Welcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get into this week with stories from the Winter Olympics, netball, AFL, football, cycling, rugby and cricket.
So let’s crack on.
I don’t plan to cover everything, just what I would consider the highlights. Only one place to start…
Short track speed skating
What does Elise Christie have to do to get an Olympic medal? At least she didn’t get disqualified from the 500m; if you remember, she was relegated from all three distances at Sochi, but this will be scant consolation for the Scot who fell in her first final this week.
She had been going so well, making the final with two Olympic record times. But it seems to me that short-track is a lottery at the best of times and in this final it was even more congested as five skaters contested it instead of the usual four.
Christie fell on the penultimate lap, but that was not the end of the controversy as home favourite, Choi Minjeong, was relegated and the Canadian, Kim Boutin took bronze.
Arianna Fontana of Italy took gold, with Yara van Kerkhof in silver and Kim Boutin of Canada in bronze. Christie was officially placed fourth. There have been reports that Boutin has received death threats after taking the bronze medal away from Choi, which, if true, is a pretty sad and ludicrous state of affairs.
Christie has two more chances to win a medal; in the 1000m and 1500m.
Michaela Shiffrin duly took gold in the giant slalom on Thursday 15 February. She took gold in a two-run combined time of 2:2.02. Silver went to Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway with a time of 2:20.41 and bronze went to Italian Federica Brignone whose time was 2:20.48.
Shiffrin was going for four golds at Pyeongchang, but could finish only fourth in the slalom. She complained of feeling unwell afterwards. Frida Hansdotter of Sweden took the title, 0.05 seconds ahead of Wendy Holdener of Switzerland. Katharina Gallhuber of Austria took bronze.
Shiffrin still has chances to add to her medal tally in the downhill and alpine combined.
It’s two wins and one loss for Team Muirhead so far as the round robin stage begins to take shape.
They began with an easy victory over the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) 10-3, but were then beaten by the US team 4-7.
It was back to winning ways in the third match with a tense 8-7 win over China that went to sudden death after the teams finished at 7-7 after 10 ends.
I have deliberately stayed out of the patronising “Cool Runnings” hype that has continuously done the rounds since the Jamaican women entered a team for the Olympic bobsleigh. But things have taken a ridiculous turn for Jazmine Fenlater-Victorian and Carrie Russell.
Three days before the start of the Games, their coach Sandra Kiriasis quit, and in true tantrum style, took her bobsleigh with her. She claimed that she had secured the sled through her contacts and was “legally responsible” for how and when it was used.
Now the team expects to compete with a sled “donated” by Jamaican beer producer, Red Stripe.
But the sled needs to be checked by the IBSF and cleared to run if they make it to the actual race runs. They also need to make two runs in official training without crashing to be allowed to compete in the race proper. It will take the duo some time to get used to a new sled – let’s hope they can get it together in time.
Netball – on the court
Vitality Netball Superleague
The 2018 Superleague season began on Saturday and the results were as follows:
Team Northumbria 39-52 Team Bath
Severn Stars 47-48 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning 55-44 UWS Sirens
Wasps Netball 68-43 Surrey Storm
Celtic Dragons 49-61 Benecos Mavericks
Round two is this weekend. The Sky televised match will be Manchester Thunder v UWS Sirens on Monday at 7pm. Here are the fixtures in full:
Saturday 17 February
Severn Stars v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Team Northumbria v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)
Monday 19 February
Celtic Dragons v Team Bath (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v UWS Sirens (7pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Surrey Storm (7.30pm)
Netball – off the court
England have announced their squad for this April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia:
Ama Agbeze, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Jade Clarke, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Jodie Gibson, Serena Guthrie, Jo Harten, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Helen Housby, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman.
Other squads to follow as they are announced.
Saturday 10 February
England 52-0 Wales
A more than comfortable win for England as they scored eight tries without reply at the Stoop on Saturday. Poppy Cleall scored the first for the Red Roses after eight minutes and this was converted by Katy McLean. Abigail Dow scored a second on 17 and scrum-half Leanne Riley grabbed a third four minutes later. On the half-hour England secured their bonus point as Ellie KIldunne scored the first of her two and it was 26-0 at half-time.
It was more of the same in the second period. There was a second for Kildunne and a second for Cleall. Marlie Packer and Rachel Burford scored the others and McLean kicked six conversions in total.
Scotland 3-26 France
Scotland deserved so much more than three points for all their skill and effort in atrocious conditions at Scotstoun.
There were handling errors aplenty as the ball took on the aspect of a bar of soap, but it was France who held it together sufficiently to take the win.
