Women’s Sports Column 8-14 September 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column.  I’m back!  Didn’t miss much did I?  Just the end of the Kia Super League, the start of the WSL, the start of the rugby union Premier 15s season, the Lionesses qualifying for the World Cup?  No, not much.

I can’t pretend to give you updates on all that, so I hope you managed to get your women’s sport fix elsewhere over the last couple of weeks.  Mind you, I also hope you’re back to read my column again this week!

But my goodness, there’s plenty to get through this week including stories from cycling, tennis, golf, football, cricket, netball, athletics, rugby union and mountain biking.

Before we start though, congratulations to Surrey Stars for their Kia Super League triumph on 27 August.   Just when I thought Loughborough Lightning may bag the title at last, they completely crumbled in the final and Surrey Stars were the winners.  Without resorting to saying “cricket was the winner” this year, I’d just like to say that the tournament  this season was excellent – the new expanded fixture list to include both home and away ties makes so much more sense.  Shame it’s all going to go in 2020…..

Cycling – Kristina Vogel

I was going to start with the US Open women’s singles final, but hey, some things are more important and Kristina Vogel’s story is one of them.

Back at the end of June double Olympic champion Kristina Vogel crashed into another rider during training.

The spinal injury she sustained has left her unable to walk.

In an interview with Der Spiegel she said,

“I believe that the sooner you accept a new situation, the sooner you learn to deal with it.

“I was in pain, but there are no words….On the first X-ray images my spine looks like an Ikea folding table.

“In the meantime, I really thought that I was dying. But I said to myself: ‘I cannot let go here now.’

“No matter what fate holds for you, life goes on, in my case now on four wheels instead of two wheels. My arms are now my legs too.”

Without wanting to sound mawkish, one does imagine that, having come to terms with her situation, she will be incredibly determined and ultimately successful in whatever she tackles next.

You can here Vogel talking about the crash and its aftermath in the BBC’s BeSpoke podcast:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06l0l6g

Tennis – US Open

Where to start with this?

Williams v Osaka

Sticking to the facts: Naomi Osaka in the US Open champion and a worthy winner.  She won in straight sets 6-2 6-4.

In addition to this, Williams was given a code violation for coaching, penalised a point for smashing her racquet and finally docked a game for verbal abuse.

That much we know and is fact.   The rest is now so bound up in name-calling, claim and counter-claim that whatever I say would not change any minds or make things clearer.

Any regular reader will know that I admire Serena immensely and the greatest feeling I have about this whole episode is sadness.  I am said that Osaka did not receive the recognition she deserved at the time – in fact I’m just sad that any of it happened.

I’m not going to say Serena was right in her prolonged outburst, but I do understand her frustration.  There are faults on both sides.  There is sexism in the game of tennis (as there is in most sports).  I saw a tweet from someone who showed a picture of a baseball player with his finger in the umpire’s face and it was described as “arguing a strike”.  Serena’s similar picture with the pointing finger is described as “having a meltdown”.

How is it remedied?  By calling it into question, certainly, but not, as Serena did, during a championship final.  Serena has been fighting both racism and sexism throughout her career and I think, at this point, at the age of 36 she probably was just wondering why she was still having to battle with it.  She went too far.  I nearly put, “but that’s who she is”, but that is the Kevin Pietersen defence and I don’t hold with it.

Women’s tennis has a long way to go in its fight for equality.  The sight of a frustrated Williams endeavouring to fight her corner will have, unfortunately, done nothing to help.

Other finals

Thirteenth seeds Ash Barty and Coco Vandeweghe won the women’s doubles, coming from a set down to beat second seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos 3-6 7-6 7-6.

Both pairings were unseeded in the mixed doubles final.  Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray won it, beating Alicja Rosolska and Nikola Mektic 2-6 6-3 11-9.

After dropping the first set they fought back to level and the third went to a match tie-break.  They went 4-1 down in the tie-break, but came back again and won it on their fourth match point.

In the wheelchair singles, number two seed Diede de Groot defeated 2017 champion and top seed Yui Kamiji 6-2 6-3.

Mountain Biking

Rachel Atherton claimed her fifth Mountain Bike World Championship title at the weekend. She won the downhill final in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

She finished nearly ten seconds ahead of fellow Briton Tahnee Seagave.  Myriam Nicole of France was third.

Athletics

Another week, another championships, this time the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Last weekend saw Team Americas claim the title, beating defending champions, Europe, by 29 points.

For those who are unfamiliar with the event, the Continental Cup takes place every four years.  This year’s was the third event, with the Americas having won the first and Europe the second.  Teams from Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa take part.  It replaced the World Cup for individual nations in 2010.

There were seven British women taking part.

Highlights:

Dina Asher-Smith finished second in the 100m in 11.16 seconds.  The winner was Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast who ran in a time of 11.14 seconds.

Kristal Awuah, Bianca Williams, Imani Lansiquot and Asher-Smith finished second in the 4 x 100m in a time of 42.55 seconds. The Americas won by just under half a second.

Meghan Beesley finished fourth in the 400m hurdles behind Janieve Russell of Jamaica.

Shara Proctor finished fifth in the long jump as Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen claimed the triple jump/long jump double.

The Americas also won the 100m hurdles through Jamaica’s Danielle Williams as team-mate Kendra Harrison of USA finished second.

Americas sealed the win by claiming victory in the mixed 4x400m relay. Their team of Christian Taylor, Luguelin Santos, Stephenie Ann McPherson and Shaunae Miller-Uibo won in a time of 3:13.01 ahead of Africa in second and Asia in third.  The European team was disqualified.  Miller-Uibo won three titles including the 4 x 400m, 4 x 100m and the 200m.

Caster Semenya won the women’s 800m for Africa in one minute 54.77 seconds.

Great North Run

It was a Kenya 1-2-3 in the women’s race.  Vivian Cheruiyot won it with a personal best time of 67 minutes 43 seconds.  Brigid Kosgei (67:52) was second and Joyciline Jepkosgei (68.10) came third.

Martyna Snopek of Poland won the women’s wheelchair race in 63 minutes 02 seconds.

Rugby League

Two results from last weekend in the Women’s Super League:

Featherstone Rovers 12-20 York City Knights
Wigan Warriors 10-12 Castleford Tigers

With most teams having played 10 games, St Helens lie top on points difference with 15 points from Wigan Warriors.  Leeds are third with 14, but have only played nine games.  At the bottom, York City Knights claimed their first win of the season at the weekend and are now level  with next to bottom Featherstone Rovers on two points.

Golf

It’s the final women’s major of the season this weekend, the Evian Championship in France.

After the first round Carlota Ciganda of Spain and Maria Torres of Puerto Rico are on -6, one shot ahead of Austin Ernst of USA.  Ryu So-yeon (Korea), Brooke Henderson (Canada) and Nasa Hataoka (Japan) are one further back on -4.

Georgia Hall lies -3, Bryony Hall -2 and Charley Hull +1.

Netball

Domestic

A double blow for Loughborough Lightning this week as top players Peace Proscovia and Beth Cobden both confirmed they are to leave to play In Australia.  Proscovia is going to Sunshine Coast Lightning (yes, lightning), In Australia.  She gave an emotional interview, which you can see here:

http://loughboroughsport.com/blog/2018/09/06/proscovia-heading-for-pastures-new/

She finishes studying for her MSc at Loughborough this autumn and then will go on to do a PhD at the University of the Sunshine Coast.  Loughborough’s loss will very much be Sunshine Coast’s gain.  We will be able to see Peace back in this country when she plays for Uganda at next year’s World Cup in Liverpool in July.  If you can’t wait that long, England play Uganda in a three-match series in November/December this year.  Check out www.netballengland.co.uk for details.

Cobden is off to play for Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Netball World Cup

Qualifying is finished and we now know the 16 teams who will be vying for the World Cup crown in July.

Automatic qualifiers:

England (host nation), Australia, New Zealand Jamaica, South Africa and Malawi.

Qualifers from regional tournaments:

Scotland, Northern Ireland, Fiji, Samoa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

The group draw will be made on 15 September.  More news of that next week.

General tickets go on sale on 19 September – get in as soon as you can.  Click here for details.

Cricket

India and Sri Lanka are warming up for the T20 World Cup in November with a three-match ODI and five-match T20 series in Sri Lanka.

India have already clinched the ODI series, having won the first two matches with points counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

First ODI
11 September, Galle
Sri Lanka 98 all out (35.1 overs)
India 100/1 (19.5 overs)
India won by 9 wickets

It was a one-sided start in Galle.  Sri Lanka could only muster 98, skittled out with nearly 15 overs to go.  Captain Jayangani top-scored with 33, but only two other players made it into double figures.

Joshi took 3/16 and Goswami 2/13.

India knocked off the total with 181 balls to spare.  Raut was the only wicket to fall, caught by Surangika off the bowling of Ranaweera for 24.  But Mandhana scored 73, Raj came in to face two balls, not scoring and India had won the match.

Second ODI
13 September, Galle
India 219 all out (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 212 all out (48.1 overs)
India won by 7 runs

The second ODI, by contrast, was a tightly fought affair with Sri Lanka only falling just short in their chase.

India started relatively poorly and at one stage were 36/3.  Bhatia top-scored with 68 and Raj scored 52 as they posted what they probably thought would easily be a winning score.

But Sri Lanka showed they can be doughty competitors.  Jayangani top-scored again with 57 and there were much better contributions throughout the batting order.  Siriwardene scored 49 before she was run out and de Silver 31, but they couldn’t quite get over the line.  Three run-outs did not help their cause.

Further news and scores next week.

Meanwhile South Africa begin a five-match ODI series against the West Indies in Bridgetown at the weekend.  Again there will be news of this next week.

England do not play again until 4 November, when they begin their World T20 warm-ups against Australia.

