Women’s Sports Column 12-18 January 2019

abstract-accuracy-accurate-262438Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week with updates on some of last week’s stories, plus all the results and news from last weekend and the rest of the week.  This week we look at darts, tennis, boxing, football, cycling, ultra-running, netball, rugby union and cricket.

Let’s crack on.

Darts

I don’t know why I start with the darts this week, but I have been very much taken with Mikuru Suzuki’s darts journey, which culminated last weekend in her becoming the first non-European to win the Women’s BDO World Championships.

Suzuki beat Maria O’Brien of England 2-0 in the semi-final, while Winstanley saw off Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia 2-1.

The unseeded Japanese player then proceeded to complete the biggest shock of the week as she beat top seed Lorraine Winstanley of England 3-0 to take the title.

Indeed, Winstanley took only two legs off Suzuki, who averaged 90.12 over the match.

Suzuki’s nickname is “The Miracle” and while I probably wouldn’t go that far, it was a very impressive, surprising win and she obviously has the potential to do much more.

Ultra-running

Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to win the Montane Spine Race.  The British ultra-runner completed the 268-mile competition in 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds, beating the old course record by no less than 12 hours.

The race is run along the length of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders and is open to both male and female runners.  Two-thirds of it is run in darkness.

And if running 268 miles, in winter, mostly in darkness was not enough, Paris stopped at the aid stations along the way to express breast milk for her baby daughter, Rowan.

I can’t even begin to understand what this kind of endurance event must be like to compete in.  She has my complete admiration.  What an achievement.

Tennis

Sydney International

Petra Kvitova took the Sydney title, defeating Ash Barty in the final in three sets, 1-6 7-5 7-6.

Hobart International

Sofia Kenin of the USA claimed the title in Hobart, defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in straight sets, 6-3 6-0.

Australian Open

As usual, there were mixed fortunes for Britain’s women in the first round at Melbourne.

Harriet Dart crashed out badly, admitting that she let the situation and nerves get to her in her hard-earned first round tie against Maria Sharapova.  She had worked so hard to come through qualifying, but lost 6-0 6-0 against the Russian in one hour and two minutes.

In an interview with BBC Sport she said,

“I think nerves got the best of me but I tried my best and that’s all I could do.

“She hits a huge ball and it comes at you quick. She doesn’t give you anything so it was always going to be difficult.

“I’m glad to have these experiences and hopefully get more of big experiences on big stages.”

Katie Boulter, on the other hand, had a fine win in her first round match against 2015 semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova.  She won 6-0 4-6 7-6 (10-6).  For the first time this year there is a tie-break in the final set, but it is first to 10 points rather than seven. Boulter apparently forgot this and celebrated at 7-4, but managed to maintain her composure to take the match, hitting 53 winners in the process.

She couldn’t, however, repeat the performance in the second round and went out to 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets 6-3 6-4.  Although she played well, she was clearly frustrated with her performance.  In her post-match interview she said,

“I didn’t feel like I put my best game on the court.

“I’ve learnt so much just from playing matches on courts I haven’t played on before. I feel a lot more settled now,” she said.

Heather Watson suffered another disappointing first round exit, losing 6-1 6-2 to 32nd seed Petra Martic.  Cue many, many Watson-haters on the BBC website/Facebook/Twitter.  Watson certainly suffered in the heat (as have others, causing retirements) and has cited this as among the reasons for her loss, but she has also indicated that her mental attitude is also a problem and she lacks confidence and self-belief.

There is no doubt that Watson has talent, but has she fulfilled her potential?  Perhaps sessions with a sports psychologist may do the trick.  It would take a major miracle to silence the haters, but her first priority should be to herself.

Johanna Konta won her first round match after a difficult battle with Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.  She won a final set tie-break to take the match 7-6 2-6 7-6 (10-7.

However, she was undone in the second by 18th seed Garbine Muguruza in a spectacular match which lasted two hours 42 minutes.  Unfortunately, only 250 fans were left in the arena to see it as the match started after midnight and finished at 3.12am.  Fabulous scheduling by the tournament organisers.

The final score was 6-4 6-7 7-5 to Muguruza.  Konta will feel heartened that she played a brilliant match in difficult circumstances.  And another point to make – I know the women’s matches generally take less time to complete, but would the organisers have started another men’s match at nearly 12.30am if there had been one to play? I don’t think so.

Other highlights so far:

Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 22, lost in the first round to Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Danielle Collins of the USA is having quite a tournament.  Having disposed of 14th seed Julia Goerges in the first round, she then saw off 19th seed Caroline Garcia in the third round 6-3 6-2.

Home favourite Sam Stosur also went out in the first round, losing 7-5 6-2 to Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.  Yastremska then put out 24th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second, 6-3 3-6 6-1.

Tenth seed Daria Kasastkina lost to the unseeded Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-0.

More seeds fell in the second round as we lost Donna Vekic (29), Lesia Tsurenko (24), Anett Kontaveit (20) and Kiki Bertens (9).

World number one and top seed Simona Halep survived a real scare, eventually winning her second round match 6-3 6-7 6-4 over Sofia Kenin of the USA.

We are now in the middle of the third round:

Maria Sharapova (30) beat defending champion Caroline Wozniacki (3) in the third round 6-4 4-6 6-3.

The unseeded Amanda Anisimova accounted for 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Football

Charlton v Manchester United

Hopeless FA Klaxon!  It had to happen.  The match between Manchester United and Charlton was abandoned on Sunday after Charlton player Charlotte Kerr was injured.

But why did they have to abandon the game?  Kerr was treated on the pitch for nearly an hour, but there was no ambulance on-site and one had to be called.  The ambulance did not arrive for 30 minutes and during that time the medical staff used up the available emergency oxygen.

As there is a legal requirement to have oxygen (but not an ambulance) at the game, the referee had to call it off.

The current rules state,

“Clubs shall ensure that emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each Competition Match. Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

If there had been an ambulance present, Kerr would have been treated quicker, taken off to hospital quicker and the game could have continued.

The good news is that the sternum and rib injury was heavy bruising and Kerr has been released from hospital, but at the time it was not clear that it was just bruising.

Whatever the critics of women’s football say, this is elite sport.  This is the highest level in the country but the FA does not seem able to see its way to ensuring, as far as it is able, the safety of the players.  There have been reports this week that the FA is now considering introducing a new rule on ambulances.  Let’s hope that this is the case, before something more serious happens and we lose a player for want of an ambulance.

Transfers

As predicted last week, Marc Skinner has now left Birmingham City to take up the role as head coach of Orlando Pride.  He has side a 2.5 year deal.

West Ham United have been busy in the transfer market this week.  They signed Canadian forward Adriana Leon from Seattle Reign at the weekend.  Leon has 54 caps for Canada and has scored 12 goals.  Then at the beginning of the week they signed South Korean captain Cho So-hyun from Avaldsnes of Norway, an experienced midfielder with 120 caps.

FAWSL

Results from 13 January were as follows:

Yeovil 1-2 Liverpool
Donovan 52’
Sweetman-Kirk 27’ (Pen) 93’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Everton

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Miedema 80’
Cuthbert 26’ 63’

West Ham Utd 1-3 Manchester City
Ross 58’
Weir 15’, Hemp 39’, Parris 86’

Birmingham City 0-1 Bristol City
Evans 15’

Manchester City are now top of the table with 31 points from 13 games.  Arsenal are one point behind and have played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 13 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 12 games with Everton above them on six points from twelve.

Championship

The Championship results from 13 January were:

London Bees 2-1 Crystal Palace
Wilkinson 6’, Pickett 24’
Georgiou 17’

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Lewes
Naz 31’, Dean 52’, Schillaci 60’

Leicester City 3-2 Millwall Lionesses
Johnson 2’, Smith 35’ (Pen), Franklin-Fraiture 53’
Clarke 30’ 76’ (Pen)

Durham 2-2 Aston Villa
Robertson 21’, Salicki 75’
Hutton 22’, Welsh 45’

Charlton Athletic v Manchester United
Suspended

Tottenham are top with 30 points from 12 games.  Manchester United are second with 28 from 11, having had their game on Sunday postponed.  Charlton are third on 26 from 12.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from twelve.  Crystal Palace are above them with seven points from 13.

Continental Cup

The draw has been made for the semi-finals of the Continental Cup:

Tuesday 5 February
Arsenal v Manchester United

Wednesday 6 February
Chelsea v Manchester City

Cricket

WBBL

We now know the four teams who will take part in the WBBL semi-finals.  Sydney Sixers finished top of the pile with 20 points from 14 games.  Sydney Thunder finished second on 19 with Brisbane Heat third on 18 and Melbourne Renegades fourth on 15.

Saturday 19 January
First semi-final
Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 11.40pm)

Second semi-final
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades
(Drummoyne Oval, Sydney, UK start time 2.50am, Sunday morning)

UK coverage via BT Sport and BBC 5 Live Sports Extra radio.

The final is next Saturday, 26 January.

England tour of India

The schedule for England’s tour of India has (finally) been released.

There will be three ODIs played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and three T20s to be played at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Guwahati.

The ODIs will each score two points towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

All UK times:
ODIs – 22, 25, 28 February, Mumbai, 3.30am
T20s – 4, 7, 9 March, Guwhati, 4.30am

Boxing

Nicola Adams will challenge for the WBO World Flyweight title on 8 March at the Royal Albert Hall.  She faces Arely Mucino of Mexico.

Mucino became world champion in February and her ten years as a professional boxer has seen her amass 27 wins, two draws and three defeats.

Rugby Union

Saturday’s Premier 15s results:
DMP Sharks 14-53 Loughborough Lightning
Saracens 31-28 Harlequins
Worcester Valkyries 7-27 Gloucester-Hartpury
Firwood Waterloo 0-14 Bristol Bears
Richmond 12-38 Wasps

All of the teams have played 14 games.  Saracens are top with 65 points.  They have opened up quite a gap now, with Harlequins second on 58.  Loughborough Lightning are third on 55.  At the bottom, Valkyries are marooned on just four points.  Above them are DMP Sharks on 13 and Firwood Waterloo on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:
Loughborough Lightning v Firwood Waterloo (12pm, Loughborough University)
Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Worcester Valkyries (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Saracens (4.30pm, Gillman’s Ground)
Harlequins v Richmond (5.30pm, The Stoop)

Netball

Quad Series

The first weekend of the Quad series saw two excellent games:

England 54-41 New Zealand
After a tight first half, England did the job in the second to stretch the lead and take the game away from the Silver Ferns.  At half-time the Roses had just a one point lead, 25-24.  By the end of the third quarter the lead was up to 10 points and the Roses kept up that momentum to take the win by 13.  Jo Harten scored 27/32 and Helen Housby 25/31.  For New Zealand, Solonaima Maria Folau shot 29/32 and Ameliaranne Ekanasio 12/13.

