Women’s Sports Column 10-16 September

img-20160915-006702Welcome to this week’s column.  Summer may be slipping away from us here in Britain, but there’s still plenty to look forward to in the world of women’s sport.

This week brings stories from the Paralympics, tennis, athletics, cricket, football, rugby union and a sailing update from Abby Ehler.

Paralympics

 Where to start?  As with the Olympics, there is so much to love, admire or indeed boggle at, that I can only cover a fraction.  So here are a few of my highlights from the last week:

Hannah Cockcroft

One of my sporting heroes, without doubt.  In Rio she has won gold in T34 400m with a world record and 100m.   And she’s still only 24!

Kadeena Cox

Wow, what a story!  To win gold in one Paralympic sport is amazing, but two in different sports?  On 10 September she took gold in the track cycling – the C4-5 time trial (and in a world record time) and then on 14 September she struck gold again, this time in the T38 400m (also a new world record).  Oh, and she also won a bronze in the T38 100m.

I know one shouldn’t refer it back to a person’s medical history and no-one should be labelled, but how can you not be amazed by this woman?  She’s 25 and suffered a stroke in 2014, leading to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.  She’s brilliant.

Canoeing

I love canoeing in all forms and Britain has done very well in this Paralympics.  Three golds in a day on 15 September with Jeanette Chippington winning the K1 200m KL1 title, 28 years after her first medal, a silver in the 100m backstroke L4 in Seoul in 1988.  Then Emma Wiggs blew the field away to take the k1 200m KL2 gold.  Thirdly Anne Dickens won gold in the KL3 200m final.  That was three golds in about half an hour!

Swimming

Numerous medals in swimming.  Seven golds and six silvers.  Bethany Firth took two golds and a silver, Hannah Russell, Steph Millward, Ellie Simmonds, Susie Rodgers, Ellie Robinson (just 15) all took golds with Claire Cashmore, Jessica-Jane Appleton, Rebecca Redfern, Steph Slater and Harriet Lee took silvers.

I’m sorry I’ve just concentrated on gold medals and silvers; every competitor has a story, a performance to be proud of and a unique experience.  Without descending into the mawkish, it’s exciting, awe-inspiring and moving.

Tennis

Germany’s Angelique Kerber went to world number one in the rankings this week when Serena Williams was knocked out of the US Open in the semi finals.  She then went on to win the title, beating the Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-3 4-6 6-4.

Kerber had already won the Australian Open in January and was runner-up at Wimbledon, but Pliskova was in a rich vein of form, having beaten Williams in the semi in straight sets 6-2 7-6.

Kerber was not to be denied though, becoming the first German to win the US Open since Steffi Graf in 1996.

The women’s doubles title was taken by twelfth seeds Bethany Mattek-Sands (US) and Lucie Safarova (CZ).  They beat the top seeded French pairing of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic 2-6 7-6 6-4.

In other tennis news, the result of Maria Sharapova’s appeal against her two-year doping ban will be revealed in the first week of October.

Sharapova was banned by the ITF after testing positive for the banned substance, Meldonium, at the 2016 Australian Open.  She had been taking the drug since 2006, but it has only been listed as a banned substance since January this year.

Athletics

In athletics, the testing and re-testing of samples from the 2008 Olympics is still causing many medals to be re-awarded.  The latest is set to go to British javelin thrower, Goldie Sayers.  The silver medallist, Russia’s Maria Abakumova, will be disqualified after her re-test showed positive for the anabolic steroid turinabol.  Sayers, who finished fourth, will now receive a bronze medal.

Sayers has long been a critic of doping in athletics, particularly the systematic state-sponsored scheme employed by Russia.  In May 2016 she said she had considered withdrawing from the Rio games if Russian athletes were allowed to compete.

Cricket

In cricket, the ECB has announced that England’s women will complete their busy year with a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka in November.  The three games will take place at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in Colombo on Saturday 12, Tuesday 15 and Thursday 17 November.

It will be England’s last series in the ICC Women’s Championship, the qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Cup, which will be held in England.

At the moment England is placed in third on 19 points.  Sri Lanka lies eighth.