Rugby union

The new Premier 15s season got underway last weekend:

8 September
Firwood Waterloo 5-38 Saracens
DMP Sharks 27-24 Worcester Valkyries
Bristol Bears 17-32 Wasps
Gloucester-Hartpury 24-38 Harlequins
Loughborough Lightning 22-19 Richmond

After the turmoil of the restructure, this season should be all about consolidation and improvement.  There should be some good contests out there and the more support we show women’s rugby, the more it will thrive (as with all women’s sport).  There is tremendous goodwill towards the sport at the moment, especially at domestic level, so if you can, get out there and give them your support.

This weekend’s round two fixtures:

15 September
Wasps v Loughborough (1.35pm, Ealing Trailfinders RFC)
Saracens v Worcester (2.30pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury (3pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Richmond v Firwood Waterloo (5pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Harlequins v Bristol Bears (5.30pm, The Stoop)

Football

After all the Wales v England and Scotland’s qualification for the World Cup excitement a couple of weeks ago (all of which I missed), it was back to domestic duty this week as the WSL kicked off and midweek also saw the first leg of the Round of 32 of the Champions League.

WSL

9 September
Reading 4-0 Yeovil
Davison 5’, Williams 11’, Bruton 59’ pen, Allen 61’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-1 Bristol City
Graham 70’

Arsenal 5-0 Liverpool
Miedema 6’ 39’ 90’, Evans 14’, Little 35’

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City

Birmingham City 1-0 Everton
Wellings 1’

Championship
9 September

Aston Villa 0-12 Manchester United
James 10’ 23’, Sigsworth 25’ 33’ 35’ 49’ 61’, Zelem 29’ pen, Hanson 55’ 59’, Green 66’, Toone 69’
Good for football?  I don’t think so.

Millwall Lionesses 0-3 Lewes
Quayle 2’, Carter 24’, Bergin 44’

Sheffield United 0-2 Durham
Salicki 57’, Reid 79’

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 London Bees
Haines 73’ pen, Green 80’
Howells 22’

Crystal Palace 0-2 Leicester City
Johnson 18’, Morgan 75’

This weekend it’s back to Continental Cup action – I hope you’re all keeping up with this.  For fixture details see: https://womenscompetitions.thefa.com/Support/Fixtures

Champions League – Round of 32, 1st leg

Wednesday 12 September

BIIK-Kazykurt 3-1 Barcelona
Although Toni Duggan scored for Barcelona, they will have to win well at home to progress.

Rayazan 0-1 Rosengard

Barcelona FA (Cyprus) 0-2 Glasgow City
Two red cards in the game as Rita Akaffou and Leanne Ross were sent off for Barcelona and Glasgow respectively.  Goals for Glasgow came from Hayley Lauder 3’ and Leanne Crichton 83’.  Glasgow must have a good chance of going through with their home leg to come.

Sarajevo 0-5 Chelsea
All over in Chelsea’s favour, you’d have to think.  Goals from Millie Bright 6’, Drew Spence 22’, Maria Thorisdottir 36’, Ji So-yun 87’ and Adelina Engman 89’ see them well ahead going into the second leg.

ZFK Spartak Subotica 0-7 Bayern Munich
Zhytiobud-1 1-6 Linkoping
Avaldsnes 0-2 Lyon
Honka 0-1 Zurich
Thor/KA Women 0-1 Wolfsburg
Ajax 2-0 Sparta Praha
Fiorentina 2-0 Fortuna Hjorring
St Polton 1-4 PSG
Juventus 2-2 Brondby

13 September
Gintra 0-3 Slavia Praha
Lillestrom 3-0 Zvezda 2005

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Manchester City
Gemma Bonner scored in the 16th minute and City looked to have won it until Madrid equalised on 89 minutes through Kenti Robles.

Second leg fixtures are 26-27 September

Lionesses

Don’t forget, England have a series of friendlies coming up in October and November.  It all begins on 6 October at Meadow Lane, Nottingham against Brazil.  Kick-off time for that one is 12.30pm.  Then the Lionesses face Australia at Craven Cottage, Fulham on Tuesday 9 October at 7pm and finally they play Sweden on Sunday 11 November at the AESSEAL New York Stadium, Rotherham at 1.30pm.  Let’s get these games sold out.  Tickets available from the FA website: https://ticketing.thefa.com/

That’s more than enough for this week.  More news and views next week.

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Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2018

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  Lots to catch up with again this week with stories from cycling, tennis, netball, football, golf, cricket and athletics.

So let’s crack on.

Cricket

Just when you thought New Zealand had collapsed in a terminal heap, they came back in the third ODI to beat England convincingly and take a precious two points in the ICC Championship.

Third ODI
England 219 all out (47.4 overs)
New Zealand 224/6 (44.4 overs)
NZ women won by 4 wickets

It looked to be a case of same old, same old when England started with a stand of 10.  Beaumont was first to fall with 53 from 66 balls.   Winfield fell soon after on just five, but Jones was still going strong until she was stumped by Martin off the bowling of Watkin for 78.

After that, however, there was a succession of poor shots that saw England dismissed for 219.

Leigh Kasparek was, by far, the pick of the bowlers with 5/39 off 9.4 overs.

It should never have been enough, but we had seen collapses aplenty from this White Ferns side for nothing to be certain.

In fact it all went wrong to begin with when Jess Watkin was given lbw to Brunt for a duck in the first over.   But Sophie Devine was having none of it.  She smashed 117 not out from 116 balls, ably assisted first by Green (23), then Satterthwaite (25) and finally by Martin (23) to see them home with 32 balls to spare.

Sadly that sees the end of England’s international summer (July!) and now begins the women’s T20 showpiece, the Kia Super League.

The squads have now been announced.  It’s a quality product, so can I please suggest if you’re anywhere near a game, you go out and support it?  You can view all of the upcoming fixtures here:

https://www.ecb.co.uk/matches/super-league/fixtures

Loughborough Lightning

Georgia Elwiss (C),  Rachael Haynes, Sophie Devine, Kirsty Gordon, Georgia Adams, Tara Norris, Jenny Gunn, Sarah Glenn, Elyse Villani, Sonia Odedra, Lucy Higham, Abbey Freeborn, Amy Jones, Jo Gardner.

Western Storm

Heather Knight (C), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Stafanie Taylor, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Alice McLeod, Sophie Luff, Amara Carr, Naomi Dattani, Rebecca Silk, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Danielle Gibson, Freya Davies.

Yorkshire Diamonds

Lauren Winfield, Katherine Brunt, Beth Langston, Alice Davidson-Richards, Beth Mooney, Chamari Atapattu, Delissa Kimmince, Helen Fenby, Katie Levick, Sophie Munro, Bess Heath, Thea Brookes, Alice Monaghan, Gwen Davies, Katie Thompson.

Lancashire Thunder

Danielle Hazell (C), Kate Cross, Emma Lamb, Sophie Ecclestone, Natalie Brown, Natasha Miles, Amy Satterthwaite, Ellie Threlkeld, Nicole Bolton, Georgie Boyce, Rachel Dickinson, Alice Dyson, Alex Hartley, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur.

Southern Vipers

Georgia Adams, Suzie Bates, Arran Brindle, Ellen Burt, Izzy Collis, Charlie Dean, Mignon du Preez, Charlotte Edwards, Tash Farrant, Katie George, Hayley Matthews, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Linsey Smith, Danni Wyatt.

Surrey Stars

Nat Sciver (C), Aylish Cranstone, Sophia Dunkley, Grace Gibbs, Gayatri Gole, Eva Gray, Hannah Jones, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee, Laura Marsh, Bryony Smith, Sarah Taylor, Rhianna Southby, Dane van Niekerk, Mady Villiers.

This weekend’s fixtures are on Sunday 22 July:

Surrey Stars v Southern Vipers (Woodbridge Road, Guildford, 2.30pm)
Western Storm v Yorkshire Diamonds (County Ground, Taunton, 2.30pm)
Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Trafalgar Road Ground, Southport 2.30pm)

Tennis

Wimbledon

Angelique Kerber took the singles title at Wimbledon, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets 6-3 6-3.

The doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Katerina Siniaková, who beat Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke (12) 6-4 4-6 6-0

Alexander Peya and Nicole Melichar (11) took the mixed doubles title, who defeated the unseeded Jamie Murray and Victoria Azarenka 7-6 6-3.

In the wheelchair singles, number one seed Diede De Groot beat the unseeded Aniek Van Koot 6-3 6-2

Diede De Groot then went on to take the doubles title with partner Yui Kamiji, as the number one seeds  beat Sabine Ellerbrock & Lucy Shuker 6-1 6-1.

The tournament has caused plenty of movement in the world rankings.  Serena Williams is up to 28th, but Jo Konta is down to 50th.

Netball

Mikki Austin has been appointed as Surrey Storm’s first Director of Netball.

Austin has played for the Storm since 2015, but she was injured for much of the 2018 season.

In an interview with the Netball Superleague website, Austin said,

“I am thrilled to be appointed as Director of Netball at Surrey Storm and, whilst the new season seems like a long way off at the moment, I cannot wait to get started on our preparations to make it a successful one.

“I am focusing on making sure we can attract some new players to add strength and bolster our already strong squad, so we are ready to compete at the highest level as we aim to compete for a top four spot.

“I have enjoyed every moment of my time with Storm so far, especially as we have enjoyed some great successes which I really want to be part of again; I have big aspirations for what we can achieve and I look forward to building an exciting next generation of Surrey Storm.”

Golf

Dame Laura Davies has won the first US Senior Women’s Open.

She took the title by a huge 10 shots at the Chicago Golf Club at the weekend.

Davies finished on 16 under par.  American Juli Inkster was second on six under and England’s Trish Johnson in third on four under.

Football

The biggest news of the week is that Marieanne Spacey-Cale is to leave the FA to take up the role of Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at Southampton FC.

