Women’s Sports Column 17-23 June 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  I hope you’ve all had a happy Women’s Sport Week.  There have been plenty of articles in praise of women’s sport with encouraging facts and figures around participation, the prize money gap, new initiatives and so on.  Needless to say there has also been the usual raft of sloppy, nasty or calculated misogyny, but I think we were all expecting that.  Let’s face it, you don’t have to be one of the world’s greatest minds to type “should be in the kitchen” as a response to a piece on women’s sport.

Anyway, let’s crack on.  News this week comes from rugby, cricket, boxing, Formula 1, athletics, tennis and football.  We also look at those women given honours in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and the new Daily Telegraph list of the 20 most influential women in sport.

My “And Finally” this week is a quick guide to the Women’s Cricket World Cup, starting on Saturday 24 June.  If I put it in the “And finally” section I know I can’t witter on – I could write for hours on this subject, but I’m saving you all – just the pertinent points make the cut.

Football

Signings – WSL

Manchester City announced this week that their number one Goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley has signed a new contract with the club.

She will be staying for another two years.   Bardsley has been a City player since 2013 and has so far made 66 appearances for the club.

Indian Football

The WIFA (Western India Football Association) Women’s Football Championship begins in Mumbai on 23 June.

It is part of a FIFA – AIFF (All India Football Federation) State Development Project.

Eight teams will take part, two from Mumbai; Bodyline SC and Aadhar Pratishtan, two from Pune; Pune City FC and United Pooja SA, two from Kolhapur; KSA Women’s FC and Poddar International and two from Nagpur; Tulip FC and Pirpude FC.

The teams play in two groups with the top two going to semi-finals.  The tournament will be played at the Cooperage ground in Mumbai and the final will be on 8 July.

WIFA are also hosting a FIFA “Live Your Goals” grassroots leaders’ course for women from 6-8 July.

As I have reported recently, there now seems to be a real will to encourage women in sport in India.  The cricket in India is the strongest it has ever been and there seems to be no end to the initiatives appearing.  I’m not saying this is the be all and end all when it comes to women’s rights, as it clearly isn’t, but it’s got to be a step in the right direction.

Italian Football

Top Italian club Juventus have announced that they are going to launch a women’s team.

They already have youth teams and a developing structure and will enter a team into next season’s Serie A Femminile.

(Am I allowed to say, over to you then Man Utd?)

England Football

The FA has announced that England Women’s assistant coach Marieanne Spacey will be leaving her role to lead a new international player development programme.

The scheme begins in September 2017.  Players from the FA WSL will be selected to go on the programme and given individual support, focusing on technical aspects of the game and education.

The programme will also aim to develop and support female coaches and coaches working in the women’s game, alongside the FA’s head of women’s coach development, Audrey Cooper.

Spacey said:

“This programme is a real opportunity to enhance the development of some of the best young players in the women’s game.

“There are many talented players in our pathway but we know that with the extra support in key areas on and off the pitch, their talent could truly be realised and make such a difference to them both as individuals and as part of the teams they are playing for.

“It’s personally exciting to be leading such an innovative programme that will really drive forward the development of the elite women’s game and hopefully help us meet our goal of a winning England team in 2023.”

It does also mean, however, that there are no longer any women involved in Mark Sampson’s backroom team.

Gender Prize Money Gap

A new study from BBC Sport has found that 83% of sports now pay equally.

The biggest disparities, understandable in most cases still come in cricket, golf and football, although great strides have been made in all of these sports.

It’s a comprehensive study and an interesting piece that I really can’t do justice to here, so I would encourage you all to read it in full.  Here’s the link.

Rugby Union

New Zealand 21-29 England

 The Red Roses pulled off a fabulous win in Rotorua to finish the series unbeaten.

It was England’s first victory away in New Zealand since 2001.

The Red Roses took the lead with a try from Emily Scarratt in the left corner.  She converted her own try to make it 7-0 to the visitors.

The Black Ferns responded quickly and well, scoring a try of their own from Kendra Cocksedge who also kicked the extras to level the score.

On the 20th minute Portia Woodman intercepted a Scarratt offload to run the length of the pitch and score under the posts.  Cocksedge converted and it was 14-7.

Difficult conditions were soon made worse as the rain turned into a downpour.  It was time for the England forwards to take the stage.