Australia 62-45 South Africa
Australia, having to cope with the loss of their captain, Caitlin Bassett, who is sidelined with a broken arm, made a slow start.  South Africa, in contrast, were quick out of the blocks and took an early lead.  They managed to maintain this good form until well into the second-half, but the Diamonds went into the break 27-25 up.  They then upped their game in the third quarter, taking control by the end of it and pushing their advantage to extend the gap to 17.  For Australia, Gretel Tippett shot 30/32 and Caitlin Thwaites 17/18.  South Africa’s main shooters, Lenize Potgieter and Ine-Marie Venter scored 35/40 and 7/9 respectively.

This weekend sees rounds two and three at the Copper Box in London.  There is TV coverage on Sky Sports and on BBC 5Live Sports Extra on the radio.

Vitality Netball Super League

Last weekend’s results:

Friday 11 January
Strathclyde Sirens 45-55 Team Bath

Saturday 12 January
Loughborough Lightning 52-44 Team Bath
Surrey Storm 39-59 Saracens Mavericks
London Pulse 40-67 Celtic Dragons

There are no fixtures this weekend as we concentrate on the Quad Series.  It’s early days of course, and most teams have only played two games.  Team Bath are on top with two from two.  Wasps and Thunder are next, although they have only played one game each and have one win.

Volleyball

The Women’s Super League is now entering into the second half of its season.  The league has split into top five and Bottom four.  Fixtures get underway again this weekend.  More news in a couple of weeks when I’m back.

Cycling

Former Team GB cyclist Jess Varnish has failed in her attempt to prove that she was an employee of both British Cycling and UK Sport at an employment tribunal.

This means she will, in effect, be unable to sue the bodies for wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination.

Varnish had claimed that British Cycling’s control over her made it an employer-employee relationship, but the governing body said it was more like a university grant situation.

There is no doubt that UK Sport will be heaving a huge sigh of relief at this decision, but it may yet have to review its processes and attitude to athlete welfare.

For more on this story see this excellent piece in Cycling Weekly.

And Finally,

First “And finally” of the year must go to Imke Wubbenhorst.  I know many of you will be asking “Who?” as I was, to be honest.  But she’s top of my pile this week for her fantastic response to yet another puerile question from a journalist.

Wubbenhorst is manager of BV Cloppenburg – a men’s fifth tier team in Germany.  She is the first woman to hold a managerial position at a men’s club at this level.

She was asked by a journalist whether she warned her players to make sure they put their pants on before she came into the changing room.

To which she replied,

“Of course not, I’m a professional; I pick my players based on their penis size.”

Love it.  No more need be said.

No column next week as I am out and about.

 

 

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Women’s Sports Column 6-12 October 2018

boxing_gloves-2Welcome to this week’s column. Hopefully a bit shorter (and sweeter) this week.  Lots of positive news around, which we all like to see. Stories this week come from boxing, football, rugby union, rugby league, tennis, netball, hockey, cricket, winter sports and motor racing.

So let’s crack on.

Boxing

Nicola Adams’ next bout could be a shot at the WBO world flyweight title.  On Saturday she beat Isabel Millan of Mexico on points (unanimous) at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.

She is now five from five since turning professional in 2017.

It was a test for Adams – the first time she had been taken beyond four rounds.  Two judges scored it 97-93 and one 96-94.

Her promoter, Frank Warren, is keen to see Adams get a shot at the title.  It could be as soon as December and he is eyeing up the undercard of the Josh Warrington v Carl Frampton fight, which takes place at the Manchester Arena on the 22nd.

The current champion is Arely Mucino of Mexico, who has been professional since 2008.  She has won 16 of her 20 bouts, nine within the distance.

Tennis

China Open

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki took the China Open title with a straight sets win over Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-3.

Wozniacki beat home favourite Wang Qiang 6-1 6-3 in the semi-final, while Sevastova defeated US Open champion Naomi Osaka 6-4 6-4.

The doubles final was an altogether closer affair, eventually won in three sets by second seeds Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova 4-6 6-4 10-8 over third seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski.

This week sees tournaments in both Hong Kong and Tianjin.

Hong Kong Open

Naomi Osaka withdrew before the tournament started with a back injury.

Third seed Jelena Ostapenko suffered a shock exit in the round of 32, 5-7 3-6 2-6 to the unseeded Kristina Kucova of Slovakia.

At time of publication we are at the quarter-final stage; two have been completed and two are yet to take place:

Zhang Shuai beat Daria Gavrilova (7) 6-1 6-3
Dayana Yastremka beat Kristina Kucova 7-6 6-2
Garbine Muguruza (4) v Luksika Kumkhum
Elina Svitolina (1) v Wang Qiang (6)

Tianjin Open

Meanwhile in Tianjin Britain’s Katie Boulter has had a storming week.  She reached the quarter-finals of the Tinajin Open, eventually falling to world number six, Karolina Pliskova 5-7 6-0 6-3.

After taking the tight first set, Pliskova asserted her authority in the second, taking it 6-0.  But Boulter rallied in the third and was 2-0 up before Pliskova re-asserted herself and took the set and the match.

Quarter-finals:

Caroline Garcia (2) beat Petra Martic (6) 6-2 1-0 (Martic retired with an injury)
Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Timea Bacsinsczky 7-6 7-6
Karlina Pliskova (1) beat Katie Boulter 5-7 6-0 6-3

Pliskova meets Bacsinsczky in the semi-final

Still to play:

Hsieh Su-wei (5) v Elise Mertens (3)

Tennis – off the Court

British number one Jo Konta has split with her coach Michael Joyce after less than a year.  She has struggled this year, particularly in the Grand Slams and has slipped to 45 in the world.

There is clearly something wrong in Konta’s world and it is not my job to speculate in this column.  Her rise over the last couple of seasons has been wonderful to watch and I really hope that she finds a coach who will restore the self-confidence she really should have, but shows so little.

More news as it happens.

Football

The shortlist for the first Women’s Ballon d’Or award has been announced.  There are two English players, Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby, on the list.

It’s a lot more representative of the current state of things than the Best Fifa Awards that took place last month.

Shortlist:
Lucy Bronze (Lyon and England)
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg and Denmark)
Ada Hegerberg (Lyon and Norway)
Amandine Henry (Lyon and France)
Lindsey Horan (Portland and USA)
Sam Kerr (Chicago and Australia)
Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England)
Saki Kumagai (Lyon and Japan)
Dzenifer Marozsan (Lyon and Germany)
Amel Majri (Lyon and France)
Marta (Orlando and Brazil)
Lieke Martens (Barcelona and Netherlands)
Megan Rapinoe (Seattle and USA)
Wendie Renard (Lyon and France)
Christine Sinclair (Portland and Canada)

Lionesses

There were two somewhat contrasting friendlies for the Lionesses this week.  The first, a dull affair played in rotten conditions against Brazil and the second, a much tighter effort enlivened by some incomprehensible refereeing decisions.

England 1-0

Brazil were clearly uncomfortable in the driving rain and wind at Meadow Lane.  England used it to their advantage and scored after just two minutes, an exquisitely placed header from Fran Kirby.

Nikita Parris caused mayhem down the wing, but was, perhaps, guilty of shooting selfishly on occasion when a cross or pass would have done a better job.

Marta went off with an injury in the first-half which didn’t help their cause.

England had several chances to increase their lead, but were profligate in front of goal.  But their attacking style was pleasing to the eye (23 shots, 8 on target), even if the quality of the end product was frustrating.

Brazil had a ten-minute period towards the end of the second-half when they seemed to finally come alive, but it would have been most unjust if they had scored the equaliser.

In the end England held out and were on the front foot at the final whistle.  It was a good performance under the circumstances, even though the opposition were disappointing.

England 1-1 Australia

The Matildas, by contrast, were up for the fight from the off.  And although the Lionesses were not made to pay for their carelessness in front of goal by Brazil, the Australians were not so forgiving,

Fran Kirby was on target again as England took the lead midway through the first-half.  Lucy Staniforth had a goal disallowed as she was (wrongly) adjudged offside.

But it was the two penalties turned down by the referee that had both Head Coach Phil Neville and the rest us scratching our heads.

Both Beth Mead and Nikita Parris were clearly brought down in the box with neither penalty being given.

Even so, England had plenty of chances to score again, particularly through Mead, but the Matildas kept on with a tenacity that we didn’t see from Brazil and were impressive on the break.

Six minutes from the end, Australia equalised as Clare Polkinghorne headed in from a corner.

World Cup Play-offs

The last European place for next year’s World Cup in France will go to either European Champions Netherlands or Switzerland.

First leg – 5 October:

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
Beerensteyn 21’, Van de Sanden 42’

Belgium 2-2 Switzerland
Cayman 5’, De Neve 60’
Lehmann 55’, 87’

Second leg – 9 October

Denmark 1-2 Netherlands
Nadim 5’ (Pen)
Beerensteyn 7’ 90+2’

Switzerland 1-1 Belgium
Reuteler 23’
De Caigny 77’

So, Netherlands win 4-1 on aggregate and although the other tie finished 3-3, Switzerland go through on away goals.

The final is also a two-legged affair.  The first leg is on 5 November and the second on 13 November.  Netherlands are at home in the first leg.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Breaking news is that Doncaster Rovers Belles are in talks with Club Doncaster about a possible takeover.

Club Doncaster runs Doncaster Rovers men’s side, the rugby league side and several projects in the community.

Belles Chair, Faye Lygo told the BBC,

“We believe matters are moving forward positively,” Lygo told BBC Sport.

“We have had to take measures to stabilise the club at a time of change in the women’s game and believe the future of the Belles lies in Doncaster, with the Rovers.”