The Scots took the lead through a Sarah Law penalty, but two storming tries from Agathe Sochat and Cyrielle Banet gave France a 12-3 lead at half-time.
There was no further score until nine minutes from time when France went over twice as Scotland tired. Tries from Caroline Boujard and Jade le Pesq saw France take the bonus point win. Tremouliere also kicked three from four conversions.
Sunday 11 February
Ireland 28-8 Italy
Italy were well in this match up to half-time. The Irish went in 7-3 ahead but were not convincing. Megan Williams scored the opening try after 10 minutes and this was converted by Niamh Briggs, but there was no further scoring until first-half injury time when Michela Sillari put over a penalty.
In the second-half Ireland got it together, scoring two further tries as the Italians tired. Ciara Griffin scored both after 67 and 74, both of which were converted by Briggs.
Italy scored a consolation try in the last minute through Eleonora Ricci, but this went unconverted.
Round three takes place 23-25 February.
Tyrell’s Premier 15s
Just one result from the weekend:
DMP Sharks 22-31 Harlequins
With that win, Harlequins are just six points behind Saracens at the top of the table. Sarries still top then on 65, with Harlequins second on 60, Wasps third on 49 and Gloucester-Hartpury fourth.
This weekend’s fixtures are:
Saturday 17 February
Harlequins v Worcester Valkyries (1.30pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Bristol (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (2pm, Allianz Park)
Loughborough Lightning v DMP Sharks (3pm, Loughborough University)
Sunday 18 February
Richmond v Firwood Waterloo (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Sarah Storey has announced that she will compete for Great Britain at the Para-Cycling Track World Championships in March. She is back on track after missing the 2017 season after the birth of her second child.
The full women’s team is:
Lora Fachie & Corrine Hall, Sophie Thornhill & Helen Scott, Katie Toft, Megan Giglia, Crystal Lane-Wright, Sarah Storey.
Australian Rules Football
There were more developments in the case of Hannah Mouncey this week. The AFL has agreed to let her play women’s football for Victoria state.
She becomes the first transgender player to play at state level, having previously played at local level for Canberra.
Scores from the weekend’s FAWSL matches were as follows:
Saturday 10 February
Birmingham City 0-2 Chelsea
Bristol City 1-2 Sunderland AFC
Sunday 11 February
Manchester City 4-0 Liverpool
Arsenal 4-0 Yeovil Town
Everton 2-1 Reading
Another big win for Man City sees them two points clear on 25 from nine games at the top of WSL1. Chelsea lie second on 23 from nine, with Arsenal third on 17 from nine. Yeovil are still rock bottom after eight games and yet to take a point.
Durham FC 1-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Aston Villa 0-2 Millwall Lionesses
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 London Bees
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Oxford United
Watford FC v Sheffield FC (postponed)
Doncaster Rovers Belles have a slender one-point lead at the top of WSL2. They have 23 from nine matches with Millwall in second with 22 from nine. Brighton lie third on 16 from eight games. Watford are bottom of the pile with just one point from seven games.
Cricket – on the field
After pummelling their hosts in the first two ODIs, there was a somewhat surprising result in the third, which took place Potchefstroom on Saturday 10 February:
India 240 all out (50 overs)
South Africa 241/3 (49.2 overs)
South Africa won by 7 wickets with 4 balls remaining
Mithali Raj won the toss and elected to bat first. They got off to a bad start when Smriti Mandhana was out for a duck, caught by Wolvaardt off the bowling of Ismail. Raj was the second to go for just five. There was a fine 79 from Dipti Sharma and 56 from Krishnamurthy, but the innings stuttered to 240 all out as Poonam Yadav was run out on the last ball. Shabnim Ismail was the main wicket-taker with 4/30 off nine overs.
In response, Lizelle Lee went early for 10, but Wolvaardt scored 59 and Mignon du Preez 90 not out as they reached their total comfortably with Dane van Niekerk contributing 41 not out at the other end.
The series goes to India 2-1.
We are now into a five-match T20 series.
First T20 – 13 February
South Africa 164/4 (20 overs)
India 168/3 (18.5 overs)
India won by 7 wickets with 7 balls remaining
India put South Africa in to bat in the first T20 at Potchefstroom on Tuesday. All of the South Africa batters got in but couldn’t get to the big score that would take the game away from India. In the end, the visitors reached their total with seven balls to spare, Mithali Raj top-scoring on 54 not out.
The other four fixtures take place on 16, 18, 21 and 24 February. More news and match reports next week.
Cricket – off the field
Ellyse Perry is now top of the ODI batting rankings, taking over from Mithali Raj. She also leads the all-rounders rankings.
Raj is second, with Meg Lanning in third.