Before the series takes place, England will have a six-day training camp in Abu Dhabi from 1-7 November.

Football

England 5-0 Estonia

Carter (3), Scott, J, Carney (pen)

Meadow Lane, Nottingham

Attendance 7,052.

I was at Meadow Lane on 15 September for England’s latest qualifier.  England have already qualified for next year’s Euros, but Mark Sampson is obviously keen to send a signal to the other top teams in Europe that England will be a force to contend with next year.

The first half-hour was excellent from England.  They came out quickly and never gave Estonia a chance to gain a toe-hold, let alone a foot-hold.  There were some lovely passing moves, close control was good, as was communication.

They were 3-0 up at half time with two goals from Danielle Carter and a Jill Scott header.

Towards the end of the first half focus slipped.  Sampson will be aware that better sides would have taken advantage of this and when they came out in the second they had regained concentration.

However, the game was disrupted in the second-half with substitutions and England found it harder to put moves together.  There were too much convoluted play, and although they had plenty of chances, there was never going to be the hatful of goals that the first half promised.

They did score two though, with Carter claiming her hat-trick and Karen Carney calmly slotting home a penalty for the fifth for a comprehensive win.

Poor Siobhan Chamberlain was reduced to running on the spot to get warm.

Quite rightly, Carter was Player of the Match; her record stands at two caps, two hat-tricks, but my other stand-out player was Gemma Davison.  She flew down the right wing in the first half; her markers hadn’t got a clue how to deal with her.  With fifteen minutes to go until half-time, she had obviously had so much fun on the right that she swapped wings with Demi Stokes to cause mayhem on the left.  Truly the best half of football I have seen from Davison.

Wales 3-0 Israel

Ward (2), Estcourt

Newport

Wales put in an impressive display to beat Israel.  Wales record scorer, Helen Ward, scored two with Charlie Estcourt adding a third in the second half.  Jess Fishlock also missed a penalty.

Although Wales are third in Pool H, they cannot qualify for next year’s finals.

Sad news from football this week as it was announced that Sylvia Gore, the scorer of the first official goal for the England’s women team, has died from cancer at the age of 71.

In 1972 she scored England’s first goal in a 3-2 win against Scotland in Greenock.

Gore had a career in football that spanned over 60 years.  As a player she once scored 134 goals in a season.  After her playing career ended, she went on to become Wales manager.  She was also an FA Women’s committee member for 20 years.  Earlier this year she was unveiled as a Manchester City Women’s FC Club Ambassador.

Rugby Union

England Rugby has announced the Elite Player Squad for 2016/17 season.  As reported in an earlier column, this will be the first time England has awarded 15-a-side professional contracts.

The 54 names are split into full-time, part-time, short-term and non-contracted players.  38 contracts have so far been awarded.

The move is with the Women’s Rugby World Cup in mind, which takes place in Ireland in August 2017, where England will be looking to retain their title.

Full time contracts – 18
Claire Allan (Saracens)
Abbie Brown (Bristol)
Rachael Burford (n/a)
Amy Cokayne (Lichfield)
Heather Fisher (n/a)
Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Megan Jones (Bristol)
Alex Matthews (Richmond)
Sarah McKenna (Saracens)
Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park)
Marlie Packer (Bristol)
Amber Reed (Bristol)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Emily Scott (Thurrock)
Danielle Waterman (Bristol)
Kay Wilson (Richmond)
Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol)

Part time – 9
Natasha Brennan (n/a)
Lauren Cattell (Saracens)
Lotte Clapp (Saracens)
Deborah Fleming (Saracens)
Katie Mason (Bristol)
Fran Matthews (Richmond)
Kelly Smith (Worcester Valkyries)
Millie Wood (Lichfield)
Rachael Woosey (Darlington Mowden Park)

Short Term – 11
Emily Braund (Lichfield)
Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries)
Vickii Cornborough (Aylesford Bulls)
Sarah Hunter (Bristol)
Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries)
LaToya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park)
Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol)
Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park)
Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park)
Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries)