Let’s hope that the discussions go well as a fully integrated club will hopefully ensure the Belles’ survival and progress.

Rugby League

Woman of Steel

Georgia Roche of Castleford is the Rugby Football League’s first ever Woman of Steel.

Roche, who is just 17, is part of the Castleford team that got to the Challenge Cup final this year and the Super League play-off semi-finals.

Talking of which….

Super League Play-offs

Leeds 24-10 Castleford Tigers

The first-half was a tight affair with Castleford going in 6-0 up at the break.  But Rhiannon Marshall, player of the match, had other ideas.  She went in for a try and set up two more for Chloe Kerrigan and Frankie Townend.  Charlotte Booth scored a fourth.  Suze Hill added another and Castleford could only come back with a consolation try from Kelsey Gentles.  Courtney Hill hit a penalty to round off the scoring and see Leeds safely through.

Wigan Warriors 10-6 St Helens

Wigan led 10-2 at half-time.  St Helens took the lead through a Faye Gaskin penalty, but Wigan hit back through tries from Alison Burrows and Rachel Thompson with Michelle Davis converting the latter.

The second-half was intense as both sides tried to make the decisive breakthrough.  In the end, the only score was a try from Saints’ Katie-May Williams with just four minutes to go.  It made for an exciting end, but Wigan managed to hold out to get through to the final.

So it will be Leeds v Wigan in the Super League Grand Final which takes place this Saturday, 13 October at the Manchester Regional Arena.  1pm kick-off.  Admission is £5 with under-16s getting in for free.

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

Liza Burgess

Liza Burgess has become the 142nd member (and first Welsh woman) to be inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame.

She won 93 caps for Wales and Great Britain, captaining Wales 62 times.  She also played in four World Cups and

Domestically, she started at Loughborough University and Wasps and then co-founded Saracens in 1989, spending ten years at the club.

She ended her playing career at Clifton (now Bristol) and played her last game for Wales in the 2007 Six Nations against England at the age of 42.

Since her on-field retirement, she has coached extensively both domestically and with the Welsh national side and was Giselle Mather’s assistant coach of the inaugural Women’s Barbarians team in 2017.

Rugby Union – On the Pitch

The Premier 15s are back in action this weekend:

13 October
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Harlequins (2pm, Sixways Stadiium)
Loughborough v Bristol Bears (3pm, Loughborough University)
Saracens v Wasps (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Richmond (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 6 October were as follows:

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

Surbiton dropped their first points of the season in their draw with East Grinstead.  Holcombe were the beneficiaries as they beat Clifton Robinsons to go level with Surbiton at the top of the table.  Both lie on seven points, with Surbiton top on goal difference.  University of Birmingham are third on five points.  At the bottom Slough gained their first point of the season, but are still at the foot of the table, with Bowdon second from bottom on two points.

This weekend’s fixtures:

13 October
Buckingham v Bowdon (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Slough v East Grinstead (12.30pm, Slough HC)
Surbiton v University of Birmingham (1pm, Surbiton HC)
Beeston v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
Holcombe v Canterbury (6pm. Holcombe HC, P1)

Netball

This Saturday sees the second Fast5 All-Stars tournament at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Loughborough Lightning are the defending champions.  The eight teams taking part are Lightning, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, Wasps Netball, Manchester Thunder, Strathclyde Sirens, Severn Stars and benecosMavericks.

It will be a fast and furious five-hour session.  All eight teams play in a double elimination format; two wins and a team goes through to the semi finals.  Two losses and you’re out.  Teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches will play a deciding match for a place in the semis.

Matches are 12 minutes long.  There is a five-point line and a two-minute Power Play where points count double.

It’s the netball equivalent of T20 (not commenting either way).  But it will be fun, so if you’re in the vicinity of the Copper Box on Saturday, check it out – the tournament starts at 1pm and goes on until 6pm.   It is also live on Sky.

The winning team takes away £25k, so it’s not to be sniffed at.

One player who will be there – and it’s probably worth going just to see her – is Sharni Layton.  Somehow I missed the startling fact that Layton, who retired from international netball earlier on this year, will be one of the “All Stars” playing for Surrey Storm.  Layton (and I don’t doubt it for a moment) has also indicated that she will play AFLW for Collingwood in the new season. Top of Form

Cricket

No cricket reports this week, but just to let you know that Australia will playing a three-match ODI series against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur in the coming weeks.  The dates are 18, 20 and 22 October and I will have news and reports on their completion.

Winter Sports

Lindsey Vonn has announced she will retire at the end of the upcoming season.

She currently has 82 World Cup victories and is still aiming to break Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86.

There is no doubt that the sport has taken a physical toll on her and it is mainly for this reason that she has decided that this season will be her last:

“Physically, I’ve gotten to the point where it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“I really would like to be active when I’m older, so I have to look to the future and not just be so focused on what’s in front of me.”

And Finally – motor racing W Series

Is it a chance to “show what women are really capable of” (Catherine Bond-Muir, Chief Executive of the new W Series) or is it “a sad day for motorsport” and an “historic step backwards (Pippa Mann, British IndyCar driver)?  Is it “an important means to an end – a stepping stone for female drivers” (Alice Powell, sportscar driver) or is it “founded on segregation” (Charlie Martin, racing driver)?

The news that there is to be a new women-only motor racing competition, the “W Series”, has certainly divided opinion.  It is backed by some big names, both male and female, including former F1 driver David Coulthard, former Williams test driver Susie Wolff and Red Bull chief designer Adrian Newey.

It’s a tricky one and I can see both sides.  What we want to avoid is creating yet another opportunity for men to cry “inferior sport” when actually, the premise is that motor racing is a sport in which men and women can compete alongside each other.

There will be up to 20 drivers competing for a prize fund of $1.5m.  There will be six races around Europe, including one in the UK.   The cars will be identical and will be run by the W Series.

Competitors will be chosen by assessment of their capabilities.

So why do we need a women-only competition?  Newey states that brute strength is not a factor in the success of racing drivers and so, he says,

“That being the case, I believe the reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men is a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability.”

And surely that’s the issue.  It was the issue when all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats were introduced, and it’s the issue now.  I was a long-time opponent of so-called “positive discrimination” and of all-women shortlists.  But I came to see that they are a means to an end.  We want women in all areas of life to have equality of opportunity.  But it doesn’t happen.

It’s slightly different in motorsport as there is the karting route to come through.  But are women getting the opportunity in karting?   If, by the introduction of the W series, seeing women in motorsport becomes the norm, then hopefully the competition will do itself out of a job.  But until that happens, let’s give them the chance to compete and provide them with a different possible route into major motorsport and formula 1.

I’m against “ghettoising” women’s sport, but I’m all for extending opportunity, particularly in sports where, traditionally, the opportunities have been few.  Let me know what you think.

More news and views next week.      

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 September 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column and it’s good to be back!  I don’t know about you, but I often think that following women’s sport must be one of the most frustrating things you can do.  Two steps forward, one back and throughout everything there still permeates the hideous whiff of misogyny.

In this summer that some are calling a “watershed moment” for women’s sport, I can’t help thinking that some will never ever be able to view women’s sport with an unjaundiced eye.  And while this is the case, will those in a position to make the biggest changes needed, i.e., the companies and marketers with the money for sponsorship and the high-ups in the media to report on it ever do what is needed?

Sorry, let’s crack on before the pall of doom becomes too overwhelming!  More than a tinge of autumn this week as cricket fades and football and rugby begin to take centre stage.  Stories this week come from football, cricket, tennis, cycling, boxing, netball and basketball.  Plus a humorous but poignant “And finally”, in case you haven’t already caught it elsewhere.  Here we go.

Football

Lots of football news this week.

England

With everything that’s going on off the pitch it’s easy to forget that England are about to embark on a new World Cup qualifying campaign next week.  Up first is Russia at Prenton Park, Merseyside, on 19 September.

Mark Sampson

As I said a couple of weeks ago, this one is going to run and run.  I get the feeling Sampson is now on borrowed time.  I don’t propose to go into the finer details as you’ve probably all been following it – ironically it’s the one women’s sports story that has garnered plenty of column inches.  The situation is developing and changing every day so whatever I write here is likely to be out of date by the time you read it.  So, as I say, keep up with it via other means and when a conclusion is finally reached, perhaps I’ll dissect it further.  The only thing I would say is that it could be a game-changer, now that Drew Spence has come out to say that it was she who was asked by Sampson “How many times have you been arrested?”

Scotland

New Scotland Head Coach, Shelley Kerr, announced this week that Seattle Reign defender Rachel Corsie will take over the captaincy of the Scottish national side after the retirement of Gemma Fay.  Arsenal midfielder, Kim Little, will be Vice-captain.  Little missed Scotland’s Euros campaign with a cruciate ligament injury.

Lorraine Watson has become the first woman to referee a senior men’s match in Scottish football. She took charge of Edinburgh City v Berwick Rangers in League Two on 9 September.

After the game, in an interview with BBC Scotland, Watson said,

“It was brilliant. There was absolutely no reaction, they just treated me the same as they would any other referee.

“When they disagreed [with decisions], they shouted at me just the same as if it was a male in the middle.”

FA’s Women’s Football Awards

Jodie Taylor was named England’s player of the year at the FA Women’s Football Awards on Friday 8 September.

Taylor took the Golden Boot at this summer’s Euros with 5 goals.

Jordan Nobbs took the WSL Players’ Player of the Year award and Fran Kirby was also rewarded for finishing as top scorer in the WSL Spring Series.

Transfers

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk has joined Everton from Doncaster Belles on a two-year deal.

Chelsea Ladies have signed Norwegian international defender Maria Thorisdottir in a contract until 2019.

Wales internationals Laura O’Sullivan (Goalkeeper) and Hannah Miles (full-back) have signed for Yeovil Town Ladies.

Sunderland

Not sure what’s happening at Sunderland.  Having announced earlier in the year that they have gone part-time again, now they have been moved from their ground and training ground due to “scheduling conflicts”.

The club has put a good spin on it, I have to admit. The Lady Black Cats will now play their home games at South Shields’ Mariners Park, moving from the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground.  They will train at the Northumbria University in Newcastle, leaving the Academy of Light, Sunderland’s men’s training facility.