Lock forward Abbie Scott went over after a period of pressure and Scarratt put over the extra two.  The teams went in 14-14 at half-time.

England continued the pressure after the break and Lydia Thompson went over to score.  Then the sublime Marlie Packer forced her way over for England’s fourth after dominant work from the England pack, taking the score to 14-24.

On 60 minutes England were awarded a penalty but Scarratt pushed it wide.

But nothing could stop the England forwards.  Vicky Fleetwood smuggled her way over for their fifth try of the match.

New Zealand scored a late consolation try through Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, which was converted, but the game was won for England.

Sevens

England finished fourth at the Malemort Sevens at the weekend. They lost the play-off for third to Ireland.

Third place final
England 7 – 26 Ireland
Try: Fisher
Conversion: A Richardson-Watmore

Cup semi final
England 15 – 24 Russia
Tries: Smith, Clapp, J Richardson-Watmore

Cup quarter finals
England 12 – 10 Wales
Tries: Fisher, Jones
Conversions: A Richardson-Watmore

The winners were Russia, who beat France in the final 22-21.

The final leg of the series is in Kazan during the weekend of 7-8 July, with qualification for the Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 at stake, it is sure to be a thrilling, if nervy, weekend.

Loughborough Lightning (Rugby!)

Nothing recently has happened to convince me that Loughborough University is not trying to take over the world.  It will, controversially field a team in the competition that will replace the Women’s Premiership later this year.

The University announced that is week that it has appointed Rhys Edwards as Head Coach to lead the women’s rugby programme.

Edwards used to be the Attack and Skills Coach at Championship club Rotherham Titans.

In a press release from the University Edwards said,

“I’m very excited and honoured to be joining such an illustrious sporting institution here at Loughborough University. The opportunity to work here and be part of the new RFU Women’s Rugby Competition was too good to ignore. It’s a hugely exciting time to be involved in women’s rugby, with 7s at the Rio Olympics last summer, and the 15s World Cup coming up in August. I feel there is a clear opportunity to create a World Class development/performance programme here with the facilities available and the historical sporting heritage that inspires players to achieve.”

Boxing

Natasha Jonas makes her professional debut at the Walker Activity Dome in Newcastle on Friday.

She fights Monika Antonik of Poland.

If Jonas progresses as expected she could line up in a future bout against Ireland’s boxing star Katie Taylor.

Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Several women have been awarded honours this June:

Jennie Price (Head of Sport England) CBE
Judy Murray OBE (for services to tennis, women in sport and charity)
Heather Stanning OBE (services to rowing)
Laura Smith (for services to disability sport)
Michelle Adams MBE (for services to girls’ and women’s football in Wales)
Natalie Gilmour MBE (for services to women’s rugby league)
Diane Lampard MBE (for services to equestrianism)
Angela Malone MBE (for services to wheelchair curling

Athletics

Two more female athletes have been banned by Russia for four years after their 2008 Olympic sample was retested.  Anastasiya Kapachinskaya won silver in the 4x400m relay at Beijing, whilst Inga Abitova came sixth in the 10,000m.

With Kapachinskaya’s disqualification, the Team GB quartet of Christine Ohuruogu, Kelly Sotherton, Marilyn Okoro and Nicola Sanders should receive bronze.

The athletes admitted their guilt to the governing body of athletics, the IAAF.

Formula 1

Monisha Kaltenborn has left her position as Team Principal at Swiss Formula 1 team, Sauber.  She was the leading light for women in senior positions in the sport as the first (and still only) female team principal.

She had disagreed with owners Longbow Finance as to the future running of Sauber and leaves “by mutual consent”.

Claire Williams is currently vice-principal at Williams, but, in reality, looks after most of the day to day running of the team as her father, Frank, unable to fulfil his principal role due to ill health.

This is a great loss, not only for formula 1, a sport where women are woefully under-represented, but for all those girls growing up with no role model to emulate.

Tennis

Johanna Konta

It’s been a strange old week for British number one, Johanna Konta.  She stormed into the final at Nottingham, defeating Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets in the semi-final 6-2 7-5.  She seemed to be on track to win her first grass court tournament, but it was not to be.  After taking the first set 6-2, she then lost the next two 7-6 7-5 to the unseeded Donna Vekić of Croatia.