With 91 England caps to her name, Spacey-Cale is considered to be one of England’s best ever female players.  She had been at the FA for 11 years as was part of Mark Sampson’s staff at the 2015 World Cup.

She was also Under 23s head coach and, most recently, England Women’s Player and Coach Developer.

This is a big move for Spacey-Cale and a big loss for the FA.  Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s Head of Women’s Football, must be wondering how to replace her.

“On behalf of everyone at The FA, I would like to wish Marieanne well – she leaves behind a great legacy through her work which has had a positive impact on the female game,” Campbell said on the FA website.

It also shows Southampton’s commitment to their women’s programme.

The transfer roundabout shows no sign of slowing.

This week:

  • England international Lianne Sanderson signed for Juventus, thus joining up with good friend Eni Aluko.
  • Scotland striker Christie Murray has signed for Liverpool.
  • Kirsty Smith and Lizzie Arnot also left Glasgow City this week, having been offered contracts at Manchester United.
  • Goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley has left Birmingham City to join Bristol City.
  • West Ham are still in the market and this week have signed American defender Brooke Hendrix from Brescia and Republic of Ireland striker Leanne Kiernan from Shelbourne Ladies.
  • Erin Cuthbert has signed a new three-year contract with champions, Chelsea.

Manchester United

Of course the major hoop-la of the week surrounded the announcement of the Manchester United squad.  England defender Alex Greenwood is club captain.  It is, no doubt, an impressive squad, packed with talent.  They have, however, got to work from scratch to make it into a team.  It will be fascinating to see what happens this season.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers
1 – Siobhan Chamberlain, 13 – Emily Ramsey, 22 – Fran Bentley

Defenders
2 – Martha Harris, 3 – Alex Greenwood, 4 – Amy Turner, 12 – Naomi Hartley, 15 – Lucy Roberts, 20 – Kirsty Smith

Midfielders
6 – Aimee Palmer, 8 – Mollie Green, 10 – Katie Zelem, 14 – Charlie Devlin, 16 – Lauren James, 17 – Lizzie Arnot, 21 – Millie Turner

Forwards
7 – Ella Toone, 9 – Jess Sigsworth, 11 – Leah Galton, 18 – Kirsty Hanson, 19 – Ebony Salmon

Athletics

The largely unheralded inaugural Athletics World Cup went to United States.  The US finished 57 points ahead of Poland, with Great Britain a further seven points behind in third.

The top GB women’s performance came from the 4 x 100m relay team of Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot, Bianca Williams and Shannon Hylton in 42.52 ahead of Jamaica in second in a time of 42.60 and China third in 42.94.  The US team didn’t finish.

The other GB performances of notes: Lorraine Ugen continued her good form with a win in the long jump with a distance of 6.86m.  Holly Bradshaw also won the pole vault with a season’s best 4.75m.

Beth Morgan won silver in the high jump, while Adelle Tracey also took silver in the 800m. Sophie Hitchon came second in the hammer with a season’s beat 73.48m and Meghan Beesley was also second in the 400m hurdles.

Beth Dobbin won bronze it the 200m as did Jemma Reekie in the 1500m.

Final Athletics World Cup standings:

  1. United States 219 points
  2. Poland 162 points
  3. Great Britain 155 points
  4. Jamaica 153 points
  5. France 146 points
  6. Germany 137 points
  7. South Africa 135 points
  8. China 81 points

Cycling

La Course

Annemiek van Vleuten retained her La Course title on Tuesday after overtaking Anna van der Breggen in the final 25 metres.

The one-stage race from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand was undertaken by 112 riders from 20 teams.

Van der Breggen looked odds-on to take the title as she pulled away up the final climb on the Col del a Colombiere and then further ahead on the descent.

But Van Vleuten was not to be beaten and took her chance as Van de Breggen tired at the very end.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa had kept up with the two Dutch riders, but falling away hung on to take third.

Top Ten Finishers:

  1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned/Mitchelton-Scott) 3hrs 20mins 43secs
  2. Anna van der Breggen (Ned/Boels-Dolmans) +1sec
  3. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SA/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 22secs
  4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 58secs
  5. Megan Guarnier (US/Boels-Dolmans) +2mins 19secs
  6. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol/Canyon SRAM) same time
  7. Katharine Hill (US/UnitedHealthcare) +2mins 22secs
  8. Amanda Spratt (Aus/Mitchelton-Scott) same time
  9. Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spa/Ale Cipollini) +2mins 24secs
  10. Erica Magnaldi (Ita/Bepink) same time

And so ends the women’s version of the Tour de France for another year.  Although it was a good race, there is no doubt that it is still a very unsatisfying experience, both for fans of women’s cycling and the cyclists themselves.

When will the (growing amount of) muttering stop and the action start?  When will we see a multi-stage event for women alongside the Tour de France?  I’m not holding my breath.  Until the big sponsors get on board there will be no change.  The will is there from the athletes and the teams, but without proactive movement from the governing body, the UCI, don’t expect anything to happen.

Other Cycling News

Lizzie Deignan will head up the new Trek Factory Racing team when she returns to the sport next season.

She is expecting her first child in September, but plans to be back in training in December.

In a telling statement she said,

“I chose Trek because rather than see me as a risk in pregnancy, they saw me as an investment and as a valued athlete.

“For me that was the biggest sign towards truly believing in equality.”

She leaves Boels-Dolmans at the end of the season, having ridden for them for five years.

And finally,

I’ve been listening to the BBC 5 Live coverage of The Open over the last two days.  And while I could definitely do without John Inverdale, there was a great discussion this morning about the perception of golf and how young people, minority ethnic people and women can be more attracted to it.  Absolutely loved Iain Carter’s impassioned arguments – brave of him to declare that however much the clubs and governing body say they are doing to be inclusive, there is, without doubt, still a problem with women in the game and they could and should be doing so much more.  I have a great respect for Carter – I pulled him up once for calling Caroline Wozniacki “Rory’s Belle” – she was engaged to Rory McIlroy at the time.  He responded to me immediately and was very apologetic that he had not recognised Wozniacki in her own right, but only as an appendage to McIlroy.  Keep at it Iain, perhaps they’ll listen eventually.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 July 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  When I started researching for this week’s column I thought it was going to be a quiet one, but the end of the week has brought such torrents of football news that the writing, I warn you, may just go on and on…

Stories this week come from, as I said, football (no, not that), athletics, cricket, tennis and netball.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

Superleague Grand Final
Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

Wasps proved too strong for Lightning again at the weekend as they claimed their second Grand Final a row, condemning the Lightning to be runners-up yet again, and by the same score.

After Lightning took an early lead, Wasps pulled it back and by the end of the first quarter it was 12 apiece.

The second quarter was tight until Wasps missed  a shot and Peace Proscovia put hers away at the other end  and Loughborough were ahead by two 21-19.  But they didn’t hold the lead for long, and by half-time the momentum had swung and Wasps were in front by four, 28-24.

Wasps pretty much maintained their lead in the third, which saw them three up by the end, 43-40.

But Loughborough were not giving up without a fight as they brought it back to 44-all.

This was as close as they got.  In the final minutes Wasps would pull away, and then Loughborough would get it back within two.  But in the end Wasps got the better of it and took the title again.

Other news

Big news from netball both in England and Australia this week as top two Vitality Superleague sides Wasps and Loughborough change their management teams and two big Diamonds stars announce their retirement.

Wasps Netball

Grand Final winners Wasps have appointed Mel Mansfield as their new Head Coach.  Mansfield had been assistant coach for the senior team for two years.

Tamsin Greenway has stepped down as Director of Netball but will stay with Wasps as a coach and brand ambassador.

Loughborough Lightning

Runners-up Lightning, meanwhile, have announced that their new Director of Netball will be Sara Bayman, who will join Loughborough from the Sirens in September.

Bayman is a former England international with 84 caps to her name.

Emily Perry will become Pathway Head Coach, moving from the Lightning Netball Academy.

Aussie Diamonds

Two Australian greats announced their international retirement this week:

Defender Laura Geitz won 71 caps, won two World Cups (2011, 2015) and Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow in 2014.

After giving birth to a son last year, Geitz had a break from netball, but knew she wanted to compete at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  The final, which the Diamonds lost to England Roses, was her last international match.

It is thought that she will continue her domestic netball career with Queensland Firebirds.

Just a day later, Madi Robinson also announced her retirement.  Robinson won 61 caps in an eight-year international career, playing at wing attack.

She was part of the gold-winning 2014 Commonwealth Games squad, but did not play in the 2015 World Cup due to injury.  She made a comeback at the Gold Coast Games.

She is also planning to continue her domestic career as captain of Collingwood.

 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague

But the week has not been without controversy.  The 2019 Superleague teams have been announced and, it’s safe to say, the North does not come out of it well.  Team Northumbria has withdrawn from the elite league and has been replaced by London Pulse.

The Pulse, under CEO Natalie Seaton, will play their home matches at the Copper Box.

England Netball CEO, Joanna Adams, said:

“We are delighted to welcome London Pulse into the Vitality Netball Superleague for 2019.

“They submitted an excellent proposal and it’s brilliant to have new investment into the league.”

There has been plenty of comment across social media platforms, with the new move being widely questioned.  There will be only Manchester Thunder representing the north and nothing in the northeast region at all.  It has been suggested that Leeds Rhinos would have been a more balanced fit, but it was not to be.  I would hate to see the sport become a “southern” sport – let’s hope the development of sides in the north continues and that, vitally, England Netball offers its support to teams and clubs in the north.

The ten teams who will take part in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague are:

Benecos Mavericks, Celtic Dragons, London Pulse, Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder, Severn Stars, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, UWS Sirens and Wasps Netball.