The clashes have come about due to the WSL moving to a winter season.  And while I can see the value in training at Northumbria University, which is one of eight designated FA Women’s High Performance Football Centres, I am seriously worried if they have been ejected from Eppleton so that under-8s don’t have to.

FA WSL 1 & 2

Needless to say, without a ball being kicked, there is already talk that the FA is planning to restructure elite women’s football (yet again –everyone got that guinea pig feeling?).  There is an exploration of what the FA may (or may not) be planning on the BBC website.  I suggest you all read it and pick the bones out of it yourselves – and good luck with that.  Here’s the link.

The new winter season begins on Friday 22 September.

Friday 22 September

FA WSL1

19:45 Everton Ladies FC v Liverpool Ladies FC (Select Security Stadium)

Sunday 24 September

FA WSL1

12:30 Chelsea Ladies FC v Bristol City Women (Kingsmeadow Stadium)
14:00 Arsenal v Birmingham City Ladies (Boreham Wood FC)
14:00 Reading FC Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies (Wycombe Wanderers FC)
14:00 Yeovil Town Ladies FC v Manchester City Women (Yeovil Town FC)

FA WSL2

12:00 Durham Women FC v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies FC (New Ferens Park)
14:00 Aston Villa Ladies FC v Brighton & Hove Albion (Tamworth FC)
14:00 London Bees v Doncaster Rovers Belles (The Hive)
14:00 Millwall Lionesses v Watford Ladies FC (St Paul’s Sports Ground)
14:00Oxford United Women v Sheffield FC Ladies (Oxford City FC)

Friday 29 September

FA WSL1

19:00Liverpool Ladies FC v Reading FC Women (Select Security Stadium)

TV and radio coverage is set to be more comprehensive than ever with games on the BBC Sport website, BBC 5 Live Sports Extra, the BBC Red Button and BT Sport.  14 games will be broadcast in some format before 12 November.

WSL One on the BBC

Friday, 22 September
Everton Ladies v Liverpool Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 24 September
Chelsea Ladies v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online
Saturday, 30 September
Manchester City Women v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 1 October
Birmingham City Ladies v Everton Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 8 October
Reading Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Arsenal Women v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 29 October
Manchester City Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Everton Ladies v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 12 November
Reading Women v Chelsea Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button

I would like to have done the same for BT Sport, but couldn’t find for the life of me which fixtures are being covered.  Apologies.

Cricket

Jan Brittin

We start the cricket news with some sad news.  Jan Brittin, England’s top female Test run scorer died this week, from cancer, aged just 58.

Brittin scored 1,935 runs in 27 Test matches, including five centuries.

She was part of the World Cup-winning squad in 1993, top-scoring with 410 runs in eight innings.

Her entire domestic career was spent at Surrey and she is still their leading female run scorer.

Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, said,

“She was a legend and a class apart… For girls of my generation, she was our first real female role model. JB was born to play Test cricket and it’s unlikely that her record in this format will ever be beaten.”

England

Car makers Kia have announced it is to extend its sponsorship of the England women’s cricket team until 2020.

It will also continue its sponsorship of the Kia Super League for another two years.

Kia is one of the few (currently) companies actively looking to sponsor women’s sport.  Earlier in 2017 they bought the rights to sponsor the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA), covering seven tour events annually, including two majors – the ANA Inspiration and the KPMG Women’s PGA.

Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Award

It was one of the most reproduced images of the Women’s World Cup this summer.  And it has now led to Anya Shrubsole being given the CMJ Spirit of Cricket Award for 2017.

When England defeated South Africa in the semi-final with only two balls left, captain Dane van Niekerk was so devastated that she remained crouched at the edge of the pitch, clearly in tears.

England bowler Anya Shrubsole’s first move, before any celebrating, was to go to van Niekerk, put a hand on her shoulder and offered her commiserations.

It’s the first time a female cricketer has won the award.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway from 17-24 September.  Britain is fielding a full team of women for the road race and the time trial.  As I suggested a few weeks ago, Lizzie Deignan has recovered sufficiently from her appendectomy to take part in the road race.  The full team is as follows:

Time Trial
Elinor Barker
Hannah Barnes

Road Race
Elinor Barker
Alice Barnes
Hannah Barnes
Lizzie Deignan
Dani King
Mel Lowther
Hayley Simmonds

Tennis

US Open Singles Final

It was a fitting end to a bizarre US Open that the women’s semi-finals should be between four players from the USA.

The final was between unseeded Sloane Stephens and 15th seed Madison Keys.

To be honest, it was a bit of a damp squib (as was the men’s the next day).

Stephens dismantled the Keys game admirably and won 6-3 6-0.

Both of them were making their Gran Slam final debuts and it showed, especially in Keys whose unforced error-count – 30 to Stephens’ six was a telling factor.

The result, and the semi-final line-up will certainly serve as a fillip for US women’s tennis and let’s hope that both finalists go on to more Grand Slam success as they have promised so much for so long.

US Open Mixed Doubles

The doubles phenomenon that is Martina Hingis again took centre stage at Flushing Meadows.  She and Britain’s Jamie Murray, seeded one at this championships, took the Mixed Doubles title 6-1 4-6 10-8 against third seeds Michael Venus and Hao-Ching Chan.

US Open Women’s Doubles

Hingis then completed a stunning double of doubles when she and partner Chan Yung-jan, seeded second took the Women’s Doubles title, defeating Lucie Hradecká and Kateřina Siniaková of the Czech Republic, who were seeded seven, 6-3 6-2.

Hingis now has 24 Grand Slam titles over singles and doubles.

Rugby

As I said in my introduction, winter cannot be far away and this weekend sees the start of the new Premier 15s competition. I’m really hoping the buzz caused by the World Cup translates into bigger crowds and more media coverage for this excellent product.  The lower two divisions – Championship 1 North and Championship 1 South – are already underway.  Checkout www.womenseliterugby.co.uk for details.

The first round of Premier 15s fixtures is as follows:

16 September

Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Valkyries – 12.00pm
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Saracens 2.30pm
Wasps Ladies v Harlequins Ladies 3.00pm
DMP Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury Women 4.00pm

17 September

Bristol Ladies v Richmond Women 2.00pm

Boxing

Out of the Ring

The Inspiration Awards for Women

Katie Taylor has won the Sky Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport in 2017.

Taylor has won all six of her professional bouts since turning professional 10 months ago.

The Inspiration Awards were founded by Sky Andrew, who said that they were about

“Giving the next generation role models that show it is possible to have a sense of status, achievement and success by conducting oneself in a manner that is inspirational.”

In the Ring

It was also announced this week that Katie Taylor will fight for the WBA World Lightweight title on 28 October at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.  She will take on Anahi Sanchez and the fight will be on the Anthony Joshua undercard.

Nicola Adams, meanwhile, fights this weekend in Las Vegas – the first time she has competed in the USA.  She fights Alexandra Vlajk of Hungary.

Netball

Taini Jamison Trophy

England Roses went down 2-1 in the three-match series to decide the Taini Jamison trophy in New Zealand.

Game One – 7 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

The Silver Ferns had only a two goal lead going into the final quarter, but eased away in the last 15, England’s woes compounded by a series of handling errors.  Top scorer for New Zealand was Maria Tutaia who netted 31 as did Jo Harten for England.

Game Two – 10 September
New Zealand 46-49 England

The Roses drew level in the series in dramatic fashion in Napier.  England had a four-goal cushion at half-time but the Ferns brought it back to lead by one going into the fourth quarter.  With three minutes to go it was all square on 45-45, until goals from Jo Harten took it away from the home side.

Game Three – 13 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

Unfortunately for the Roses, the third and deciding game was to go the way of the first, even down to the score!

England were four ahead at half-time, but again the Ferns roared back as England tired.  By the end of the third they were one-up, and although with ten minutes to go the teams were level, the Silver Ferns then drew ahead again to win, in the end, fairly comfortably.

With England defeating New Zealand in the Quad Series, they would have been confident of competing well in this competition.  On the whole they were three good performances and Geva Mentor was outstanding at GK, but Tracey Neville will have to tackle the handling error-count.

Basketball

There was an excellent piece on women’s basketball in Somalia last week in the most unlikely of places – New Yorker magazine.  It’s a good read and here is the link.  It’s a timely reminder that however bad we think women have it here, having to fight off the “back to the kitchen” and “who cares?” crowd, we have it easy compared to other women in the world.

And finally,

Thanks to all those who pointed out this video to me – I actually came to it first through George Takei’s Twitter feed!  (I love all the unexpected sources this week).  So here it is – enjoy.

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 May 2017

wembleyWelcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get through to again this week so let’s go straight into stories from football, tennis, rugby, cricket, netball and boxing.

Netball

The Final Four extravaganza is nigh.  And Loughborough Lightning are still top of the pile.  After round 15, they have 42 points, six points ahead of Wasps in second with Thunder back on third with 33 and Storm six points further back on 27.  But just behind are Bath on 27 and it seems to be between these two for the last place.

Monday 15 May

Team Northumbria 44-56 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 57-69 Surrey Storm
Sirens 59-45 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 44-58 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 72-51 Hertfordshire Mavericks

There are three rounds to go.  It’s round 16 this weekend and the Sky televised match is on Monday 22 May when Wasps Netball take on Surrey Storm at 8pm.

Football – On the Pitch

FA Cup Final

Birmingham City Ladies 1-4 Manchester City Women

After securing an encouraging draw the previous week, Birmingham City should have been in with a chance on Saturday, but truth be told they never looked as if they believed they could win the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

A crowd of 35,271 was there to see the WSL1 champions take Birmingham apart.

It was all too easy for Lucy Bronze to head home from Megan Campbell’s cross to take the lead on 18 minutes.  Seven minutes later they were two up, this time Bronze the provider and Izzy Christiansen firing home.

Carli Lloyd grabbed the third on 32 and it was really all over as a contest by this point.

In the second half Birmingham battled hard, pulling a goal back in the 73rd minute through Charlie Wellings, but Manchester City were to have the last word, scoring a fourth through substitute Jill Scott.

And now Manchester City women have not done the treble as some uninformed journalists would have it, but they do hold all three domestic titles.

Spring Series

Liverpool continued their storming start with a convincing win over Sunderland.  They are six points ahead of Chelsea in second, but have played two games more.  One of the strange things about WSL football is the distribution of games.  Thus some teams have now played five, while others only three.  Manchester City have only played three and lie third.