This week was even worse for the 26-year old as she crashed out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham in the second round.  She beat Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the first round 6-3 7-6, but then was totally outplayed by Coco Vandeweghe of the USA 6-1 6-3.

Other British scores:

Naomi Broady had a fine win over Alizé Cornet of France in the first round 7-6 6-0, but then succumbed to seventh seed Petra Kvitova in the second, 6-2 6-2.

Heather Watson lost in the first round to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-2 5-7 6-3.

Birmingham quarter-finals

The quarter-finals, to be played on 23 June are as follows:

L Safarova v D Gavrilova
G Muguruza v Coco Vandeweghe
K Mladenovic v P Kvitova
A Barty v C Giorgi

Victoria Azarenka

Former world number on Victoria Azarenka made her return from maternity leave this week at the Mallorca Open.

She beat Risa Ozaki of Japan in the first round 6-3 4-6 7-6.

She went out in the second round to Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-1 6-3.

She is using her protected ranking to be able to play at Wimbledon later on this month.

Injuries

World number five Elina Svitolina has announced she may miss Wimbledon due to a foot injury sustained at the Birmingham tournament.

“I was really looking forward to this year at Wimbledon but today the court was slippery and it’s so bad for my foot,” she said.

“I will do my best. But for the moment it’s very uncomfortable.”

Daily Telegraph 20 most influential women in sport

The list, published to coincide with Women’s Sport Week was chosen by a panel of 14 influential women in British sport.

1.  Clare Balding
2.  Baroness Campbell
3.  Dame Katherine Grainger
4.  Tracey Crouch MP
5.  Baroness Grey-Thompson
6.  Barbara Slater
7.  Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
8.  Liz Nicholl
9.  Judy Murray
10. Annamarie Phelps
11. Jennie Price
12. Nicola Adams
13. Dame Kelly Holmes
14. Tammy Parlour/Jo Bostock (Women’s Sports Trust)
15. Clare Connor
16. Victoria Aggar
17. Kate Richardson-Walsh
18. Jessica Varnish
19. Dame Heather Rabbatts
20. Dr Eva Carneiro

It’s a pretty good list and not too much controversy there.  I’m quite surprised though that Clare Balding is still at the top – I’m not sure that she’s the most influential woman out there.  There are also plenty of names that could have been included; Ruth Holdaway, CEO at Women in Sport, for example, Anna Kessel or Vicky Orvice, the sportswriters, or Sally Hancock – how’s that for starters?

Cricket

As we career headlong into the wonderful event that is the Women’s Cricket World Cup, each team has been playing warm-ups to get in the swing.  Here are some selected results:

19 June
Chesterfield
Sri Lanka 155 all out
England 156/2 30.2 overs
England won by 8 wickets (118 balls remaining)

Derby
India 130 all out
New Zealand 133/3 (26.3 overs)
New Zealand won by 7 wickets (141 balls remaining)

20 June
Oakham
Australia 324/5 (50 overs)
South Africa 221 all out (49.3 overs)
Australia won by 103 runs

Leicester
West Indies 246/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 249/5 (47.4 overs)
Pakistan won by 5 wickets (14 balls remaining)

21 June
Derby
New Zealand 130 all out (38.3 overs)
England 132/3 (27.2 overs)
England won by 7 wickets (136 balls remaining)

Chesterfield
India 275/8 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 166 all out (48.4 overs)
India won by 109 runs

22 June
Leicester
Pakistan 156 all out (46.4 overs)
Australia 159/2 (23.2 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets (160 balls remaining)

Oakham
West Indies 63 all out (23.5 overs)
South Africa 65/4 (19 overs)
South Africa won by six wickets (186 balls remaining)

Two other World Cup snippets:

Opener Lauren Winfield is out of England’s first game against India with a wrist injury.  It may be touch and go to get her ready for the second game against Pakistan on Tuesday.

In other news, Indian captain Mithali Raj has summed up the feelings of most of us frustrated women in sport.  When asked in an interview who her favourite male cricketers are, she shot back,

“Do you ask a male cricketer who their favourite female cricketer is?”  Class.