Non Contracted – 16
Sasha Acheson (Bristol)
Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park)
Sarah Bern (Bristol)
Bianca Blackburn (Worcester Valkyries)
Poppy Cleall (Bristol)
Emma Croker (Richmond)
Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)
Abby Dow (Wasps)
Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park)
Ceri Large (Worcester Valkyries)
Poppy Leitch (Bristol)
Justine Lucas (Lichfield)
Fiona Pocock (Aylesford Bulls)
Alice Richardson (n/a)
Leanne Riley (Aylesford Bulls)
Joanne Watmore (n/a)

England’s upcoming fixtures:

 Old Mutual Wealth Series:

England v France, Wednesday 9 November,The Twickenham Stoop 7.30pm

England v New Zealand, Saturday 19 November, The Twickenham Stoop 12pm

England v Canada, Saturday 26 November,Twickenham 5.05pm
Free entry after the men’s game

Also one-off:

Ireland v England, Sunday 13 November,University College Dublin 2pm
 

Sailing news from Abby Ehler

Paralympics from the British side: Helena Lucas, who became Britain’s first Paralympic sailing champion winning gold at London 2012 sailing the 2.4mR, 1-person keelboat is defending her Gold medal and currently leading the fleet, with more racing scheduled over the next few days, weather permitting.  In the 3-person Keelboat, Hannah Stodel and her team mates who have been together for 4 consecutive Games are currently placed 5th in the fleet with 5 races to go and all to play for.

In the single handed offshore racing circuit, Justine Mettraux (SUI) and Sophie Faguet (FRA) are 150 miles from their finish, having been at sea since September 10th up against gruelling conditions as they race from the Azores to France in the 15-strong fleet. The teams are expected into Douarnenez, near Brest this weekend.  Justine is currently lying in a respectable 7th place, neck and neck with 3 other competitors, so it will be a nail biting finish for the leading pack.

 

 

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Women’s Sports Column 4-10 June

sarah TaylorLots to get through again this week, so let’s crack on.  There seem to be a lot of medical stories this week – some good, some bad.   I have snippets from tennis, athletics, gymnastics, hockey, horse racing, swimming, rowing, golf, judo, cricket and football.

The biggest tennis news obviously surrounds Maria Sharapova. She has been banned from tennis for two years after failing a drugs test.

She tested positive for meldonium, a heart disease drug that has been on the banned list since January 2016. It has emerged that she has been taking the medication since 2006.

Sharapova is set to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

 

On the positive side, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza won the French Open at Roland Garros on Saturday, beating Serena Williams in straight sets 7-5 6-4.

It was clear that Williams was suffering with an injury throughout the tournament and did not look herself. But an injured Serena is often as dangerous as a fit Serena and Muguruza must have been aware of that.

Williams was aiming to win her fourth French Open title, Muguruza her first. Williams was beaten by the better player on the day and was quick to dispel the idea that her opponent had won largely because of the injury;

“It was OK,” she said. “I’m not one to ever make excuses and say, like, ‘Oh, my adductor was hurting,’ or whatever.

“At the end of the day I didn’t play the game I needed to play to win and she did. Adductor or not, she played to win.

“She won the first set by one point. I mean, that just goes to show you that you really have to play the big points well, and she played the big points really well.”

 

This week has seen the start of the run-up to Wimbledon with the traditional warm-up tournaments being played. Britain’s top women have been in action at Nottingham, but have not fared too well.

Laura Robson went out in the first round, losing 6-3 7-5 to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal. Heather Watson took the first set in her first round game against Magdalena Rybarikova, but eventually lost 4-6 6-0 6-4.

Naomi Broady fared no better, 6-2 6-1 to Su-Wei Hsieh.

This left British number one, Johanna Konta, and qualifier Tara Moore as the only Britons left in the competition.

Johanna Konta made it to the second round, beating Victoria Duval from the USA 6-3 6-0 in the first, before succumbing to Zheng Saisai, ranked 44 places below her, 6-4 7-5. Konta had to call a medical time out for what she called a “niggle” in her pelvis, but expects to compete fully in the run-up to Wimbledon.

Tara Moore, however, continues to fly the flag for Britain. She has, very impressively, reached the quarter-finals. In the first round she beat Donna Vekic of Croatia, 6-2 7-5 and conquered Christina McHale in the second round 6-2 6-2.

