the end of last season.

 

The FA Cup semi-finals were played last weekend and produced contrasting matches.

Arsenal 7-0 Sunderland

Both teams ended up with ten players in a one-sided semi-final.   Arsenal were down to ten on the 33rd minute when Emma Mitchell was sent off after collecting a second yellow card, but it didn’t seem to impede them.

Danielle van de Donk scored a hat-trick with Dan Carter scoring two and another from Jordan Nobbs.

Sunderland also went down to ten when Abby Holmes was sent off in the 72nd minute for a foul in the box with Fara Williams scoring from the resultant penalty.

Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (AET)

It was altogether closer in the second semi with very little to choose between two top-class teams.

After a goalless first half, City went ahead through a close-range Jane Ross shot.

Ji So-Yun curled a free-kick in to equalise and the tie went to extra time.

Chelsea seemed to take control in extra time but it wasn’t until the 120th minute that Fran Kirby popped up to snatch victory for the Blues.

The FA Cup final will be at Wembley on 14 May. If you haven’t been to Wembley because you don’t fancy the aggressive atmosphere of a men’s game, may I suggest you give this event a try? I was there last year and it was brilliant. Just being there you feel like you’re a part of women’s footballing history.   If you can’t get there, it will be live on the BBC.

In other football news, Doncaster Rovers Belles striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk suffered a broken leg in a friendly game this week and will be out of action for some time.

 

The latest round of Vitality Netball Superleague games produced the following results:

16 April

Celtic Dragons 44-45 Yorkshire Jets

This was the Jets’ first win of the season.

Hertfordshire Mavericks 54-55 Team Bath

Surrey Storm 56-64 Manchester Thunder

The table looks as follows:

Played Points
1 Manchester Thunder 13 36
2 Hertfordshire Mavericks 12 30
3 Surrey Storm 13 27
4 Team Bath 13 27
5 Loughborough Lightning 13 18
6 Team Northumbria 13 9
7 Celtic Dragons 13 6
8 Yorkshire Jets 14 3

 

Good news from British sailing this week as British sailor Alison Young won gold in the Laser Radial class at the World Championships in Mexico. In doing so she became the first British world champion in a solo Olympic dinghy class.

Young beat America’s Paige Railey by just one point as she won the 13th and final race to claim the title.

After finishing 5th at London 2012, she will be hoping to take confidence from this win to Rio later on this year.

In an interview with Sky Young said,

“There’s still plenty of room for improvement and I know that come the Games there’s going to be seven or eight girls battling it.”

 

And finally, the prize for complete idiot of the week goes, not for the first time, to head of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone. In an interview at the Advertising Week European conference he said that women drivers would “not be taken seriously” in Formula 1 and that they are not “not physically” able to drive fast. This old, old argument has been disproved so many times I surely don’t have to go into it here, but the main reason that women aren’t taken seriously is because the sport is intrinsically sexist and has a misogynist dinosaur running it.

I, for one, can’t wait until he is ousted from his position and then hopefully women can move forward in Formula 1 as they already are doing in other branches of motorsport.

By the way, in the same interview he also said President Putin “should be running Europe” and expressed his admiration for Donald Trump. Need I say more? I don’t think so…..

Women’s Sports Column

cricket25-11 March

Welcome to this week’s column. This week’s stories come from tennis, football, netball, cycling and cricket.

A good week again for British women’s tennis. After reporting on Heather Watson’s progress in the Monterrey Open last week, she only went on to win it! She beat Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the final 3-6 6-2 6-3. It is Watson’s third WTA title win.

And the tournaments keep on coming. Watson is in action again this week, this time in Indian Wells. She is through to the second round after beating Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 7-6 4-6 6-1. She takes on 32nd seed Monica Niculescu in round two.

One of the most heartening sights of the week was the return of Laura Robson to the WTA tour. She was beaten in the first round at Indian Wells 7-6 6-2 by Magdalena Rybarikova, but the result didn’t really matter. It was the first time Robson had been in a tournament since the US Open in August 2015.

“I’m 100% better. The last time I felt pain was in January,” said Robson in an interview with the BBC.

Of course, we can’t ignore the other big tennis story of the week. Maria Sharapova announced this week that she had failed a drugs test during the Australian Open in January. She tested positive for the banned substance, meldonium. She had been taking the substance since 2006, apparently for health reasons. Meldonium has only been on the banned substances register since the beginning of this year.