Wednesday 17 May

Liverpool Ladies 4-0 Sunderland AFC Ladies

The Black Cats had no reply to this in-form Liverpool side.  The home side took the lead on 10 minutes with Caroline Weir hitting the corner from 30 yards out.  Thwere two up on 21 with Natasha Harding getting her name on the score sheet.  It was 2-0 at half-time.

After the break Sunderland fought hard.  Maddie Hills hit the post just after the resumption and perhaps if her strike had gone it things might have been different.

But it was not to be.  Weir got her second and her side’s third on 57 minutes, with former England captain Casey Stoney rounding off the scoring ten minutes from time.

Yeovil Town Ladies 0-1 Reading FC Women

Yeovil are still yet to register a point as Reading took all three points at the Viridor Stadium.  The only goal of the game came on seven minutes when defender Mandy Van Den Berg  poked the ball over the line from a corner.

Chelsea Ladies 2-2 Arsenal Ladies

It was an excellent topsy-turvy match at Staines, which luckily was shown live on the BBC red button.

The away side took the lead on 34 minutes when keeper Carly Telford brought down Danielle Carter in the box.  It was a soft one, but Jodie Taylor stepped up to take the resultant penalty.  Telford looked to have redeemed herself as she saved the spot-kick but couldn’t keep out the rebound that Taylor put away to make it 1-0 to Arsenal.

There was no further scoring in the first-half although it was tightly fought and there were chances for both sides.

After the break Chelsea upped their game.  They drew level when the imposing Millie Bright met a Hannah Blundell free-kick in the box, heading it firmly past van Veenendaal.

The last ten minutes were frantic.

Chelsea looked to have taken the points when Drew Spence, scoring off the bench for her sixth in six games fired into the corner from a pinpoint pass from Crystal Dunn one minute into injury time.

But Arsenal were to have the last word as Jordan Nobbs deflected a Carter shot into the goal in the 95th minute to level the game.

It was clear by the body language of the team and of coach Emma Hayes, that Chelsea viewed the result as two points lost.

Birmingham City 2-0 Bristol City

Birmingham put the disappointment of the FA Cup final behind them on Wednesday as they took their first Spring Series win against Bristol City at Solihull Moors.

England striker Ellen White scored twice before half-time to put the home side two up and although Bristol tried hard in the second period, they could not break down the Birmingham defence.

Off the Pitch

Signings

The fallout from the Notts County debacle continues.

Defender Amy Turner has signed for Liverpool Ladies, while Wales international Angharad James has joined Yeovil Town Ladies.  Striker Rachel Williams has signed for Birmingham City Ladies again.  She previously played for them between 2011 and 2013.

England defender Laura Bassett meanwhile has decided not to sign for a new club before the Euros in the summer.

She is currently training with her previous club, Birmingham City, and is in Mark Sampson’s squad to go to the Netherlands.

She has decided to delay making any further decisions about her future until after the tournament.

Replacing Notts County

The Football Association has invited WSL2 clubs to apply to join WSL1 for the 2017-18 season to replace Notts County Ladies.

Whoever does fill the gap will have to meet WSL1 criteria around licences and finance (they should have perhaps checked Notts County for this).

Doncaster Belles, who were relegated last season, have released a statement expressing their disappointment that the FA is going through this process.  They consider that as a relegated side they should have had priority.

A decision will be made in June.

Scotland

Scotland’s women will play three warm-up matches in their preparation for this summer’s Euros:

9 June: Scotland v Romania (Falkirk)
13 June: Sweden v Scotland (Vaxjo)
7 July: Scotland v Republic of Ireland (venue to be confirmed)

Barcelona

Top Catalan women’s team, Barcelona, are in negotiations with the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with a view to entering a team into the2018 competition.

The club already has an office in New York and six academies across America.

There are currently 10 franchises in the NWSL, but none from Europe.  However, the noises coming from the League seem positive and it looks as if this proposal could have legs.

Motor Cycling

No, no new staggering news about a new women’s motor cycling initiative, but it’s that old, old story of the “grid girls”.

It seems that, at least in Spain, their days could be numbered – or curtailed.

Catalan political party Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds have called for new rules on the use of grid girls at the Moto GP Catalan Grand Prix in Barcelona in June.

The party would not ban the girls outright, but would impose a dress code and ensure that there were an equal number of “grid boys” employed.

This is the last in a number of attempts by various groups to alter or ban the practice.  Progress is slow, but progress there is.  Let’s hope that persistence pays and this outdated and ridiculous practice bites the dust soon.

Cricket

India seem to be playing themselves into fine form just in time for the World Cup.  The final of the Quadrangular series will be between India and South Africa.  The round robin section is now complete and the rest of the scores were as follows:

15 May

Zimbabwe 113 all out (40.2 overs)
South Africa 114/3 (21.2 overs)
South Africa won by seven wickets

A record-breaking game then took place between India and Ireland!

India 358/2 (50 overs)
Ireland 109 all out (40 overs)
India won by 249 runs

Some of the staggering statistics from that game:
Openers Deepti Sharma (188) and Punam Raut (109) shared a first-wicket stand of 320 runs.  This was the first 300+ stand by any pair in women’s cricket.  It was also higher than the current men’s record of 286 between Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya for Sri Lanka in 2006.  Sharma’s 188 came off 160 balls, the second –highest individual score in women’s ODIs, bettered only by Belinda Clark’s 229 not out for Australia.

In the next game the top two played a thriller.

17 May

South Africa 269/5 (50 overs)
India 261/9 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 8 runs

Ireland 150 all out (45 overs)
Zimbabwe 154/5 (41 overs)
Zimbabwe won by 5 wickets

19 May 2017

Zimbabwe 98 all out (42.3 overs)
India 99/0 (16 overs)
India won by 10 wickets

Also in action as we speak, Ireland unlikely to chase down this total but,

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 67/1 off 17
Ireland need 257 off 33 overs

Both the third place play-off and the final take place on 21 May.  Results and report next week.

Tennis

Off the Court

Maria Sharapova has not been given a wildcard for the French Open, which begins later this month.  There has been some hoo-hah in response to this, but the French Tennis Federation has defended its position,

“There can be a wildcard for the return from injuries – there cannot be a wildcard for the return from doping,” (FFT) chief Bernard Giudicelli Ferrandini .

Quite right – the FFT was under no obligation to grand this wildcard to Sharapova, but the WTA has chosen to say they had “no grounds to penalise” her.

On the Court

Madrid Open

The Madrid Open duly ended with an exciting climax, with third seed Simona Halep victorious over fourteenth seed Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7 6-2.  Halep seemed to be heading for a straight sets win, but Mladenovic fought hard to level the match at one-all.  But the Frenchwoman had perhaps pushed herself to exhaustion in the process and could not maintain her form to take the third.

Italian Open

Another week, another tournament.  The Italian Open is now well underway

British number one Johanna Konta started well with a straight-sets win over Yulina Putinseva of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-0.

She had a bye in the second, but went out in the third round (last 16) to the rejuvenated Venus Williams, 6-1 3-6 6-1.

World number one Angelique Kerber made a surprise exit in the second round as she was comprehensively defeated by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-4 6-0.

The quarter-final match-ups look like this:

Kontaveit v Halep (6)
V Williams (9) v Muguruza (3)
Bertens (15) v Gavrilova
Svitolina (8) v Pliskova (2)

Rugby Union

Harriet Millar-Mills was crowned Aviva Premiership Women’s Premiership Player of the Year 2017 this week.  It is the second year in a row that she has won the award.

Boxing

Nicola Adams won her second professional fight at the weekend.  She stopped Mexican Maryan Salazar in the third round in Leeds on Saturday.

It was Adams’ first fight over three-minute rounds, rather than the usual two.

Her partner, American boxer Marlen Esparza also won her second fight the previous week and now (according to a nicely cosy BBC article) the two are in a “battle” to see who will win a world title first.

And finally

And finally, there was a blue plaque unveiled this week to the most successful women’s team ever – the Dick, Kerr Ladies.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies were founded in Preston at the Dick, Kerr & Co munitions factory in 1917.  Its original aim was to raise money for wounded troops.

In 1920 a crowd of 53,000 saw them play at Goodison Park.  In the same year they played in the first women’s international against a French XI, winning it 2-0.

Who knows what they could have gone on to do?

But in 1921, in their wisdom, the FA banned women’s football as apparently “unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

The team actually carried on regardless, playing all over the world and chalking up a 200-match unbeaten run in the process.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies disbanded in 1965 due to lack of players, just four years before the Women’s Football Association was founded.  If you are interested in their story, check out Gail Newsham’s book, In a League of their Own.

There are only two statues to sportswomen in the UK.  There is a new campaign surrounding blue plaques and general recognition.  On Twitter you can follow @blueplaquerebel or check out www.blueplaquerebellion.com and the hashtag #recogniseher.  Send them your nominations for women in sport who should be celebrated.

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.

Women’s Sports Column 1-7 April 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  So much going on this week!  News, controversy and results in so many different sports.  Who knew women were doing so much? (Who, indeed….)

So, on we go with stories from tennis, golf, football, cricket, netball, boxing, ice hockey, weightlifting, badminton and the Boat Race.  Plus an “And finally” that is a great news story of footballing women shouting about the need to be more visible.  Plus an “And, and finally” which is not so great.

Tennis

Miami Open

Jo Konta won the Miami Open on Saturday, beating Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets 6-4 6-3 to take the biggest title of her career so far.

She now climbs to seven in the world rankings.

The win has seemingly come at a cost, though.  Konta has now withdrawn from the Charleston tournament, which opens the clay court season, through injury and illness.  The injury is in her shoulder, but the illness has not been specified beyond “sickness”.

Monterrey Open

Naomi Broady progressed to the second round in Monterrey before she was beaten by fifth seed Timea Babos 6-3 6-2.  She had beaten world number 54 Catherine Bellis 7-6 6-4 in the first round.

Heather Watson is through to the quarter final where she will face top seed Angelique Kerber.  She beat Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-1 to get there, after beating Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic 62 6-7 6-4 in the first round.

Football

Republic of Ireland

The biggest news of the week, eclipsing Mark Sampson’s squad announcement, has been the Republic of Ireland women’s team’s threat to strike after revealing their horrendous treatment by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

After listing their grievances the players met with the FAI and after long and hard talks agreement was reached.