 

In athletics, long jumper Shara Proctor finished third at the Oslo Diamond League meeting this week with a season’s best 6.67m.

Anyika Onuora was fourth in the 400m and Tiffany Porter also fourth in the 100m hurdles.

 

Great Britain’s gymnasts produced an excellent performance to win silver at the European Gymnastics Championships in Bern, Switzerland, over the weekend. Becky Downie, Ellie Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Gabby Jupp and Ruby Harrold finished with a score of 170.312, second behind Russia.

 

New Zealand’s Black Sticks caused somewhat of an upset this week as they beat Australia in Darwin to win gold at the International Hockey Open.

They had been beaten by the Hockeyroos at the round robin stage, but had their revenge in the final, taking it 2-0. Goals from Kelsey Smith and Olivia Merry in the first half were enough to take te title.

This is great preparation for the side which flies to London next week to take parting the Champions Trophy in London from 19-27 June.

 

Jockey Michelle Payne was released from hospital this week after suffering a serious fall in May. She had surgery on her pancreas and has been told to rest for at least another month. There has been some speculations that her career may be at an end, but Payne is yet to make a decision on that front.

“I’m going to be guided by my doctors and how I feel in myself,” she said.

 

Commonwealth Games bronze medal winning swimmer Erraid Davies may not get a chance to compete at the Paralympics in Rio later on this year.

She was told in April that her disability may not be serious enough for her to compete. Davies has Perthes disease which affects her hip bones and joints.

She now faces a medical panel in Berlin to assess her eligibility. However, because of the classification issue she missed the British Para-swimming trials in Glasgow which is the only competition for swimmers to achieve the qualifying standard.

So not only does she not know if she can compete due to the re-classification of her condition, if she is passed able to compete, she may not be able to qualify in time. There seems something wrong there to me.

 

It looks as if rower Katherine Grainger’s quest to compete for a fifth Olympic medal is in doubt.   She did not meet the time required to qualify for the women’s eight and was not on the list of 43 announced by Team GB on Thursday.

She can still be selected for the double scull with Vicky Thornley and, if the comments of British Rowing’s performance director, Sir David Tanner, are anything to go by, Grainger will still feature;

“It’s my confident intention very soon to be announcing those two back in their double and racing for Team GB at the Rio Games.

“There is no uncertainty. The only issue is that we weren’t ready to get the announcement in in time for today. It’s quite straightforward,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

 

The Women’s PGA Championship is underway at the Sahalee Country Club in Washington.

After the first round, Canada’s Brooke Henderson is leading on -4 with Christina Kim of USA and Kim In-Kyung of Korea tied on -2 in second.   Henderson’s first round score included a hole-in-one at the par-three 13th.

Some of Britain’s best players are also in action; Melissa Reid and Jodi Ewart Shadoff are both five shots off the lead, with Charley Hull a further shot behind on +2. Catriona Matthew, however is in danger of missing the cut as she stands on +5.

There was good news from Bangkok, Thailand this week as British judoka, Steph Inglis, woke from her coma. Inglis was hospitalised in Vietnam after falling off a motorbike when her skirt got trapped in the wheel when she was on her way to her teaching job in Ha Long. She was initially given just a 1% chance of survival, but has now been transferred to Bangkok to continue her recovery.

She apparently had one eye open when her parents arrived to visit on Tuesday. Her mother asked her blink and she did and then reached for her father’s hand.

She obviously has a long way to go, but at least her family and friends have some encouragement at this point.

 

More details have emerged this week as to the cause of England cricket star Sarah Taylor’s reasons for taking a break from cricket. She has revealed that for the past four years she has been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.

It’s really worth watching the BBC interview with Joe Wilson in full. In it Taylor speaks sensibly and frankly about her condition,

“My health is the most important thing and unfortunately my cricket has to come second,” she says.

Taylor is likely to miss the England series with Pakistan as well as the inaugural Kia Super League, which starts at the end of July.

She clearly realises that her recovery will take a while, but it is good to hear that she is confident of her return,

“I would like to say I’m 99% sure I will play cricket again.”