The ITF (International Tennis Federation) has provisionally suspended Sharapova. She could face a 2-year ban.

Not wanting to be controversial, but I just wonder what the reaction would have been had it been Serena Williams who had failed the test….

 

After reporting Laura Trott’s first gold medal at the World Track Cycling Championships, needless to say she won again before the event was out, this time in the omnium. She was 12 points ahead when it came to the final 100-lap points race. And she never looked in trouble. She dominated from the start and the gold medal was confirmed with 20 laps to go.

France’s Laurie Berthon finished second with American Sarah Hammer in third.

 

England finished third in the SheBelieves Cup on goals scored after losing against Germany and drawing with France this week.

England were incredibly unlucky against Germany. They led through Toni Duggan header up until the 76th minute when they conceded an own-goal and a penalty to lose the game. Gilly Flaherty put the ball into her own net, which was unlucky enough, but the penalty award was a real shocker. Fara Williams, winning her 150th cap was adjudged to have foul tackled Alexandra Popp, when it was obvious to all except the officials that she took the ball cleanly.

England Head Coach, Mark Sampson, was unhappy about the standard of officiating. This has been a recurrent theme in women’s football recently and will have to be tackled by football’s governing bodies.

Good football was at a premium during the France match, not because the teams weren’t capable, but because the pitch was so dire. France really should have taken the lead in the first half as they had several chances, and England were relieved to go in level at half-time.

To counteract the pitch, both sides resorted to the long ball in the second half, but the deadlock was not to be broken and the game finished 0-0.

The winners of the tournament were USA after they beat Germany 2-1. Germany took the lead through Anja Mittag, but the hosts came back with two goals in six minutes from Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis.

Wales finished the Cyprus Cup without a win. Their last hope was against Hungary on Wednesday, but they lost 2-1 to a goal in the last minute. This was the 5th/6th place play-off. Four games, two draws, two defeats. The tournament winners were Austria. They beat Poland in the final 2-1.

Really sad news from Doncaster Belles this week. Their midfielder Ashleigh Mills has had to retire at the age of 20 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

She posted on Twitter:

“I have tried so hard to get back but my legs just won’t go. Unfortunately this disease cannot be beaten and has taken my dream.”

 

The latest round of Netball Superleague results were as follows:

Friday 4th March
Celtic Dragons 53 45 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 60 44 Loughborough Lightning
 

Saturday 5th March

Yorkshire Jets 44 49 Manchester Thunder
Surrey Storm 50 55 Hertfordshire Mavericks
 

Monday 7th March

Hertfordshire Mavericks 67 45 Celtic Dragons

 

The World T20 Cup starts on Tuesday in India. I’ll be covering it for WSUK, so expect plenty of match reports, news and comment. I’ll keep posting the links on my blog so you can follow it all. England begin on Thursday against Bangladesh. The media coverage is, surprisingly, a bit hit and miss. Some of it is on Sky, some on TMS. So if you can’t follow it live, I suggest you check in on my blog or on WSUK to keep up with what’s going on.

I have previewed the tournament and the chances of the two groups for WSUK: group A and group B.

And finally, Women in Sport has announced its first patron – England women’s football Head Coach, Mark Sampson. Yes, it’s a man. But he is, in my opinion, a really good choice. He is unstinting in his promotion of women’s sport and has the ear of people who may actually be able to make a difference.

In accepting the position he said,

“Greater equality in sport is a cause men need to get behind as much as women do and I look forward to working more closely with the charity to further its mission.”

Women’s Sports Column

netball220-26 February

This week’s stories come from tennis, netball, cricket, winter sports, hockey and cycling. Extra bits of early Saturday 27 news as I’m late posting!

Poor fortunes for all of Britain’s top tennis players this week. British number two, Heather Watson, lost in the first round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco. She was beaten by American Christina McHale 4-6 6-0 7-6.

British number one, Johanna Konta, fared little better, getting to round two before she lost to Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 4-6 6-2 7-5.

And Laura Robson has suffered yet another setback in her quest for fitness. Her wrist injury has forced her to pull out of the Monterrey tour event next week. She had been targeting the French Open in May for her Grand Slam return, but this may now be in doubt.

 

After losing Sasha Corbin to injury for the season, Loughborough Lightning have suffered another blow with Jade Clarke announcing she is to leave to play for Adelaide Thunderbirds. The Australian season starts in April, which means she will only be able to play three more games for the Lightning, ending with the game at Team Bath on March 4.