Equal pay is often an issue in sport (and life generally), but for the Irish players their issue was any pay at all.  Sixty per cent of the Irish squad are not professional players and they were often out of pocket financially when away playing or training.  They had to share tracksuits, handing them back at the end of games and often got changed in airport toilets.  If they stayed in hotels they were often of a basic standard with no Wi-Fi.  There was little access to strength and conditioning coaching.

The players have now returned to training before they have a game against Slovakia on Monday.

I know it would have not have been a decision taken lightly if the squad had gone through with its strike.  It has been heartening to see so much coverage of this issue – much of it positive.

England

Opinions have been divided this week as to the wisdom of Mark Sampson naming his Euro 2017 squad nearly four months ahead of the tournament.

There are four tournament debutantes, three from champions Manchester City: Demi Stokes, Isobel Christiansen and Nikita Parris, plus Millie Bright of Chelsea.

There are also three players currently suffering with long-term injuries: Alex Greenwood, Fran Kirby and Jo Potter.

The most surprising absentees are Eni Aluko, Rachel Daly, Gemma Davison and Claire Rafferty.  Obviously with four months to go there are chances to replace injured players should the need arise.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Carly Telford (Notts County)

Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Jo Potter (Notts County), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Arsenal)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

For me the big omission is Gemma Davison.  When I saw her against Estonia in September she had a stormer.  I think she’s getting better all the time and could very well have peaked to perfection at this tournament.

It has also just been announced that England will play another friendly in the lead-up to the Euros. They will play Switzerland at the Tissot Arena in Biel on 10 June.

Scotland

It has been confirmed that former Arsenal manager, Shelley Kerr, will take over as Scotland Women’s head coach after the 2017 Euros.

Anna Signeul will leave after being in charge since 2005.

Cricket

The ECB announced the allocation of England and overseas players for the 2017 Kia Super League tournament this week.  There will be no Meg Lanning this year and Danielle Hazell will complete a Roses switch from Yorkshire to captain Lancashire Thunder.  Also included in the Thunder squad is Sarah Taylor, which is cheering to see.

The ECB has also (finally) done a deal which will see eight of the Super League games televised.  Unfortunately this will not be free-to-air, but will be on Sky.  In these days when viewers cannot see any cricket on free stations it would have been a real coup if the ECB could have interested any of those channels in the product.

Lancashire Thunder: Kate Cross, Danielle Hazell, Sarah Taylor, Jess Jonassen (AUS), Amy Satterthwaite (NZ), Lea Tahuhu (NZ)

Loughborough Lightning: Georgia Elwiss, Amy Jones, Beth Langston, Kristen Beams (AUS), Ellyse Perry (AUS), Elyse Villani (AUS)

Southern Vipers: Tash Farrant, Danielle Wyatt, Suzie Bates (NZ), Hayley Matthews (WI), Dane van Niekerk (SA)

Surrey Stars: Tammy Beaumont, Alex Hartley, Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Rene Farrell (AUS), Marizanne Kapp (SA)

Western Storm: Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Rachel Priest (NZ), Stafanie Taylor (WI)

Yorkshire Diamonds: Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Lauren Winfield, Sophie Devine (NZ), Sune Luus (SA), Beth Mooney (AUS)

Netball

It’s seven wins from seven for Loughborough Lightning as they beat their latest opponents, Celtic Dragons at the weekend.  This sees them the only unbeaten team, at the top of the table by three points from Surrey Storm.

Round Seven scores:

Friday 31 March

Sirens 51-45 Team Bath

Saturday 1 April

Team Northumbria 61-39 Severn Stars

Surrey Storm 51-58 Wasps Netball

Monday 3 April

Celtic Dragons 45-65 Loughborough Lightning

Manchester Thunder 59-50 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Round eight is this weekend, with no televised match this week.

Weightlifting

Rebekah Tiler took silver in the snatch in the -69kg at the European Championships this week.  This was Tiler’s first competition since UK Sport removed all funding for British Weightlifting and also her first since finishing 10th at Rio.

She missed out on an overall medal, finishing fourth, just 1kg behind the bronze medallist, Anastasiya Mikhalenka of Belarus.  Anastasiia Romanova of Russia took overall gold in the -69kg category, with Mariya Khylan of Ukraine in silver.

Emily Godley finished eighth in the same category – some performance after coming back from a stress fracture of the back, which happened in December.

Sarah Davies also finished fifth in the -63kg category.

Ice Hockey

Britain’s women’s ice hockey team are currently competing in the World Championship Division Two in South Korea.

They lost their first three games in Group A:

Netherlands 5-4 Great Britain

The Netherlands were ahead after just 31 seconds and were soon 3-1 up.  But Britain came back, making it three all with two goals from Katie Marsden and one from captain Leanne Ganney.

But Britain were unable to capitalise on their resurgence.  The Netherlands scored two more and although Britain pulled another one back through Kim Lane, they couldn’t score again to take it into overtime.

South Korea 3-1 Great Britain

It was a busy match for GB goaltender Nicole Jackson, who had to make 35 saves.  But she was unable to shut out tournament hosts South Korea.  Korea scored twice before Britain got one back through Leanne Ganney.

But the game was taken away from Britain when Kim Heewon scored Korea’s third.

North Korea 3-2 Great Britain

(after overtime)

Great Britain lost their third group game in a row when they succumbed to North Korea in a tight game.

Again Britain went 2-0 down before they brought it back to 2-2 with goals from Angela Taylor and Leanne Ganney.

Britain did claim a point from the game, but Jin Ok’s winner in overtime ensured Britain were bottom of the table after three games.

Great Britain 8-2 Slovenia

It was fourth time lucky for Britain as they pulled out all the stops to beat Slovenia on Thursday 6 April.

Katie Henry scored two goals, as did Katie Marsden, with Angela Taylor providing four assists.

The win takes them up to third in the table with one game, against Australia, to go.  They could still win a bronze medal if South Korea beat North Korea and Britain win against Australia on Saturday.

Golf

There was controversy at the ANA Inspiration event this week when American Lexi Thompson, leading in the final round, was given a four-stroke penalty after a television viewer spotted an offence and reported it to officials.

Thompson was two shots ahead after the twelfth, when she was told the penalty would be imposed.  She went on to birdie the final hole to finish on -14 and take it into a play-off with So Yeon Ryu.

She lost the play-off at the first hole.

The offence actually took place during Thompson’s third round, when she replaced a marked ball in the wrong place.

The LPGA said Thompson had

“breached Rule 20-7c (Playing From Wrong Place), and received a two-stroke penalty. She incurred an additional two-stroke penalty under Rule 6-6d for returning an incorrect scorecard in round three.”

This turned her carded 67 into a 71.

Fans were outraged by the decision and several professionals have voiced their disquiet about the seeming trial by television, including Graham McDowell and Tiger Woods.

Former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher told BBC Radio “the LPGA had the power to dismiss that person, they should have completely ignored it.”

Badminton

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour won her second title in two months this week when she won the women’s singles at the Orleans International.  She beat Ying Ying Lee of Malaysia in the final 22-20 21-11.

Meanwhile, after getting to the semi-finals of the India Open two weeks ago, Gabby and Chris Adcock have been beaten in the second round of the Malaysia Open.  The seven seeds lost 21-16 21-15 to the unseeded pair from Thailand, Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.

Off the court, Badminton England has withdrawn from the World Mixed Team Championships due to be held in May in Gold Coast, Australia.  They have cited government funding cuts as the reason behind the withdrawal.

Badminton England performance director Jon Austin said,

“We are working through an unprecedented financial situation as a consequence of the recent funding decisions,”

“We have had to consider the investments we make very carefully.”

Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race

The University of Cambridge was triumphant in the Boat Race on Sunday – their first win since 2012.

The Light Blues dominated from the off, helped by a mistake by Oxford rower Rebecca Esselstein, who “caught a crab” at the beginning.

Cambridge won by 11 lengths in a time of 18 minutes 33 seconds.

Boxing

Nicola Adams makes her professional debut this weekend when she takes on Argentina’s Virginia Noemi Carcamo in Manchester.  The fight is live on BT Sport and the programme starts at 8.30pm.

And finally,

It’s safe to say that women’s football shirts are taking on a life of their own.  First we had the Swedish football team and their inspirational quotes, now it’s the turn of Glasgow City.

Glasgow City have won 10 Scottish titles in a row, but as my loyal readers will know, unless you look and look hard you won’t find any details of their exploits in the mainstream media.

So Glasgow City are fighting back.  On their new away kit they have a new slogan, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

It’s not an original phrase, but it’s none the less true for that.

Club Manager and founder of Glasgow City, Laura Montgomery, said,

“How do girls grow up thinking they can be anything other than sexualised objects, which is how the media currently portrays women?”

She went on to say,

“Every single youth player that we have absolutely idolizes all our first team players and that’s because they want to be what they can see.”

And surely this cannot be a bad thing.  Let’s hope more media outlets see the light (and the point).

And, and finally,

David Moyes – wrong.

No column next week due to the Easter break, but back the week after with more news and views.

Women’s Sports Column 21-27 January 2017

stumps2Welcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for there being no column last week, but I’m back with a vengeance this week with stories from cricket, football, swimming, winter sports, rugby, tennis, boxing, golf, hockey and cycling.  Plus back to one of my hobby horses for “And finally”, but unfortunately it has to be said (again).

So let’s crack on.

Rachael Heyhoe-Flint 

Although I missed the chance to feature Rachael last week, I couldn’t let the chance go by to pay tribute to a true pioneer of women’s cricket.  Every cliché has been said, broadcast and printed over the last couple of weeks, but in this case you cannot help but say “trailblazer”, “pioneer”, “innovator” etc.

There isn’t space to do her justice here, but to capture the highlights of a fabulous career:

England Cricket Captain 1966- 1978

Played in the first ever women’s test match at Lords v Australia in 1976

22 Test matches

23 One-day internationals

Inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2010

First woman to go onto MCC committee in 2004 and the ECB Board

This was just the cricket.  She also was devoted to Wolverhampton Wanderers, including time as vice-president and the city of Wolverhampton, including being president of.

She was awarded an MBE in 1972, OBE in 2008 and made a life peer in 2011.