She also emphasises how grateful she has been for the support she has received from the ECB and, in particular, new England coach, Mark Robinson.

It has been well documented that cricket has always had a number of players who have suffered with mental health problems, and more than its fair share of suicides. Whilst the sport as a whole was slow to recognise this fact, it seems that now the support required is in place and providing a vital service. If you are interested in this subject, or if it affects you, you should also listen to the BBC TMS podcast interview with Graeme Fowler – one of my favourite players growing up, who revealed relatively recently his battle with depression. A moving and informative piece.

 

It’s be a great week for the England Lionesses with two thumping wins against Serbia on Saturday and Tuesday, and the news that they have qualified for the 2017 Euros with two games to spare.

On Saturday, England won 7-0 at Adams Park in High Wycombe. They took the lead early through Alex Greenwood and were 3-0 up by half-time through a Karen Carney penalty and a first goal for England from Rachel Daly.

In the second half England took complete control. Ellen White and Izzy Christiansen scored one each and Karen Carney sealed a hat-trick to make it 7-0. A crowd of 5.503 saw an impressive display, admittedly against a poor Serbia side.

On Tuesday it was the return fixture in Stara Pazova. And for the second time in four days, England put seven past their opponents.

Gemma Davison finally got on the scoresheet with two goals while Jill Scott opened the scoring and Ellen White added a second. Nikita Parris also bagged two goals, with the seventh coming from a Damjanovic own goal which completed another impressive and resounding win.

The week was capped for England when they were informed that through those two performances they had acquired the points they need to qualify for next year’s tournament. They still have to play Estonia at home and Belgium away to decide who finishes top.

Scotland had a mixed week in their quest for qualification. They suffered a terrible 4-0 home defeat to Iceland last Friday, but came back with an excellent win in Belarus 1-0 on Tuesday.

Scotland desperately want to avoid finishing second and going in to the play-offs. They have failed to get into the last two Euro Championships by losing in play-offs.

On Friday they were outplayed by Iceland, with BBC Player of the Year, Kim Little, also missing a penalty.

But on Tuesday it was a different matter. Jo Love scored the only goal in Minsk after 15 minutes and held on for the win to temporarily put themselves back on top of the table.

However, Iceland then beat Macedonia 8-0 to return to pole position and put Scotland under pressure once more.

 

And finally, former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro has settled her constructive dismissal case with Chelsea, but not before she had chance to reveal in court some of what went on at the club on a day-to-day basis. Chelsea had offered her the sum of 1.2 million pounds to settle out of court, but she turned them down.

Over the time between she turned them down and the details emerging of the treatment she suffered at the club, I heard more than one person expressing their disgust at her “greed” for not taking the money. Many of the mainstream newspapers took the same view, although, and somewhat surprisingly, I did see that the Metro front page described it in their headline as “hush money”.

And did Chelsea have something they needed to keep hushed?  They certainly did. They were forced to release a statement in which they said,

“The club regrets the circumstances which led to Dr Carneiro leaving the club and apologises unreservedly to her and her family for the distress caused.

“We wish to place on record that in running onto the pitch Dr Carneiro was following both the rules of the game and fulfilling her responsibility to the players as a doctor, putting their safety first.

It added: “Jose Mourinho also thanked Dr Carneiro for the excellent and dedicated support she provided as first team doctor and he wishes her a successful career.”

Dr Carneiro alleged that Jose Mourinho said that she had no place with the men’s first team,

“She works in academy team or ladies team, not with me.”

She was subjected to a barrage of sexually explicit comments, both from away fans and her own colleagues. And while the former could, unfortunately, be expected, she should not have had to put up with the latter. She claimed that the club took no notice of any of her complaints.

So, basically she was demoted then sacked for doing her job in a situation where she was constantly belittled and objectified. I would like to congratulate Dr Carneiro (called “girl doc” in a Daily Star headline – gosh she must have started her medical degree when she was nine) for having the guts to stand up to the machismo-machine that is the Premier League. Hopefully her example will make it easier for women currently suffering similarly to make their case.