The 2018 Superleague awards were also announced this week.  The list of winners can be found here:

http://www.netballsl.com/2018/07/07/vnsl-2018-award-winners-announced/

Tennis – Wimbledon

Singles

It has been decided!  The Wimbledon women’s singles final will be between 25th seed Serena Williams and 11th Seed Angelique Kerber.

Both women have played some stunning tennis to get this far and both had straight sets victories in their semi-finals:

Williams beat 13th seed Julia Görges 6-2 6-4, while Kerber overcame French Open champion and 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3.

It is set to be a cracking final.  It all starts at 2pm on Saturday 14 July and UK coverage is via BBC Television and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Women’s Doubles

The women’s doubles semi-finals take place today (Friday 13 July) and will be as follows:

Kvete Peschke & Nicole Melichar (12) v Gabriela Dabrowski & Xu Yifan (6)
Alicja Rosolska & Abigail Spears v Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova (3)

Mixed Doubles

The semi-finals of the mixed doubles are also today (Friday) and there is still plenty of British interest, although someone will miss out as they play each other in the second semi-final:

Katerina Srebotnik & Michael Venus (9) v Nicole Melichar v Alexander Peya (11)
Harriet Dart & Jay Clarke (GB) v Victoria Azarenka & Jamie Murray (GB)

Wheelchair Singles

Of special note this year, Kgothatso Montjane is the first black South African woman to play at Wimbledon.

The ladies’ wheelchair singles semi-finals will be:

Aniek Van Koot v Yui Kamiji
Diede De Groot v Kgothatso Montjane

The wheelchair doubles semi-finals:

Diede De Groot & Yui Kamiji (1) v Katharina Kruger & Kgothatso Montjane
Sabine Ellerbrook & Lucy Shuker v Marjolein Buis & Aniek Van Koot (2)

All ties to be played today, Friday 13 July.

Football

I thought it was going to be all about the signings this week, but events have overtaken this until I am now starting to think, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the soul of the game is in peril.

The more news, the more my heart sinks and I wonder where it will end.  Does the FA actually have a plan?  Are they just going to wait to see who sinks and who swims?

Doncaster Rovers Belles

The news overshadowing everything this week is that Doncaster Belles will not be playing Championship football next season, but will drop down to the National League.  It a statement it said,

“The club can announce that for the 2018/2019 season we will be competing in the Women’s National League. We can confirm we have withdrawn from the Women’s Championship and await FA ratification of the move in their Special General Meeting (date to be confirmed). We have worked closely with the FA and have mutually agreed the change in leagues which will ensure the continued viability and re-growth of the club.

“Our 50th year is upon us and the recent changes have allowed us to reflect and refocus. Our philosophy has always been centred on creating opportunities for women and girls in football. We are proud of our legacy which has pioneered the women’s game. Our coaching structure focuses on individual development and has seen players hit personal achievements, move on to high profile clubs and created opportunities with national teams. Our unique female mentoring scheme for coaches and managers has seen tremendous talent enter the game and again move onto exciting opportunities within the sport including with the England Lionesses. This remains our philosophy and we are excited to see a wealth of young developing players have a great opportunity to hit their full potential under a fantastic coaching team.  More details will follow on our decision.

“We look forward to celebrating our 50th Birthday with you all #backthebelles and welcome your input and support.”

It has been said on social media that the club has only four players left, and their remaining is not a certainty.  There has been no word as to who will be taking their place in the Championship.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are celebrating as they are taking the Championship spot vacated by Sheffield FC.

Manchester United

And of course, there is always the looming presence of the new Manchester United outfit.  Casey Stoney announced this week that she now has a squad of 21 players, which will be unveiled on Friday 13 July.

Signings

There has been a considerable amount of disquiet this week amongst lovers of the women’s game about the numbers of overseas signings being made.  Are these good players, going to improve the health of the game in this country, or are they just cheap?  Is women’s football at the highest level about to go the way of the men’s Premier League in record time?  I really hope not.  Let’s hope that those signed from overseas are committed to playing here and making a difference, but let’s also hope that there are still pathways for young British players to come through and that they can get their chance at the biggest teams in the country.  I’d like to see every club with a wealth of talent and able to compete at the highest level – I don’t want it to become a fight for the title between the same four clubs every season.  Let’s see the best overseas players over here, enriching our clubs, teaching us what they have learnt in their respective leagues and making our clubs stronger both domestically and in the Champions League.

But let us not forget that professional women’s football in this country is, essentially, still in its infancy.  The FA is clearly going for a “survival of the fittest” policy and is unlikely to step in to help a club in trouble – and I have no confidence in it to have done the requisite checks before it issued licences.  I don’t think I’m alone in having a bad feeling about all of this.  More news and views as it happens.   

West Ham

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – West Ham mean business.  Matt Beard is assembling a fine squad, a good mixture of experience and youth.  They’ve been dabbling in the transfer market again this week:

Scotland striker Jane Ross has signed for them after being released by Manchester City.

They have also signed Dutch duo Esmee de Graaf from PEC Zwolle and Lucienne Reichardt from Dutch champions Ajax. De Graaf is a young striker, just 20, but she has already won two caps for the Netherlands.  Midfielder Reichardt is, by contrast, a relatively old hand at 27.

This takes the number of signings to seven, the others being Gilly Flaherty, Vyan Sampson, Rebecca Spencer and Brianna Visalli.

Reading

Reading, too, seem to be on the charge.  They have made an excellent signing, taking Gemma Davison from Chelsea.  Davison has been unlucky not to be getting regular starts for the champions and you can’t blame her for jumping ship in search of first team football.

Scotland defender Sophie Howard has also joined the Berkshire side.

Welsh international Charlie Estcourt has extended her contract with the Royals for another season and club captain Kirsty Pearce has also committed herself for another season.

Liverpool

After a mass exodus at Liverpool, it seems they are gearing up again with some major signings;

Ex- Donny Belles duo of captain Leandra Little and Rhiannon Roberts signed this week.

Goalkeeper Anke Preuss has signed from Sunderland

Athletics – World Cup

This weekend the London Stadium hosts the Athletics World Cup.  Eight countries are taking part: Great Britain & Northern Ireland, China, France, Germany, Jamaica, Poland, South Africa and USA.  Team GB largely comprises up-and-coming youngsters, but does include in-form long jumper Lorraine Ugen and high jumper Morgan Lake.

The women’s team in full:

100m Daryll Neita (Shaftesbury Barnet), 200m Beth Dobbin (Edinburgh,) 400m Anyika Onuora (Liverpool), 800m Adelle Tracey (Guildford & Godalming), 1500m Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan), 100m hurdles: Megan Marrs (Windsor, Slouth, Eton & Hounslow), 400m hurdles Meghan Beesley (Birchfield Harriers), High jump Morgan Lake (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow), Pole vault Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn), Long jump Lorraine Ugen (Thames Valley), Triple Jump Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford), Shot put Amelia Strickler (Thames Valley, Discus Jade Lally (Shaftesbury Barnet), Hammer Sophie Hitchon (Blackburn), Javelin Laura Whittingham (Sale Harriers), 4x100m TBC; 4x400m TBC.

Para-Athletics

The GB team for the WPA European Championships, which takes place in Berlin from 20-26 August has also been announced this week.  The female athletes taking part are:

Kare Adenegan – T34 100m & 800m, Hollie Arnold – F46 Javelin, Martina Barber –T20 Long Jump, Olivia Breen – T38 100m, Sally Brown– T47 100m, 200m & 400m, Jo Butterfield – F51 Club Throw, Hannah Cockroft  – T34 100m & 800m, Hannah Dines  – RR3 100m, Sabrina Fortune – F20 Shot Put, Kylie Grimes  – F51 Club Throw, Kayleigh Haggo  – RR3 100M, Sophie Hahn – T38 100m, 200m & 4x100m mixed relay, Maria Lyle  – T35 100m & 200m, Polly Maton  – T47 Long Jump, 100m & 4x100m mixed relay, Stef Reid – T64 Long Jump and 200m* (200m subject to confirmation), Ali Smith – T38 100m, 200m, 400m & Long Jump, Laura Sugar – T44 100m & 200m, Vanessa Wallace – F34 Shot Put & Javelin, Eve Walsh Dann  – T36 100m & 200m.

Cricket

England v New Zealand ODI series

Hell hath no fury like an England team batting first.  In truth this has been somewhat of a disappointing series, with the first two ODIs hardly contested.  Let’s hope that the third, taking place at Grace Road, Leicester, today (Friday 13 July) is a closer affair.  From an England point of view, of course, it couldn’t have gone better and there are four ICC Women’s Championship points in the bag.

First ODI
England 290/5 (50 overs)
New Zealand 148 all out (35.3 overs)
England won by 142 runs

The England openers had amassed 111 before New Zealand took a wicket.  Tammy Beaumont went for 40, caught by Martin off the bowling of Tahuhu.  Amy Jones and Heather Knight both scored 63 – in fact everyone made a contribution as England scored a huge 290.

In response, as is becoming horribly regular, the Ferns’ openers made a good start, but after they were out the collapse was most definitely on.   Bates scored 28 and Devine 33, but only Maddy Green, of the rest of the side, got over 20.

Second ODI
England 241 all out (48 overs)
New Zealand 118 all out (38 overs)
England won by 123 runs

New Zealand managed to take all ten wickets in this game, but still lost the game convincingly.

Jones was out relatively early, having made 20.  Beaumont top-scored with 67 and Sciver made a useful 54.  The wickets were shared around with Devine, Kasparek and Watkin taking two each and Huddleston, Tahuhu and Kerr, one each.

Bates made 20 at the top of the order for New Zealand, but again Green with 20 was the next best scorer.  The middle order was pretty much reduced to single-figure scoring.  Katie George and Sophie Ecclestone took three wickets each and in the end it was all too easy for England.

ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Bangladesh and Ireland have booked their places in the World T20, which takes place in the West Indies in November.

They face each other in the final of the Qualifying tournament on Saturday.

Bangladesh beat Scotland in their semi-final.  Bangladesh scored 125/6 off their 20 overs, but Scotland could only muster 76/7 in reply.

Ireland overcame Papua New Guinea in their semi.  Batting first, Ireland scored 113/6 off their 20 overs.  PNG were all out for 86 in 19.2 overs.

News and report of the final next week.

And finally,

Don’t forget there is another World Cup to look forward too – and it’s getting closer!  The Women’s Hockey World Cup begins in just two weeks.  Can England follow up their Olympic gold with a World Cup win?

It all begins on 21 July at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre in London.  TV coverage is via BT Sport.

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 June 2018

running trackWelcome to this week’s column.  After the marathon of the previous one, I’m hoping this offering can be more in the way of a sprint!  Stories this week come from football, triathlon, rugby union, athletics, cricket, tennis, golf, judo, mountain biking and…. darts!

So let’s crack on.

Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith broke her own British 100m records at the Diamond League Bislett Games in Oslo on 7 June.  She clocked 10.92, beating her previous best by 0.07 seconds.  In the race she finished second behind Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast, but beat Commonwealth Games 100m champion Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago into third.

Tennis

No doubt as to the disappointment of the week, when the much-anticipated match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at the French Open was scuppered by Williams withdrawing through injury.  Anyone who reads this column regularly will know whose camp I am firmly in, and although Serena was the underdog, I would have loved to have seen her take on and beat Sharapova without breaking sweat.

Needless to say, there has been much comment since Williams withdrew, for and against both players.  I’m not passing judgement.  I wish she had been out there, but an arm injury that would have prevented her serving to the best of her ability was not something she could have played through.

The final of the French Open will be between number one seed Simona Halep and tenth seed Sloane Stephens and the tournament progressed as follows:

Quarter-finals
Sloane Stephens (10) beat Daria Kasatkina (14) 6-3 6-1
Madison Keys (13) beat Yulia Putintseva 7-6 6-4
Garbine Muguruza (3) beat Maria Sharapova (28) 6-2 6-1
Simona Halep (1) beat Angelique Kerber (12) 6-7 6-3 6-2

Semi-finals:
Sloane Stephens (10) beat Madison Keys (13) 6-4 6-4
Simona Halep (1) beat Garbine Muguruza (3) 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 9 June and will be broadcast in the UK on ITV and ESPN and on the radio via BBC 5 Live.

Cricket

The England squad for the one-day series against South Africa has been announced.

Coverage of the first match, which is on Saturday 9 June is on TMS on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and via the BBC website and begins at 11am.

Heather Knight (capt, Berkshire), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (wicketkeeper, Warwickshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Sarah Taylor (wk, Sussex), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

England’s fixtures this summer:

England v South Africa

June
9 1st ODI, Worcester (11:00 BST)
12 2nd ODI, Hove (d/n) (13:00 BST)
15 3rd ODI, Canterbury (d/n) (14:00 BST)

Twenty20 tri-series

20 South Africa v New Zealand, Taunton (13:00 BST)
20 England v South Africa, Taunton (17:40 BST)
23 England v South Africa, Taunton (13:00 BST)
23 England v New Zealand, Taunton (17:40 BST)
28 South Africa v New Zealand, Bristol (13:00 BST)
28 England v New Zealand, Bristol (17:40 BST)

July
1 Final, Chelmsford (15:00 BST)

England v New Zealand
7 1st ODI, Headingley (11:00 BST)
10 2nd ODI, Derby (d/n) (13:00 BST)
13 3rd ODI, Leicester (d/n) (14:00 BST)

English Women’s County Championship

Hampshire have won the County Championship for the first time after beating Middlesex, which also condemned them to be relegated to division two.

Hampshire, promoted to division one this season and under new Director of Cricket, Charlotte Edwards, won six of their seven fixtures to secure the title.

Yorkshire finished as runners-up, while Middlesex and Somerset were relegated.   Sussex and Surrey are promoted from division two.

Aboriginal Tour

There are both men’s and women’s Aboriginal XIs touring England at the moment.  On Thursday 7 both sides played a Surrey XI at The Oval and on Friday 8 June they play a Sussex XI at Hove.

Thursday 7 June
Surrey Women 149/6 (20 0vers)
Aboriginal XI 113 all out (19.6 overs)
Surrey women won by 36 runs

Surrey captain Hannah Jones won the toss and elected to bat.  England’s Bryony Smith top scored with 58 with Amy Gordon making 37. Aboriginal captain Ashleigh Gardner had the best bowling figures, taking 2/28 from her four overs.

In response Gardner opened the batting but was out for six.  Hannah Darlington top-scored with 32 and there were good contributions from Emma Manix-Geeves (21) and Sally Moylan (27), but wickets fell too regularly for them to have a chance and the tourists fell short by 36 runs.

Mountain Biking

Great Britain’s Tahnee Seagrave won the Fort William leg of the Downhill World Cup last weekend.  She took the title in a time of 05:10.960, ahead of Myriam Nicole of France in second, 05:19.211 and Britain’s Rachel Atherton in third, 05:20.016.

Seagrave now lies second in the rankings on 1751 points, behind Myriam who has 1950.

Football

England Qualifier

England Head Coach, Phil Neville, will have decisions to make on Friday as there have been a series of withdrawals from his squad for Friday’s qualifier against Russia.

Captain Steph Houghton was the first to withdraw and now faces some time on the sidelines as she undergoes knee surgery.

Earlier this week Izzy Christiansen and Jordan Nobbs also withdrew.  Christiansen has a thigh problem, while Nobbs has a foot injury.

Lucy Staniforth of Sunderland and Lauren Bruton of Reading have been called up as cover and Lucy Bronze had been named captain.

Just to remind you, the Russia game will be on the BBC Red Button and online from 5pm.

Wales Qualifier

Wales 1-0

Wales took a one-point lead in Group A after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in Swansea on 7 June.

Kayleigh Green scored the only goal of the game in the 61st minute after Wales had spurned numerous chances, including a penalty, which was missed by Helen Ward.

Wales play again on Tuesday 12 June in Newport when they face Russia.

Scotland Qualifer

Scotland 2-1 Belarus

Scotland are up to second in Group B, three points behind Switzerland after they came from behind to beat Belarus at the Falkirk stadium on 7 June.

Belarus took the lead through Karina Olkhovik.  Scotland had plenty of chances to equalise and Jane Ross had a goal disallowed before Erin Cuthbert finally drew them level just before the break.

Cuthbert bagged her second on 65 minutes to give the Scots the win.

They play again in Poland on Tuesday 12 June, with leaders Switzerland travelling to Belarus on the same day.

Other football news

There has been another flurry of transfers/releasing of players/new contracts this week.  Here are the highlights:

  • Biggest news of the week, Reading and England goalkeeper Mary Earps has signed for German champions Wolfsburg on a one-year deal. This will be great experience for the 25-year old.
  • Second biggest news must be the appointment of former Liverpool coach Matt Beard as the new Head Coach of West Ham Ladies. Watch out, West Ham obviously mean business.
  • Birmingham City have released Freda Ayisi, Maddy Cusack and Coral Haines.
  • Manchester City have signed Scotland international Caroline Weir from Liverpool.
  • Fran Kirby has signed a new three-year contract with Chelsea.
  • David Haley is to step down as Celtic manager after five years to take charge of the Celtic Women’s Academy

Darts

Great news from the world of darts this week as it was announced that from 2019 the PDC World Championship will include two female players as part of an expanded field.

There will be 96 players taking part, an increase from 72.  There will be two women’s qualifying events for the UK and Rest of the World.  The winners of these events will get to the main draw.

The tournament takes place at the Alexandra Palace and runs from 13 December to 1 January.

Triathlon

Great Britain took silver in Nottingham on Thursday 7 June in the first of the Mixed Relay Series events.

The team, comprising Jonny Brownlee, Non Stanford, Tom Bishop and Vicky Holland finished 29 seconds behind the USA, who completed the course in one hour 21 minutes and 16 seconds.

France finished third in a sprint finish, nine seconds behind Brownlee and one second ahead of Australia’s Ryan Bailie in fourth.

Mixed Relay will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 and the Nottingham event was the first to earn teams Olympic qualifying points.

The second event will be in Edmonton, Canada, from 27-29 July.

Rugby Union

This weekend sees the final leg of the Women’s World Sevens in Paris.  Australia are currently top of the standings with 74 points, New Zealand lie second with 70 with France back in third on 54.  News and results next week.

It was also announced that next season’s series will include an extra leg, an opening event in Glendale, Colorado.  This will mean the women’s circuit will comprise six rounds; USA, Dubai, Sydney, Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris.

Netball

It was round 15 of the Netball Super League at the weekend and the results were as follows:

Friday 1 June
Team Bath 54-45 Benecos Mavericks

Saturday 2 June
Manchester Thunder 53-42 Wasps Netball
Team Northumbria 58-47 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 51-44 UWS Sirens
Loughborough Lightning 59-44 Severn Stars

With Wasps’ second defeat in a row, they and Lightning are level on points at the top on 36, but Wasps still have a game in hand.  Thunder are third, three points back but also with a game in hand over Loughborough.  The Dragons are bottom on six points with Northumbria above them on nine.

It’s round 15 this weekend – just three rounds to go until the semis and final!

Friday 8 June
Team Bath v Loughborough Lightning (7.30pm)

Saturday 9 June
Celtic Dragons v Wasps Netball (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Manchester Thunder (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Team Northumbria (6pm)

Monday 11 June
Severn Stars v UWS Sirens (Live on Sky Sports, 7pm)

Rugby League

There were no Super League games last weekend as it was a Challenge Cup weekend.  There were some big scores for the more established sides with Castleford Tigers knocking out current Challenge Cup holders, Bradford Bulls, in the process.  The quarter-final draw has been made.  Ties take place during the weekend of 30 June-1 July.