I think we can safely say women’s cricket wouldn’t be where it is today without her.

 Golf

Muirfield will take another vote on allowing women members after the first one fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the move.

The result is expected some time in March.  The R&A has indicated that the course will be unable to stage another Open Championship until its policy is reversed.

Hockey

 World Hockey League

 Ireland have won the first section of Round Two of the World Hockey League in Kuala Lumpur.

They beat Malaysia 3-0 in the final on Sunday.

Anna O’Flanagan, Katie Mullan and Zoe Wilson were the goalscorers.

They had beaten Wales in the semi-finals.

The next section of round 2 takes place in Valencia from 4-12 February.

 Football

 England Lionesses

England played two friendlies in Spain this week.

England 0-1 Norway

England lost their first match of 2017 and in doing so their 10-match unbeaten run came to an end.

Ada Hegerberg scored the only goal of the game half way through the first half, heading home from a cross from her sister, Andrine.

England did have chances to equalise with both Fara Williams and Lucy Bronze shooting over and a shot from Steph Houghton cleared off the line.

England also had a claim for a penalty, after Ellen White appeared to be pushed in the box, but the appeal was dismissed.

England 0-0 Sweden

Siobhan Chamberlain saved a second-half penalty to earn England a draw in Murcia on Tuesday.

Sweden also had the ball in the back of the net in the first-half, but it was ruled out for offside.

It was a game of few chances, and although manager Mark Sampson will be pleased at the clean sheet, he may be concerned at his side’s inability to score in either game.

England’s next fixtures are against France, USA and Germany in the She Believes Cup in March.

Indian Football

There was a big announcement in Indian football this week.  The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has launched a six-team women’s league.  It is small steps indeed, as the league will take place over two weeks and all games will be played at the Ambedkar Stadium in Dehli.

The project has taken two years to come to fruition and the teams taking part are FC Alakhpura, Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC, Aizawl FC, FC Pune City, Rising Student Club and Eastern Sporting Union.

There will be a round robin stage with the top four going into semi-finals.

The first game takes place on 28 January.

As I say, it may seem small steps to us, but in terms of the development of women’s football in India, this is a giant stride.  Watch this space for results and more news as the tournament progresses.

National Football Museum

The National Football Museum in Manchester has been given a grant to maintain and enlarge its collection of women’s football memorabilia.

Interim director of the museum, Kevin Haygarth, said,

“We’re delighted this grant will help us significantly document the history of one of the world’s most participated sports – women’s football.

“The museum has always told the story of the women’s game throughout its main galleries and Hall Of Fame, but we’re grateful and excited by the opportunity to create a dedicated gallery where we can finally piece together the lost history of women’s football.”

Tennis

The Australian Open final is going to be a stunner.  It will be between Serena and Venus Williams.  It is Venus’s first major final since 2009 and Serena is going for her 23rd grand slam so it is bound to be well fought.

Venus, seeded 13. Beat fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-7 6-2 6-2 in her semi-final while Serena had far too much for the unseeded Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2 6-1.

Johanna Konta came up against Serena in the quarter-final.  This was the first time the two had met.  Konta was in a prodigious run of form and had not lost a set during the championships.  But she could not live with Williams and was beaten 6-2 6-3.

With the men’s final possibly heading for a Federer v Nadal showdown, we seem to have gone back in time!

The women’s doubles title was won by second seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Šafářová.  They beat Andrea Hlaváčková and Peng Shuai in three sets 6-7 6-3 6-3.  This is their second grand slam win in a row.

Winter Sports

Skiing

You can’t keep a phenomenal skier down.

Lindsey Vonn claimed her first win in almost a year this week when she won the downhill at Garmisch, Germany on Saturday.

She beat Swiss skier, Lara Gut, by 0.15 seconds.  The win was Vonn’s 77th World Cup race win.

Para-skiing

It was a great start to competition for Britain at the World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Italy as Britain’s Millie Knight and guide Brett Wild won downhill gold in a time of 13.42 seconds.

The 18-year old beat five time champion Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia into second.

Knight’s run was not without its moments though, as she hit the barrier at the end and became stuck under it.  She was treated by doctors after she complained of feeling dizzy and sick afterwards.

In the same event Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Jennifer Kehoe finished fifth.

It was bad news for Paralympic champion Kelly Gallagher, though, as she misses the event after crashing in training.  She suffered a dislocated elbow and three fractured ribs in the accident.  She was testing the championship course, and although she landed her jump correctly, she then slid into the barrier net which caused the injury.

The Championships take place from 25-31 January and 130 skiers from 30 countries are taking part.

Speed skating

Britain’s Charlotte Gilmartin took 500m bronze at the European Short Track Championships in Turin this week.  She did not qualify for the 1500m final but recovered well to finish third in the shorter distance with a time of 44.074 seconds.  Gold went to Rianne de Vries of Holland and Italy’s Martina Valcepina took silver.

Cricket

WBBL

The Women’s Big Bash League final will be between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers (as will the men’s final!).

Semi-final details:

Sydney Sixers 169-6 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 66 all out (14.1 overs)
Sixers won by 103 runs

Alyssa Healy starred with the bat for the Sixers, scoring 77 from 45 balls.

The Hurricanes were never at the races.  England captain, Heather Knight, was run out for three and the Hurricanes were bowled out for just 66.  Dane van Niekerk was pick of the bowlers with 3 for 15.

Brisbane Heat 124-5 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 125-1 (15.4 overs)
Scorchers won by nine wickets

The Brisbane score was competitive but the Heat didn’t reckon with Elyse Villani.  The opener made 52 not out and Nicole Bolton 36 to take the home side to the final.

England fast bowling duo of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole were unable to make a mark in the semi-final, but will hoping to contribute for the Scorchers at the Waca (The Furnace) on Saturday.

The final will be played on Saturday 28 in a double-header with the men’s.  Full coverage will be on BT Sport.

Boxing

Nicola Adams has left the GB Boxing programme to turn professional.

She has signed with promoter Frank Warren and will make her professional debut in Manchester on 8 April.  Her second fight will be in Leeds, her home town, on 13 May.

Warren was initially sceptical about the concept of women boxing, but appears to have changed his mind (could it be he knows when he’s on to a good thing?)

In an interview with the BBC he said,

“Of all of all the signings I have made in my 35 years in the sport of boxing, this is among the most I have been excited about.

“I think Nicola will be challenging for world titles within a year. We intend to lead her to become a multiple world champion.”

Ireland’s Katie Taylor has already shown it can be done.  Let’s hope Adams can have similar successes.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

The Six Nations begins next week. The first round of matches is:

Friday 3 February

Scotland Women v Ireland Women (6.35pm Broadwood Stadium)

Saturday 4 February

Italy Women v Wales Women (3pm Stadio Comunale Pacifico Carotti)

En gland Women v France Women (7.30pm Twickenham)

Check out the squads and match details here: http://www.rbs6nations.com/en/women/#Jas1vHmPQWwEKguy.97

Sevens

England has named its squad for the Sydney Sevens, the second leg of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, which takes place on 3-4 February.  England finished a creditable fourth in the first round in Dubai.

Rachael Woosey and Chantelle Miell make their debut.

The squad is:

  1. Natasha Brennan, 2. Abbie Brown (C), 3. Alice Richardson-Watmore, 4. Millie Wood, 5. Lauren Cattell, 6. Rachael Woosey, 7. Heather Fisher, 8. Kelly Smith, 9. Fran Matthews, 10. Jo Richardson-Watmore, 11. Katie Mason, 12. Chantelle Miell

They play in pool C and this is the pool schedule (all times GMT):

Friday 3 February

England v Spain, KO 1.30am

England v USA, KO 4.12am

England v Russia, 7.16am

All games are available to see on the World Rugby website

http://www.worldrugby.org/womens-sevens-series/videoTop of Form

Swimming

Open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne has announced her retirement this week.

Payne, 29, was a two-time open water world champion and Olympic silver medallist.  She represented Great Britain for over 12 years.

Cycling

The rumblings of discontent with British Cycling and cycling in general, continue.  Nicole Cooke, who always speaks her mind, was again in the press this week.

She was giving evidence to a Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday.

She said that she is “sceptical” of Team Sky’s attitude to drug use and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ TUE use.

But this was just one of her points.  She also said that British Cycling is run “by men for men”.

The committee was meeting to discuss doping in sport, but that didn’t stop Cooke expressing opinions on other aspects of the governing body’s capabilities.

She gave examples of the sexism she had seen during her career and said that BC shows “discrimination and favouritism” because it is only “answerable to itself”.

She was asked outright whether she though sexism was culturally embedded in British Cycling.

“Yes I do,” she replied.

British Cycling has since released a statement in which it says,

“While there is still a way to go, British Cycling is absolutely committed to resolving the historic gender imbalance in our sport.”

UK Sport has also launched an independent review to look into some of Cooke’s claims.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – sadly, this one will run and run.

And finally,

I make no apologies for this although I know it’s something I keep banging on about.  Serena Williams is about to go for her 23rd grand slam title on Saturday.  Her talent, skill and fitness should all be beyond doubt.  I have already made a vow to stop reading the comments sections on news site articles, but, unfortunately I slipped and read the ones after the BBC’s report on the Williams v Konta match.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Konta fan, and I would have been happy for her to have won the tie.  She has a great future and is improving all the time.  But the level of abuse, invective, racism and misogyny levelled at Serena in these comments was appalling.

So many (men) called Serena a man – well I don’t know any men who look like that.  But the one that stuck in my mind was (again a man) the description of her as a “monster in a skirt”.  Really?  Monster?

The comment reminded me of that Facebook comment about Michelle Obama, “chimp in heels”.  Both comments totally unwarranted and totally offensive.

I know I’m fighting for a Serena who doesn’t need my help – she’s probably as immune to negative comment as she’s ever going to be right now, but I’m not necessarily speaking on her behalf.  I was offended.  I was angry that some person had thought it was appropriate to air this view on a public platform.

I think I’m trying to say, if you can’t stop having these thoughts, just spare the rest of us and keep them to yourself.