Tickets are still available for most of the matches, although Saturday’s England v India clash at Derby has sold out.  I would urge you, if you’re in the vicinity of Leicester, Derby or Bristol, to check at least one match out.  If you can’t, there will be pretty comprehensive coverage on TV via Sky and radio via Test Match Special.   Check out listings for details.

And Finally

Cricket again!  So what have we learnt from the warm-up matches?  England are looking good, as are Australia.  No big deal there.  West Indies are having a nightmare so far and will be particularly concerned about losing to Pakistan.  This, however, probably means they will win it!

It’s going to be the most open World Cup yet, I reckon.  Australia are favourites, with England just behind.  A few months ago I would have put a plea in for New Zealand, but now I think they’ve gone off the boil at just the wrong time, although they did have a good win over India in the warm-ups.

I would like to think India will put in a good performance here and Pakistan are, of course, dark horses.  We’ve just seen what their men could do in the Champions Trophy, so watch out for them.

West Indies?  Who knows?  South Africa?  Too uneven.  And Sri Lanka propping everyone up, I’m afraid.

I’m going to be really boring and say Australia v England in the final, but with India and Pakistan the surprise packages.  From an England point of view, if someone could kindly knock Australia out before the final I’d be more than happy (sorry Aus fans).

Women’s Sports Column 15-21 April 2017

Welcome to this week’s column.  This week we have stories from swimming, golf, football, cricket, boxing, lacrosse, gymnastics, athletics, netball and tennis plus two “And Finally” pieces that have been featured far and wide in the mainstream media, but nonetheless bear repeating in this column.

So let’s crack on.

Football

Top Story

This one just broke this morning (Friday 21 April).  Notts County Ladies have folded just two days before they were due to play their first match in the Spring Series.

Anyone who knows this column or my Twitter feed will know that County is my biggest local team and I have been happy to promote them wherever possible.  I am both saddened and angry that this has been allowed to happen and I believe the FA should take a long hard look at themselves – I know the sport has to be sustainable in the long-term, but the FA are all talk.  I’ve said it before that they come up with all these “initiatives” but forget that clubs need everyday support.  Shame on you, Football Association.

Last year I visited Meadow Lane to interview the then Chief Executive, Matthew Alexander.  It was such an enjoyable morning – the staff was all very upbeat and friendly.  Matt gave me full access and a tour.  I was unable to sell the resultant article, but published it on my website some time afterwards when Matt left.  Here’s the link: Interview

I realised when he left so suddenly that all was not well, but was sure the club would come out of it.

But this is not the case.

There are four Lionesses currently playing for the team – Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jade Moore and Jo Potter – and it is unclear what will happen to them as the transfer window is now closed.

It did seem that new Notts County FC owner, Alan Hardy, was going to pay the debts of both the men’s and women’s clubs owed to HMRC, but now it appears that it he is unable to do so.

I know no-one has bottomless pockets, but this is disaster for the FAWSL.  County were a club on the up – I saw it firsthand and it is short-sighted in the extreme that the money could not be found to save them.

On the Pitch

FA Cup Semi-finals

Manchester City 1-0 Liverpool

Melissa Lawley scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute.  The win should have been more convincing with both Jill Scott and Carli Lloyd missing good chances.

Birmingham City 1-1 Chelsea
Birmingham win 4-2 on penalties

After a goalless first half Birmingham took the lead in the 68th minute through a Meaghan Sargeant header.  It looked as if this was going to be the winner until Drew Spence popped up two minutes from time to score the equaliser and take it into extra time.

With no further scoring in extra time, the tie went to penalties.  Both Eni Aluko and Millie Bright missed their spot kicks and England striker Ellen White stepped up to score to send Birmingham through.

The final will be at Wembley Stadium on 13 May.

Off the Pitch

European Women’s U17 Championships

England has announced an 18-strong squad for next month’s tournament in the Czech Republic.

Goalkeepers: Hannah Hampton (Birmingham City), Emily Ramsey (Manchester United).

Defenders: Meg Boydell (Liverpool), Shannon Cooke (Arsenal), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Grace Neville (Millwall), Poppy Pattinson (Sunderland), Olivia Smith (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Beth O’Donnell (Manchester City), Aimee Palmer (Bristol City), Amy Rodgers (Liverpool) Emily Syme (Bristol City), Miri Taylor (Chelsea).