Barrow v York City Knights
Castleford Tigers v St Helens
Featherstone Rovers v Wigan Warriors
Leeds Rhinos v The Army

Judo

Britain’s Sarah Adlington took a silver medal at the European Judo Open in Madrid last weekend.

She was beaten by Kristin Bussow of Germany in the final of the +78kg category.

Golf – US Open

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand won the US Open on the fourth play-off hole in Alabama last weekend.

She had a seven-shot lead going into the back nine of the final round, but in the end had to settle for a play-off as she finished level with Hyo Joo Kim of Korea on -11.

They were still level after a two-hole play-off before it went to sudden death.  At their third play-off hole they both parred again before Jutanugam won the fourth with a par to win her second major.

Spain’s Carlota Ciganda finished third.  Charley Hull finished in a share of tenth place and was the highest placed Briton.

No spitting or ranting “And Finally” this week (relief all-round there), but I’ll be back next week with more news, scores and views.  

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 March 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column. After saying I was going to be out and about last week, I ended up actually being very much in and not about, laid up with flu.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – when you’ve got flu, you know about it.

Anyway, I’m back up and running now and there’s plenty to get to grips with this week. Stories come from the Paralympics, rugby, netball, football, cycling, athletics, tennis, cricket and golf.

Winter Paralympics

The Winter Paralympics open today in Pyeongchang with 670 athletes vying for medals in six sports.

Team GB has been set a target of seven medals.

Downhill skier, Millie Knight, along with guide Brett Wild, will be aiming for a medal, as will Kelly Gallagher and new guide Gary Smith in the Super G.  Great Britain also has high hopes in the wheelchair curling.

Full coverage across the BBC.

 Football

 SheBelieves Cup

Thursday 1 March
England 4-1 France

The Lionesses got off to a fine start in the four-team tournament in the US.  True, this French team is but a shadow of its former self as several of the previous stalwarts, and often thorns in England’s side, have retired or are unavailable for selection.  The Lionesses too, however, are missing key players, including captain Steph Houghton, who withdrew from the squad with an ankle injury.

Toni Duggan opened the scoring, slipping Fran Kirby’s pass into the net on seven minutes.

The French offered little and were soon two down as Jill Scott grabbed the second.  Jodie Taylor scored a third before half-time and the game was done as a spectacle.

The second-half saw the Lionesses take their foot off the gas and substitutions caused the game to become disjointed.  But Fran Kirby still found time to grab England’s fourth, before Gaetane Thiney scored a consolation goal for France.

The only downside for England was Anita Asante’s injury incurred in the first-half.  She has since returned to the UK and is set to be out for some time with a knee injury.

USA 1-0 Germany

A goal from Megan Rapinoe on 17 minutes was enough to clinch the opening match for USA.

Sunday 4 March
USA 1-1 France

France recovered from their heavy loss to England to gain an impressive point against the US.  Mallory Pugh scored for the home side, ten minutes from half-time.  France equalised just three minutes later through Eugenie Le Sommer.  Neither side could find the winner in the second-half.

England 2-2 Germany

Whilst there was much to admire in England’s 2-2 draw against Germany, the Lionesses will surely watch the video rerun through their fingers, unwilling to view some of the comedy defending.

But Phil Neville will be heartened by the team’s resilience.  At one time, they would have capitulated after going behind to Germany, but on this occasion they came back – twice.

The Germans took the lead through Hasret Kayikci but England came straight back when a long-range shot from Fara Williams was deflected by Ellen White into the net.

On the resumption, Germany had the better of the play and went ahead again when a poor clearance from Siobhan Chamberlain bounced off Millie Bright and into the net.

This discombobulated England for a while, but Ellen White struck again, getting on to a fine through ball and just beating the German offside trap, to slide the ball home.

The last fifteen minutes were end-to-end, with both teams squandering chances.  England’s best came through Rachel Daly who, having done the hard work to get into a one-to-one with the goalkeeper, then chipped the ball straight to her when it seemed easier to score.

Thursday 7 March
France 3-0 Germany

No-one saw this one coming; France were abject against England and improved against the USA, but 3-0 against Germany?

Armandine Henry opened the scoring for France in the tenth minute with a great shot from 23 yards out.

Germany thought they had equalised when Dzenifer Marozsan chipped the goalkeeper nearly from the half-way line, but Sarah Bouhaddi managed to scramble back to make the save.

In the second-half, France scored through Eugenie Le Sommer (her 66th international goal) and Valerie Gauvin.

The Germans played an inexperienced side against a full-strength French side and paid the price.

The result also ensured Germany finished bottom of the SheBelieves table.

USA 1-0 England

England needed just a point from their final match to take the trophy.  But it was not to be for Phil Neville’s men as an unfortunate own goal from ‘keeper Karen Bardsley saw the points and the title go to the USA.

For most of the first-half the teams were even, but towards the break the US started to take charge.  In the second-half they came out firing again and on 58 minutes a sliced clearance from Millie Bright hit Bardsley and deflected into the net.

The Lionesses had chances to equalise, including one for Ellen White just minutes from time, but she her header came off the post and was cleared by the USA defender.

Football – Off the Pitch

League Restructure in England

From season 2018-19 the women’s game will be renamed/restructured as follows:

Current name                                                     New Name
Tier One:   WSL1                                                 FA Women’s Super League
Tier Two:   WSL2                                                 FA Women’s Championship
Tier Three: Women’s Premier League             FA Women’s national League North/South
Northern/Southern Division
Tier Four:  Women’s Premier League              FA Women’s National League 1 (4 regions)
(4 Regions)

So far, the following clubs have been awarded licences for the top two divisions:

FA WSL: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women, Yeovil Town.

FA Women’s Championship: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur.

In addition to this, there are up to four places available in the FAWSL through the second lot of applications and five in the Championship.

The second application process for places begins this month for those currently outside the two top tiers.  We already know West Ham intend to apply for the WSL and Crystal Palace for the Championship.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s Round Four of the Six Nations this weekend.  The fixtures are:

10 March
France v England (8pm GMT)

11 March
Wales v Italy (11.45am GMT)
Ireland v Scotland (1pm GMT)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Unsurprisingly, last weekend’s fixtures were hit by the weather, with only one tie going ahead:

Gloucester-Hartpury 40-36 Harlequins

This weekend’s fixtures are as follows:

10 March
DMP Sharks v Saracens (2pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby club)
Loughborough Lightning v Bristol (3pm, Loughborough University)
Harlequins v Richmond (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Wasps v Worcester Valkyries (3pm, Tywford Avenue Sports Ground)

Cycling

Track Cycling World Championships

Katie Archibald and Emily Nelson won gold in the madison.  Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters of the Netherlands took silver and Letizia Paternoster and Maria Giulia Confalonieri of Italy the bronze.

Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Emily Nelson won silver in the women’s team pursuit.  The gold was taken by the USA team of Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert, Kimberly Geist and Kelly Catlin.  Bronze went to Letizia Paternoster, Elisa Balsamo, Tatiana Guderzo and Silvia Valsecchi of Italy.

Elinor Barker was due to take part in the madison, withdrew after a crash and then finished twelfth in the points race.  Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands won.  Jennifer Valente of the USA took silver and Jasmin Duehring of Canada the bronze.

Barker also finished sixth in the omnium.  Kirsten Wild won it with Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark in second and Rushlee Buchanan of New Zealand in third.

Lauren Bate and Katy Marchant finished sixth in the team sprint.  Gold went to Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel of Germany, silver to Kyra Lamberink and Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands and bronze to Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova of the Russian Federation.

Golf

Michelle Wie of the US won her first tournament since 2014 last weekend when she took the Women’s World Championship title by one shot with a three-way tie for second.

Wie carded a 65 on the final round, holing a monster 40-foot putt on the last, to go to -17. Brooke Henderson of Canada and Danielle Kang and Nelly Korda of the US tied second on -16.  Best placed UK finisher was Charley Hull, back on -10.

Netball

Netball Super League round five took place last weekend, although a couple of fixtures fell foul of the weather.  The results were as follows:

Friday 2 March
Team Bath v UWS Sirens POSTPONED

Saturday 3 March
Manchester Thunder v Celtic Dragons POSTPONED
Loughborough Lightning 49-60 Wasps Netball
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm POSTPONED

Monday 5 March
Team Northumbria 53-71Benecos Mavericks

One fixture from Round Six also took place on Monday 5:

Loughborough Lightning 53-51 Surrey Storm

The table is a bit uneven now with the postponements, but Wasps are top with five wins from five and 15 points.  Team Bath are second with 12 points from four games and Loughborough Lightning third, also on 12 points, but from six games.  Severn Stars, Surrey Storm and Team Northumbria are yet to pick up a point.

This weekend’s fixtures look like this:

Friday 9 March
Team Bath v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm Live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 10 March
Celtic dragons v Severn Stars (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Wasps Netball v Team Northumbria (7pm)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Premier League

Several fixtures fell victim to the weather at the weekend, with just two taking place:

3 March
Surbiton 1-2 Holcombe

4 March
East Grinstead 3-0 University of Birmingham

Surbiton are top with 28 points from 15 games.  Holcombe are second, one point behind, from 15 games and University of Birmingham are third on 26 from 14 games.

Cricket – on the Pitch

The West Indies are currently playing a one-day series in New Zealand, the results of which count towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

First ODI – 4 March
West Indies 277/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 278/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand won by 1 run

West Indies won the toss and elected to field first.  Sophie Devine hit 108 and Suzie Bates 44 to steer New Zealand to a defendable total of 278.