In an interview with the Loughborough Sport website, Loughborough’s executive director of sport, John Steele, expressed his opinion at losing a player mid-season,

“We are extremely disappointed with the way Adelaide Thunderbirds have conducted themselves.  Approaching one of our players directly, midway through the season has been very disruptive and has put our player in a difficult position. Our focus now is to ensure we have the best possible support structure in place for our squad as we move forward with our 2016 season.”

Here are the scores from this week’s games:

Team Northumbria         48           44           Yorkshire Jets

Surrey Storm                     62           40           Celtic Dragons

Yorkshire Jets                    38           51           Hertfordshire Mavericks

So, the table stands as follows:

   

Played

Points

1 Manchester Thunder

4

12

2 Hertfordshire Mavericks

4

12

3 Surrey Storm

4

9

4 Team Bath

4

9

5 Loughborough Lightning

4

6

6 Team Northumbria

5

3

7 Yorkshire Jets

5

0

8 Celtic Dragons

4

0

                                                                              

Lots of cricket news again this week. England finally triumphed 2-1 against South Africa in their three-match T20 series. After losing the second game poorly, England seemed in a more determined mood from the start. Edwards won the toss and put South Africa in. South Africa posted a decent total of 131/4, but England batted well, with another match-winning innings of 60 runs from Sarah Taylor, saw England win with 27 balls to spare. The only fly in the ointment was the quality of the England fielding which, at times, was abysmal. It will have to improve before the T20 World Cup in March. For a more depth analysis of the series read my article for www.womenssportsuk.com.

On the domestic front, more details of the new summer Superleague were released this week. The six host (the ECB are still allergic to the word “franchise”) names have been released. They are: Lancashire Thunder (playing at Old Trafford), Loughborough Lightning – that’s not confusing is it? (playing at Loughborough University), Southern Vipers (playing at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton), Surrey Stars (playing at the Kia Oval), Western Storm (playing at Bristol and Taunton) and Yorkshire Diamonds (playing at Headingley).

The games will be played between July 30 and August 14 – 15 group matches in 16 days. Finals day will be on Sunday August 21 and will be played at Essex’s county ground in Chelmsford.

News of squads will follow shortly.

 

The epic hockey series between Great Britain and Australia finally came to an end in the home side’s favour as they beat Britain 3-2 in the final Test to take the six-game series 2-1.

The Hockeyroos took the lead after five minutes thorough a Georgina Morgan penalty corner and the lead was doubled just before half time through a goal from Emily Smith. The game seemed to be beyond GB when Grace Stewart scored a third five minutes into the second half. Great Britain fought back through Sophie Bray and Joie Leigh, but were unable to find the equaliser.

The team were heartened by this performance and by the series as a whole. It stands them in good stead for the build up to the Olympics in Rio later in the year.

 

What started out as a good week for Lindsey Vonn ended in agony. She won the downhill title in La Thuile, Italy, a record 20th World Cup trophy, as she finished second in the penultimate race to go 173 points ahead of Canadas Larisa Yurkiw, with only 100 points left to win in the last race.

But on Saturday 27, Vonn crashed out in the World Cup super-G event in Soldeu-El Tarter, Andorra, and was taken to hospital. The American team spokeswoman reported that Vonn has hurt her knee, but the extent of her injury is, as yet, unknown. The race was stopped for ten minutes to allow a rescue sled to access the course and take the injured skier away.

In other skiing news, Vanessa-Mae has been awarded damages for defamation from the FIS (International Ski Federation). They had claimed that her qualification for the 2014 Winter Olympics had come through fixed races, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared her of any wrongdoing.  The FIS has apologised and Vanessa-Mae intends to donate her damages to charity. Her four year ban was also overturned. She intends to try to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

In curling, Eve Muirhead’s rink was named Scottish curling champion this week. It is sixth time that Muirhead’s team has become champion, and will now represent Scotland in the World Women’s Curling Championships in Canada in March.

I didn’t get chance to report on another gold for Great Britain in the Winter Youth Olympics last week. Ashleigh Pittaway won the skeleton bob in one minute 50.23 seconds, 0.96 seconds ahead of Germany’s Hannah Neise. Madi Rowlands had taken Britain’s first gold in the ski halfpipe on Sunday 21 and added a bronze to her tally on Friday, this time in the sky slopestyle.