Women’s Sports Column 19-25 November

boxing_gloves-2Welcome to this week’s column.  Don’t think I missed much last week – well I certainly didn’t read much anywhere else, so there couldn’t have been much going on.…

Anyway, stories this week come from golf, football, cricket, rugby, sports leadership, boxing and an “and finally” giving you the BT Action Woman Award shortlist (and wow, what a shortlist!).

Golf

Top billing this week goes to Britain’s Charley Hull who won her first LPGA tournament on Sunday.  She won the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida.

She finished her four rounds on -19, two ahead of South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon, with Jennifer Song of the US third on -15.

Fellow Britons Jodie Ewart Shadoff finished on -3 in a share of 36th place and Catriona Matthew level in 46th.

Hull had a one shot lead going into the final round.  She shot a fourth round 66 with six birdies and no bogeys to take the win with a tournament record score.

She took $500,000 in prize money and finishes the year as world number 29.

Boxing

In the ring

Katie Taylor makes her professional debut on Saturday at Wembley Arena.

She fights Poland’s Karina Kopinska.  Result and report next week.

Out of the ring

 Nicola Adams appeared on Desert Island Discs on Sunday 20 November on Radio 4.  If you missed it, it’s well worth a listen and is still available on the BBC I-player.

Football

On the pitch

Manchester City continued their great form (actually last week, but I feel I should report on it for the sake of continuity), as they made it into the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League.

They took a 1-0 first leg lead to Danish side Brondby and managed to secure a 1-1 draw away from home to take a 2-1 aggregate win.

In the 64th minute City took the lead through a fabulous curling shot from Toni Duggan, but the lead didn’t last long as Nanna Christiansen poked the ball in to make it 1-1.

City’s defences were not breached again and  they will now play in the last eight in March.

Off the pitch

Chelsea Ladies have signed Norway captain Maren Mjelde on a two year contract.

Mjelde, who plays in central midfield, has won 107 caps.  She will join the Blues on 1 January.

Football Association Women’s Football Awards

Jordan Nobbs was named England player of the year the FA Women’s Football Awards this week, while Chelsea’s Millie Bright was voted England young player of the year.

Manchester City manager Nick Cushing was named WSL manager of the year and City also won club of the year.

Manchester City defender Lucy Bronze took the WSL 1 player of the year.

Former England manager, Hope Powell, was also honoured, receiving the award for Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Football.

Cricket

On the pitch

England v Sri Lanka

England duly completed a 4-0 series whitewash over their much weaker opponents, sealing automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup in the process.

India v West Indies

After the home side took the three-match ODI series 3-0, it was West Indies turn in the three-match T20 series.

1st T20 18 November

India 150/4 (20 overs)
West Indies 154/4 (19.1 overs)

West Indies won by 6 wickets with 5 balls to spare.

2nd T20 20 November

West Indies 137/5 (20 overs)
India 106 all out (18.1 overs)

West Indies won by 31 runs

3rd T20 22 November

West Indies 139/4 (20 overs)
India 124/3 (20 overs)

West Indies won by 15 runs

New Zealand v Pakistan

New Zealand completed a clean sweep in their five-match ODI series against Pakistan.

They also played one T20 which they also won.

T20 ODI 21 November

New Zealand 118/9 (20 overs)
Pakistan 104 all out (20 overs)

New Zealand won by 14 runs

Australia v South Africa

With two more ODIs to play in a five-match series, Australia have already clinched it.  They won the first three:

1st ODI 18 November

South Africa 226/5 (50 overs)
Australia 230/8 (49.5 overst)

Australia won by 2 wickets with 1 ball remaining.

2nd ODI 20 November

Australia 278/4 (50 overs)
South Africa 119/5 (31.2 overs)

Australia won by 66 runs by D/L method

Meg Lanning scored 134 for Australia.

 3rd ODI 23 November

South Africa 173/8 (50 overs)
Australia 174/1 (27.1 overs)

Australia won by 9 wickets with 29 balls to spare.  Lizelle Lee made her maiden century, scoring 102 off 89 balls.

Off the pitch

The ICC has awarded Pakistan six points towards the ICC Women’s Championship for the three-match series that should have been played against India before the end of October.

The series was never played and so considered forfeited by the ICC.

This now means that both India and Pakistan will have to qualify for the World Cup as both are in the bottom four of the championship table.

The PCB was due to host the series in the UAE, but the BCCI did not respond to the PCB’s queries regarding the series and a scheduling agreement could not be reached.

The ten-team qualification tournament will take place in Colombo in February 2017.

It also means that West Indies gain the last automatic qualification place.

There are four World Cup places up for grabs and the qualification tournament participants will be: Pakistan, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Thailand and Zimbabwe.

Rugby union

On the pitch

England 20 – 25 New Zealand
19 November

England lost a tight match to World Cup favourites, New Zealand, at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

Rochelle “Rocky” Clark set a new international caps record as she won her 116th to beat the record held by Scotland’s Donna Kennedy.

On the field things didn’t go so well for the Red Roses.  England started confidently with Fiona Pocock scoring a try in the first minute.  It went unconverted.

The Black Ferns came back and scored a try through Renee Wickliffe just before half-time which was converted by Kendra Cocksedge to make it 7-5 to the visitors at the break.

England came out for the second-half with renewed vigour.  First Harriet Millar-Mills and then Lydia Thompson went over for two more tries and with one conversion by Katy McLean the score was 17-7 to the home side.

Enter Cocksedge again.  The scrum-half scored two tries in five minutes, converting one to take them ahead again 17-19.

Emily Scarratt then kicked a penalty for England and they were in front again on 20-19.

But New Zealand and Cocksedge were not to be outdone.  She kicked two late penalties to secure the win – the Black Ferns’ ninth in a row and their fifth unbeaten against England.

Ireland 7-48 Canada
19 November

Canada are currently second in the world rankings, and from this performance it’s easy to see why.

It was all over as a contest by half-time as Canada ran in tries from DaLeaka Menin, Julianne Zussman and Karen Paquin, all of which were converted by Andrea Burk.   Burk also popped over a penalty to make it 0-24 to the visitors at the break.

Seven minutes into the second half Ireland had their first score, a try from Nikki Caughey which she then converted.

But then normal service was resumed as Canada scored another four tries; Emily Belchos, Laura Russell, Magali Harvey and a second for Sussman.  Burk converted two from four to make the final score a chastening one for Ireland.

Canada 10-20 New Zealand
22 November

In a shoot-out between the top two the Black Ferns came out winners at Donnybrook on Tuesday.

It was 8-0 to New Zealand at half-time with an unconverted try from Selica Winiata and a penalty from Kendra Cocksedge.

In the second-half Canada scored a try of their own through Magali Harvey after an interception by Latoya Blackwood.  This went unconverted and the score was 5-8.

Almost immediately New Zealand were over again, this time through Aotearoa Mata’u.

Both sides were reduced to 14 after first Canada’s Brittany Waters and then New Zealand’s Eloise Blackwell were sin-binned.

Canada’s Laura Russell came off a driving maul to go over the line to bring the score back to 10-15 with 15 minutes left.

But New Zealand struck straight back once more.  Cocksedge missed a penalty, but Winiata scored her second try of the match to seal the win for the Black Ferns.

Remaining Fixtures:

26 Nov: England v Canada (Twickenham Stadium)
27 Nov: Ireland v New Zealand (The Bowl, Dublin)

Sports politics and leadership

Christine Ohuruogu has commented on the barriers faced for BAME people wanting to get into sports administration – male or female.  We already know how hard it is for women to get onto sports boards or into senior administrative roles.  You can multiply this several times when you add ethnicity to the mix.

Sporting Equals, an organisation that promotes ethnic diversity in sport has completed an audit and found that of 601 board members, just 26 (just over 4%) are from BAME backgrounds.   Only two chairs or chief executives are from BAME backgrounds.

When interviewed, Ohuruogu said,

“Talking to other athletes and sportspeople, they are expressing concern that it is a world not open for them.

“They won’t be welcomed, won’t be valued and it is very negative. They have gone as far as they can as athletes but they don’t feel there is any more room for them to go.”

The scary thing (if these figures were not scary enough) is that the 26 board members figure is UP BY 17 from last year!

It is in everyone’s interest that wider society is reflected in the boards and organisations that run our sports.  While my main is to campaign for greater inclusion for women, it is good to be reminded that there are other groups who also need a voice.

And finally,

The BT Action Woman 2016 shortlist is out.  And what a list it is!  It has been a stellar year for women’s sport and this shortlist reflects some of the best performances, breakthroughs and results of the year.

The shortlist is:

Nicola Adams

Defended her Olympic boxing title in Rio, the first British boxer to do so since 1924.

Rachel Atherton

Won all seven rounds of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup and the world title for the fouth time.

Hannah Cockcroft

Three more sprint gold medals from Rio to add to her Paralympic tally.

Kadeena Cox

The first British Paralympian to win golds in multiple sports in the same Games for 32 years.  She won gold on the track in the T-38 400m and then in the cycling C4-5 time trial.

Charlotte Dujardin

Defended her individual dressage gold in Rio, taking her total to three Olympic golds.

Maddie Hinch

GB’s hockey goalkeeping superstar helped her team to win gold in Rio.  She save four penalties in the final shootout against Netherlands.

Jade Jones

Another woman who successfully defended her Olympic title in Rio.  She took -57kg gold, to be the first British athlete to win more than one taekwondo Olympic medal.

Johanna Konta

The first British female tennis player to reach the world top 10 since 1984.  Won her first title on the WTA tour in Stanford, beating Venus Williams in the final.  Truly a breakthrough year.

Dame Sarah Storey

Overtook Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson as Britain’s most decorated female Paralympian after winning the C5 3000m individual pursuit gold medal to take her total to 14 golds.

Laura Kenny ( formerly Trott)

Britain’s most successful female Olympian.  She repeated her London golds in the omnium and team pursuit to have a total of four.

To vote for your favourite, go to http://sport.bt.com/vote-action-woman-2016-01364108169407. The closing date is 5 December, with the awards ceremony, shown live on BT Sport 1 on Monday 12 December.

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 21-27 May

boxing_gloves-2

 

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

 

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

Saturday 21 May

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

Wednesday 25 May

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City

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

These are the first points dropped by City this season.

Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland

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

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

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

Sunderland remain second from bottom.

 

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

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

 

Thursday 26 May

Women’s Champions League final

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Den Bosch took the title in a shoot out.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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