The Windies chased with a vengeance.  Kyshona Knight looked to have put them on course as she hit 44 from 31 balls.  They needed 10 off the last over, to be bowled by Leigh Kasperek.

Two runs off the first two balls.  Then a wicket as Tremayne Smartt was caught by Maddy Green for five.  But the dangerous Knight was still there.  The fourth ball went for a boundary and the West Indies needed four off the last two.  The fifth ball went for only a single and the last for two and New Zealand had won by one run.

Second ODI – 8 March
West Indies 194 all out (48.1 overs)
New Zealand 195/2 (30.4 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 116 balls to spare

The second match of the series was an altogether more one-sided affair.  Stafanie Taylor top-scored for the West Indies with 86, but it was not enough to get them to a useful score.  Kasperek took 4/44 from her 10 overs and Leah Tahuhu 3/42 from 9.1.

New Zealand were ruthless in response, knocking off the total in just over 30 overs.  Devine and Bates were again outstanding, scoring 80 and 101 not out respectively, taking the White Ferns into a 2-0 lead in the series.

The third game is on Sunday 11 March.

Cricket – off the Pitch

England

The ECB has named its squad to tour India and also compete in the tri-series with India and Australia.  Katherine Brunt has been left out with a back injury and Sarah Taylor has been rested.  Lauren Winfield, Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh are also left out.

There are three new names in the squad; Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith and Katie George, while Kate Cross, Tash Farrant and  Amy Jones are recalled.

The squad in full:

Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Kate Cross (Lancashire), Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Tash Farrant (Kent), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Bryony Smith (Surrey), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

Fixtures:

Twenty20 tri-series

(All matches played at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai)

March
22 India v Australia (04:30 GMT)
23 Australia v England (04:30 GMT)
25 India v England (05:30 BST)
26 India v Australia (05:30 BST)
28 Australia v England (05:30 BST)
29 India v England (05:30 BST)
31 Final (05:30 BST)

India v England ODI series

(Not counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship)

April
6 1st ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
9 2nd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)
12 3rd ODI, Nagpur (05:30 BST)

News on media coverage when I have it.

Kia Super League

The ECB announced the England players’ Kia Super League allocations this week.  Now forgive me if I’m being particularly grumpy here, but it does seem that it’s all becoming a bit random.  I can’t help thinking we’re just marking time now until the new franchise system is introduced and we start again.  Now it just appears people are moving for no reason – how can supporters get to know a team that’s always changing?  Anyway, the moves are:

Beth Langston – Loughborough Lightning to Yorkshire Diamonds
Jenny Gunn- Yorkshire Diamonds to Loughborough Lightning
Tammy Beaumont – Surrey Stars to Southern Vipers
Sarah Taylor – Lancashire Thunder to Surrey Stars
Alex Hartley – Surrey Stars to Lancashire Thunder

The ECB is looking for balance, but in the end, the divvying up of England players detracts from the tournament for me.

Athletics

World Indoor Championships

There were some excellent performances by Team GB at last weekend’s Championships in Birmingham.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson was the star of the show, taking her first senior title with gold in the pentathlon.  She won with 4750 points.  Silver went to Ivona Dadic of Austria and bronze to Yorgelis Rodriguez of Cuba.

Laura Muir took bronze in the 3000m in a season’s best 8:45.78.  The winner was Genzebe Dibabe of Ethiopia, in a time of 8:45.05.  Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands took silver in a time of 8:45.68.

Muir then went one better, taking silver in the 1500m.  Dibabe was again the winner, with Hassan in bronze.

It was a one/two for the US in the 400m with Courtney Okolo taking gold and Shakima Wimbley, silver.  Eilidh Doyle took bonze for Great Britain with a season’s best 51.60.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took bronze in the 800m with a personal best time of 1:59.81.  The gold went to Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and the silver Ajee Wilson of USA.

Bronze also went to the 4x400m team.  United States took gold with Poland in silver.

London Marathon

Kathrine Swizter, the first woman to be given an official number in the Boston Marathon, fifty years ago, is to run in the London Marathon this year.

Switzer, 71, entered the Boston race using her initials only, hoping to pass through unnoticed.  She was roughly attacked by security men on the day, who tried to remove her from the course.  She eventually completed the race in four hours 20 minutes.

The race takes place on Sunday 22 April.

Tennis

She’s back folks!  I crave your indulgence for just a moment to mention the fact that Serena Williams is back.  Now I know that after childbirth women return to all kinds of work in ridiculously short amounts of time, and I also know that they generally neither ask for nor get recognition for that.  So I’m not necessarily shouting about the fact that she’s returning after childbirth, but just the fact that she’s back.

In her first match back at Indian Wells, she beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5 6-3.  She plays 29th seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in round two.

And finally,

It would be remiss of me not to mention #IWD2018.  I know that in the scheme of things, when women and girls all round the world suffer daily horrific treatment, sport is not one of life’s priorities.  FGM, trafficking, pornography, rape, “honour” killing, withdrawal of abortion and health rights, harassment and forced marriage are just a few things happening to thousands of women and girls every day.

I know I’ve said this before, but while I speak out, sign petitions and protest against all of these things, my actual area of expertise is sport.  Women everywhere have the right to play, officiate, manage, take charge of and watch any kind of sport they want to without fear of reprisal, violence, discrimination or even just scorn and general derision.  But it doesn’t happen.  And while there is a sporting fight to be had, I’ll be there.  Happy #IWD2018 everyone.

 

Women’s Sports Column 30 December 2017 – 5 January 2018

new tennisWelcome to the first Women’s Sports Column of the New Year and let me wish you all a happy, sport-filled 2018.

It’s the relative calm before the storm at the moment, but there is plenty to come this year.  Stories this week come from taekwondo, tennis, a shocking story from cycling, New Year’s Honours, cricket, football and winter sports.

I’m also happy to say this week’s TWO “And Finally(s)” are positive ones.

Let’s crack on and start with taekwondo (don’t get to say that very often, but it’s a big (and a great) story.

Taekwondo

Bianca Walkden may have missed out on any kind of recognition from the Great British Public at SPOTY, but she completed her stellar year by annihilating all-comers last week to win the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Series title for the +67kg category.

She beat An Saebom of South Korea 14-1 in the quarter-finals and then recorded an 11-0 golden point victory over Nafia Kus of Turkey in the semi-final.

In the final she faced Jackie Galloway of USA, defeating her 10-2 to take the title and £52,000 prize money.

In 2017 she defended her world title and won all four Grand Prix events.

Next to compete in the Grand Slam Series will be Wales’ Lauren Williams, who fights in the -67kg category.  Charlie Maddock is next on 13 January in the -49kg category and Jade Jones competes on 20 January in her -57kg division.

Tennis

The world’s best tennis players are currently gearing up for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which begins on Monday 15 January.

There are several warm-up events going on, the main ones being in Brisbane and Shenzhen, China.

Brisbane International

Heather Watson bowed out early on.  She won her first match, against Danielle Lao of the USA 7-5 6-3.  She won her second versus Misaki Doi of China 6-2 6-4, but succumbed in the third to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4 6-1.  She still advanced to the round of 32, though, to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-0 6-3.

British number one, Jo Konta, began well.  She was seeded five at Brisbane and in the round of 32 she defeated American Madison Keys 4-6 6-4 6-3.  In the round of 16 she beat wildcard Ajila Tomljanovic of Croatia 4-6 6-1 6-4.  These have been two gruelling three-set matches.  And this told on Konta as she withdrew with injury on Thursday as she played third seed Elina Svitolina.

Konta had been playing well up to that point, taking the first set 6-1 against the third seed.  The second went to Svitolina on the tie-break and she was 3-2 up in the third when Konta pulled out.

Konta had treatment on her right hip on the court and the injury is thought to be in the right hip/groin area.  There is no news yet as to whether she will compete in the Sydney International, the next warm-up tournament, which takes place next week and which she won in 2017.  .

The other quarter-finals were:

Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 3-6 7-5 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova  (Latvia)beat Aleksandra Krunic (Serbia) 6-2 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(Belarus) beat Alizé Cornet (France) 3-6 6-2 6-3

In the semi-finals:

Sasnovich beat Sevastova 7-6 6-4
Svitolina beat Pliskova 7-5 7-5

The final is on Saturday 6 January.

Petra Kvitova had to withdraw before the start of the tournament with a virus and Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew during her second-round match after suffering a bout of cramp.  It’s pretty worrying that some of the big players (both men and women) have already pulled out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Shenzhen Open

No British interest here, but the quarter-final line-up was as follows:

Irina-Camelia Begu (Romania) beat Timea Babos (Hungary) 7-5 7-5
Simona Halep (Romania) beat Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) 6-2 6-2
Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 6-3 6-3
Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) beat Kristyna Pliskova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-2

The semi-finals finished:

Siniakova beat Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-3
Halep beat Begu 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 6 January

Serena Williams

Meanwhile there was a disappointing announcement today as Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open, as she doesn’t feel quite ready yet:

“Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be,” she said.

It will be the first Australian Open she has missed since 2011.

Football – Off the pitch

No live football to report on at the moment, but plenty of transfer news.

Natasha Harding

The biggest news so far is that Natasha Harding has turned down a new contract with Liverpool, in favour of a move to Reading.

Harding is currently vice-captain of the Wales national side and has won 50 caps for her country.

Birmingham City

Chloe Peplow, currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers Belles was out of contract at the end of December and not going to renew, while German international striker Isabelle Linden, also out of contract at the end of 2017 is to leave as well.

On the other hand Marisa Ewers and Andrine Hegerberg have both extended their contracts with the club.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Belles have pulled off somewhat of a coup with the news that former Rotherham and Leeds United manager, Neil Redfearn is to be the club’s new manager.