Forwards: Nicole Douglas (Chelsea), Jess Ngunga (Arsenal), Lauren Hemp (Bristol City), Ella Rutherford (Millwall), Gabby Ravenscroft (Oxford United).

England’s campaign begins on Tuesday 2 May.

Group Fixtures

v Republic of Ireland (2 May)
v Netherlands (5 May)
v Norway (8 May)

The top two in the group go into the semi-finals.

Sponsorship

Liverpool Ladies have signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with Avon Products Inc.

The company’s logo will make its first appearance on the Liverpool shirts during the Spring Series, which begins for the Reds on 23 April against Yeovil Town Ladies at Huish Park.

Transfers

Liverpool have also been busy in the transfer market this week.  They have signed Jess Clarke from Notts County Ladies and Laura Coombs, who had been on a season-long loan at the Merseyside club from Chelsea.

Netball

Well, it’s still all going swimmingly for Loughborough Lightning in the Vitality Super League.  Hoping I don’t put the curse on them, they are still unbeaten after 10 rounds.  There were two rounds over the Easter weekend and this week and the results were as follows:

Round Nine

Monday 10 April

Celtic Dragons 55-53 Sirens

Friday 14 April

Team Bath 45-46 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Wasps Netball 68-46 Team Northumbria

Saturday 15 April

Manchester Thunder 66-58 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 47-56 Loughborough Lightning

Round Ten

Monday 17 April

Surrey Storm 65-56 Team Northumbria
Loughborough Lightning 49-40 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 50-59 Severn Stars
Sirens 66-76 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 51-58 Wasps Netball

Loughborough are top of the table on 30 points with Wasps second, having lost two games and are on 28.  Third on goal difference are Manchester Thunder.

The next live Sky game will be Severn Stars v Surrey Storm on 24 April at 7.30pm.

Swimming

The British Swimming Championships have been taking place this week at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.

Standout performances so far have been from Imogen Clark from Loughborough University, who set a new British record to win the 50m Breaststroke in a time of 30.21 and Jocelyn Ulyett who broke the British record to take the 200m Breaststroke title.

Results:

50m Breaststroke: Imogen Clark (Loughborough University), Sarah Vasey (National Centre Loughborough), Corrie Scott (Edinburgh University)

400m Individual Medley: Hannah Miley, Aimee Willmott (London Aquatics Performance Programme), Abbie Wood (National Centre Loughborough)

200m Freestyle: Eleanor Faulkner (City of Sheffield), Kathryn Greenslade (Edinburgh University), Jazz Carlin (National Centre Bath)

50m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Sophie Yendell, (City of Derby), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics)

100m Backstroke: Georgia Davies (Loughborough University), Kathleen Dawson (University of Stirling), Jessica Fullalove (Bath University)

200m Breaststroke: Jocelyn Ulyett (Loughborough University), Molly Renshaw (Loughborough University), Chloe Tutton (City of Cardiff)

200m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics), Emily Larger (Newcastle)

50m Freestyle: Anna Hopkin (Ealing), Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (Bath University), Lucy Hope (Edinburgh University)

Two days to go.

Lacrosse

An 18-strong England squad has been announced for the Women’s World Cup in July.  National Team Director, Phil Collier, has gone for a blend of youth and experience with eight players who played in the 2013 World Cup in Canada included, but there also three players who will be taking part in their first major tournament.

There are also eight reserves, should they be needed.

Goalkeepers
Sally Keogh, Isabel McNab

Defenders
Emma Adams, Chloe Chan, Ashleigh Gloster, Annie Hillier, Emma Oakley

Midfielders
Camila Hayes, Kirsten Lafferty, Lucy Lynch, Charlotte Lytollis, Laura Merrifield, Ruby Smith

Attackers
Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Olivia Hompe, Jenny Simpson, Megan Whittle

If you haven’t experienced lacrosse in the flesh, this is the ideal opportunity to do so.  The tournament takes place at Surrey Sports Park.  Tickets can be purchased here: www.2017worldlacrosse.com

Tennis

Good news from the WTA tour this week as Petra Kvitova has announced that she may make a comeback as early as the French Open in May.

 

She has been out since December since being stabbed in the left hand by an intruder in her home.