Cycling road race world champion Lizzie Armitstead has started her season in the best possible way, winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium. Her team mate Chantal Blaak took second with Tiffany Cromwell in third.

And finally, last week saw the SJA British Sports Journalist awards. In the 31 categories, there were only six women writers, six photographers and two broadcasters nominated. I could write about men’s sport – I love it – and possibly earn a living, but I choose to write about women’s. This is a whole different matter.  It is still incredibly hard for a woman to make it in the macho world of sports journalism, writing about men’s sport – it’s even harder to build any kind of profile writing about women’s sport. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but there are a lot of people (women and men) doing their very best to promote women’s sport for absolutely no remuneration whatsoever (including me). Rarely will any of these people receive the recognition they are due. It’s not that they don’t need or want to make money, but until women’s sport is seen as worthy of sponsorship, mainstream coverage etc., etc., this situation will continue.

 

 

 

 

 

The Women’s Sports Column

5-11 December

This week sees stories from rugby union, tennis, swimming, judo, hockey and cricket.

There was a first for Varsity rugby this week. The annual women’s Oxford v Cambridge match took place at Twickenham for the first time, in its 29th year.

Cambridge Women’s RUFC President and tight head prop, Katie Holmes said,

‘This decision puts us on a par with the men’s match and, more importantly, forges stronger links between the two sections at both Clubs. This is a hugely historic step for the game of rugby at Oxford and Cambridge.’

It kicked off before the men’s match, but in the end it was not much of a contest with Cambridge running out 52-0 winners, with Alice Middleton and Anna Wilson amongst the scorers with three tries each.

A 23-year old rugby player has died this week after suffering a head injury druing a game. Lily Partridge had previously suffered “a couple” of concussions, said her club, Exonian Ladies. She had, however, taken the required month off before returning to the game, and had been cleared to play by doctors. Lily collapsed on the pitch on Sunday 6 December and life support was switched off on Monday. The RFU is investigating.

Johanna Konta has ended her excellent 2015 as British Number One. She takes over from Heather Watson, who has had an up and down year with periods of injury and loss of form. Konta made a real breakthrough this year when she got to the last 16 of the US Open as a qualifier. After her defeat to Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon she went on a streak of winning 20 out of 21 matches, which has taken her to 48 in the world.

Also in tennis, Laura Robson has decided against taking up her protected ranking entry into the Australian Open in January. Since being out for 17 months with a wrist injury she has only participated in eight tournaments and has slipped to 555 in the world. She can only use her protected ranking to enter one more Grand Slam and it is thought she may use it instead for the French Open at the end of May.

Jazz Carlin bagged two golds at the European Short Course Championships in Israel this week. Her first victory was in the 800m freestyle and the second an amazing win over Katinka Hosszu from Hungary in the 400m freestyle. The winning margin was just 0.03 seconds.

Olympic judo silver medallist Gemma Gibbons achieved another one of her goals this week when she became the first British woman to win a medal at the Tokyo Grand Slam. She won a bronze in the     -78kg contest, beating Japanese fighter Ruika Sato by a waza-ari in the last minute of the bout.

Great Britain’s women have gone out at the quarter-final stage of the World Hockey League Finals in Argentina. They lost 2-1 to New Zealand in a tight game. New Zealand had most of the pressure, but it wasn’t until the second quarter that they took the lead through Anita Punt.

GB must have thought they had earned a penalty shoot-out when Helen Richardson-Walsh equalised with a penalty stroke with only six minutes to go.

However, it was not to be when with just 68 seconds on the clock Olivia Merry put the ball past goalkeeper Maddie Hinch to take the game. Hinch seemed to gesture that she lost the ball in the sun.

The team has still had an impressive year. They have now secured their place at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and, of course, won gold at the European Championships in London in August.

In cricket, the draw for the groups and the of the World Twenty20 2016 has finally been made.

  • Group A – Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ireland
  • Group B – England, West Indies, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

The final will be at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in a double-header with the men’s on 3 April. There has been a big hike in prize money for the women going up 122% to $400,000 (£264,000). There is still a way to go to match the men’s prize money though, which stands at $5.6m (£3.7m). The women’s tournament begins on 15 March 2016.

And finally, Clare Connor, once quite outspoken, but since becoming Head of Women’s Cricket at the ECB has retreated back into the establishment, got her groove back this week when she tweeted:

clare