She suffered damage to both nerves and tendons and was expected to be out for at least six months.  But she has put her name forward for Roland Garros in the hope that she will be there.  There is no guarantee that she will be able to play, but this is definitely a move in the right direction.

The French Open begins on 28 May.

Boxing

Nicola Adams

After winning her first professional bout 40-36 against Virginia Carcamo, it has been announced that Nicola Adams’ next fight will be over three-minute rounds as opposed to the two-minute rounds that are standard in the women’s sport.

Under WBC rules women are not allowed to fight three-minute rounds in title fights but as this is a non-title fight it will go ahead.

The fight is in Leeds on 13 May on the undercard of Josh Warrington’s featherweight title bout against Kiko Martinez.

Adams is also leading the quest for women to wear lighter gloves.  At the moment all women fighters wear 10z gloves, whereas male fighters from flyweight to welterweight are allowed to wear 8oz gloves.

The British Boxing Board of Control is still to comment on this proposed change.

Katie Taylor

Ireland’s Katie Taylor’s next bout will be the undercard of the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko fight at Wembley Stadium on 29 April.  She faces Nina Meinke in a WBA lightweight world title eliminator.

Natasha Jonas

Natasha Jonas has announced she is to come out of retirement to turn professional.  She got to the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Olympics and won World Championships bronze also in 2012.

Cricket

Isa Guha

Former England bowler and TV and radio broadcaster, Isa Guha, has become the first woman to be appointed to the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) board.

PCA chief executive David Leatherdale said,

“Isa has a vast knowledge of the game from a men’s and women’s perspective.

“With our international women players now full members of the PCA, Isa will bring real insight to the PCA board.”

Sarah Taylor

There was good news from the England set-up this week as it was announced that Sarah Taylor would join the training camp in the UAE.

Her goal is still, according to coach Mark Robinson, to be fit to play in the World Cup in June and July.

Gymnastics

Ellie Downie has become the first British gymnast to qualify for every final at a major championships.

She led the all-round standings at the European Gymnastics Championships in Romania on 56.198.

Alice Kinsella has also qualified for the all-round competition, with Becky Downie in the finals of the beam and uneven bars and Claudia Fragapane in the final of the floor.

Golf

Cristie Kerr won the Lotte Championship at the weekend.  She finished -20, three shots ahead of New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun of Korea and third-round leader Su-Yeon Jang.

Kerr hit an amazing third round 62 to take her into contention and didn’t drop a shot in the fourth to maintain her good form.

Becky Morgan of Wales finished tied 16th on -10 and England’s Bronte law tied 39th on -6.

Athletics

American sprinter Brianna Rollins has been banned for one year after missing three drug tests in 2016.

Rollins won the 100m hurdles gold in Rio.

She can, perhaps, be considered unlucky as for one test she was at the White House meeting President Obama and for another she was in her home town in Florida attending “Brianna Rollins Day”……

She will miss the World Championships in London in August and will be eligible to compete again on 18 December.

And finally (1)

It has been everywhere this week (and good to see), that Kathrine Switzer, first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967, has run it again this year, 50 years on at the age of 70.

She registered for the race under KV Switzer, therefore avoiding exposing her gender.  She was not noticed at the start-line, although some miles in an official tried to drag her off the course.  But she was not to be removed and finished the race in four hours 20 minutes.

Women were not allowed to race officially until 1972.

Last week she ran it again finishing in a time of 4 hours 44.31 – just under 25 minutes slower than in 1967.

Switzer wore the same number, 261, in both races and the organisers have now decided to retire the number in her honour.

And finally (2)

Serena Williams announced this week that she is pregnant.  Anyone who reads this column on a regular basis will know that I am a complete Serena devotee and so I would like to congratulate her on this happy news.  I’m not going to say “Wow, wow, wow, she won the Australian Open while she was pregnant”, not because it’s not an achievement, but because pregnant women do amazing things every day.  Nor am I going to question how she might feel if and when she returns to tennis – who knows how she will feel?  I do take issue with certain “news” papers that have pronounced that Serena’s competitive edge or what some people see as unseemly strength power will be taken away by motherhood.  Why?  There can be absolutely no scientific basis for such a statement and why should anyone want it to be?  Let us just allow Serena to enjoy the moment and hope that she has the best experience possible in her pregnancy.