On the Pitch

Meanwhile the on the pitch action starts again this weekend with the following fixtures:

Saturday 6 January

FAWSL 1
Bristol City v Everton (17.30, Stoke Gifford Stadium)
Liverpool v Yeovil Town (17.30, Select Security Stadium)
Sunderland v Birmingham City (18.00, Mariners Park)

Sunday 7 January

FAWSL1
Chelsea v Arsenal (13.30, Kingsmeadow Stadium)
Reading v Man City (16.00, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

FAWSL2
Oxford United v Durham (12.00, Oxford City FC)
Aston Villa v London Bees (14.00, Tamworth FC)
Millwall v Sheffield FC (14.00. St Paul’s Sports Ground)
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00, Cheshunt FC)
Watford v Doncaster Rovers Belles (15.00, Kings Langley FC)

Cycling

Caroline Buchanan, Australian cyclist and two-time Olympian, is in hospital after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in New South Wales.

She suffered a broken nose, broken sternum and collapsed lung in the accident.

The 27-year old has three BMX world titles to her name, as well as five mountain bike world titles.

Needless to say, she will be out of action for some time.

 Cricket – WBBL

We’re about half-way in this year’s tournament.  Top of the pile lie Sydney Thunder with five wins from six with the Sixers in second with five wins from eight.  Hobart Hurricanes are yet to get off the mark with no points from six games.  Second from bottom with one win from six.

Most recent matches:

30 December 2017

Sydney Sixers 138 all out (19.5 overs)
Perth Scorchers 139/4 (18.5 overs)

Alyssa Healey was out for a first ball duck, but Ellyse Perry scored 45 and Dane van Niekerk 29 as the Sixers posted 138.  But it was not enough.  Elyse Villani scored 63 off 43 and Nicole Bolton 42 off 49 as the Scorchers eased home.

Hobart Hurricanes 112/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 116/3 (17 overs)

Stafanie Taylor took 4/15 off her four overs as the Hurricanes slumped to 112 off their 20.  Rachael Haynes then took on the Hurricanes’ bowlers, scoring 64 off 49 balls as the thunder won with three overs to spare.

31 December

Hobart Hurricanes 97 all out (19.4 overs)
Sydney Thunder 99/2

The Hurricanes were comprehensively beaten by the Thunder on Sunday.  Samantha Bates took 3/12 four and Stafanie Taylor 2/13 off 2.4 as the Hurricanes could only manage 97 off 19.4 overs.  The Thunder took no time in knocking off the runs, scoring 99 in 15 overs.  Alex Blackwell top-scored on 43 not out.

Adelaide Strikers 119/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 122/2 (16.2 overs)

The Strikers could only post 119 and it never looked enough.  Most of their top names got a start but no-one could kick on as Bridget Patterson top-scored with 37.  It seemed as if Beth Mooney wanted to do it all on her own in reply as the scored 81 not out off 48 balls.  She was supported well by Kirby Short, who scored 27.

2 January

Sydney Sixers 128/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 92 all out (19 overs)

Ellyse Perry top scored with 64 of 56 balls as the Sixers posted an average total against the Renegades.  But their opponents never got started in response with van Niekerk taking 4/13 off her four overs with Kapp and Aley taking two each as the Renegades subsided to 92 all out.

3 January

Bizarre and miraculous goings-on at Geelong as the Renegades v Sixers game went to a super over, but it would not have even got there if it hadn’t been for some smart work on the part of the Sixers.

Melbourne Renegades 120/7 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 120/7 (20 overs)

It had looked as if the Sixers had it in the bag until Perry was out and Chamari Attapatu had taken 2/6 in two overs.  It went down to the last ball – the Sixers needing three to win.

Sarah Aley went for the single and the game looked to be over, but Renegades keeper Emma inglis was too intent on celebrating and didn’t break the wickets to end the game.  Aley spotted the error and ran the second to tie the scores and send the game into a super over.

Sydney Sixers 8/2 (1 over)
Melbourne Renegades 9/0 (1 over)

Alyssa Healey perished for a first ball duck and Perry four, but the Sixers still posted a decent eight runs off their super over.

But the Renegades kept their cool with Jess Duffin hitting a single off Marizanne Kapp’s last ball to take the match.

5 January

Adelaide Strikers 144/5 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 122//9 (20 overs)

Tammy Beaumont top-scored for the Strikers with 46 from 48 balls as they posted a competitive total.  The Stars fell well short despite Lizelle Lee’s 44 of 42 balls.  Three ducks in a row down the order (King, Kearney, Faltum) put paid to any chance the Stars had of reaching the Strikers’ score.

Winter Sports

The Winter Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, so between then and now I’m going to try to get as many winter sports snippets into the column as I can.

 Alpine Skiing

Russian bans

Eleven Russian winter sports athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics after they were found to have committed doping offences at Sochi in 2014.  Out of the eleven, four are women:

Tatyana Ivanova (luge) – won silver in Sochi
Natalia Matveeva (cross-country skiing)
Liudmila Udobkina (bobsleigh)
Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina (ice hockey)

Mikaela Shiffrin

She’s odd-on to retain her Olympic slalom title, and Mikaela Shiffrin is already in fine form as she warms up for the big one.  Although she was upset in the giant slalom in Lienz, Austria , last week, she already has a 371 point lead in the World Cup standings with 881.  Viktoria Rebensberg lies second.

Skeleton

Meanwhile, in skeleton, the latest World Cup event, in Altenberg, Germany, the home nation made it a clean sweep with Jacquelline Loelling taking the title in 1:57.54 for the two runs.  Tina Hermann came second 0.13 seconds behind with Anna Fernstaedt in third 0.43 behind the winner.

For Great Britain, Laura Deas finished eighth, 1.35 seconds behind Loelling and Lizzie Yarnold nineteenth, a massive 3.22 seconds back.

Paralympics

There is no place in the GB Paralympic squad for Sochi skiing gold medallist Kelly Gallagher.

GB has two places available for visually impaired skiiers – these have gone to world champion Millie Knight and newcomer Menna Fitzpatrick.

There may still be a place for Gallagher, though, as other teams may not take up their full allocation and will be re-allocated elsewhere.

The Winter Paralympics begin on 9 March. Top of Form

Queen’s New Year Honours

Several sportswomen were honoured by the Queen:

Cricket
Heather Knight (OBE)
Tammy Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole (MBE)
Mark Robinson (women’s coach) (OBE)
Clare Connor (CBE) – tweet about Geoff Boycott notwithstanding, for services to cricket.

Paralympic Athletics
Stef Reid (MBE)

Other
Sarah Lewis (OBE) International Ski Federation secretary, for services to sport.
Joyce Cook (OBE) for services to sport and accessibility.
Sue Anstiss (MBE) for services to grassroots and women’s sport.
Christine Bower (MBE) British Olympic Association athletes services co-ordinator, for services to British Olympic sport.
Helen Phillips (MBE) for services to Welsh gymnastics and the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales.
Patricia Reid (MBE) Dunfermline Tennis Club secretary, for services to tennis and lacrosse in Scotland.

And Finally,

And finally, the Women’s Sport Trust has just issued its calendar of women’s sport for 2018.  So, if you missed it here’s the link: www.themixedzone.co.uk.  And if you don’t already subscribe to The Mixed Zone, a fantastic resource of articles by both professional athletes and writers, I suggest you do!

And and finally,

I don’t usually do endorsements, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  My friend Joanne is not just an ace yoga teacher, but also nutritionist par excellence.  She’s just started a new venture called “The Ravenous Athlete” with advice and help on what to eat and when if you’re serious about your sport.  If you need any help with your nutrition – given in a non-patronising, non-jargon way, please check her out: www.healthandhart.com.

 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 December 2017

DSCN2151Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week in a short, but perfectly formed story of the week.  It’s the time of year when we see one awards ceremony after another, but the two biggies have to be BT Action Woman of the Year (women are winning that one!) and, of course, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (somewhat less of a chance of a woman winning that one).  The BT awards have been and gone – news below, but the opportunity to vote for your BBC SPOTY is still to come. I cover the runners and riders, so to speak, in this week’s “and finally”.  Other news comes from cycling, tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, horse racing, taekwondo, curling and football.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s results in the Premier 15s were:

2 December

Loughborough Lightning 43-33 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

DMP Sharks 3-26 Bristol Ladies

Firwood Waterloo Ladies 12-12 Worcester Valkyries

3 December

Richmond Women 0-44 Wasps Ladies

Harlequins Ladies 19-28 Saracens Women

After nine games, Saracens are top with 44 points, winning all of their games and missing out on just one bonus point.  Harlequins are second with 40, with Wasps seven points further back on 33.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries are marooned on two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on seven, with DMP Sharks one place above them on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures sees second placed Quins take on Wasps at Surrey Sports Park, while Saracens are at home to struggling Firwood Waterloo.  Here are the fixtures in full:

9 December

Harlequins Ladies v Wasps: Surrey Sports Park 1pm

Saracens Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies: Allianz Park 2pm

Worcester Valkyries v Loughborough Lightning: Sixways Stadium 2pm

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v DMP Sharks: TBC 4pm

10 December

Richmond Women v Bristol Ladies: Richmond Athletic Ground 2.30pm

Rugby union coverage

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of good news stories regarding the TV coverage of women’s rugby this week.  Firstly, Sky showed their first Tyrell’s 15 Premiership match last weekend.  Secondly came the news that England Roses’ Six Nations games will also be shown on Sky.  At last, some recognition for the progress the women’s game has made, particularly with the excellent staging and standard of the World Cup this summer.

Women’s Six Nations

Saturday 4 February

19:35: England v France – Twickenham (Sky Sports Mix)

Saturday 11 February

11:30: Wales v England– Cardiff Arms Park (Sky Sports 3)

Saturday 25 February

13:00: England v Italy – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday 11 March

20:00: England v Scotland – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2, delayed coverage, KO 13:00)

Friday 17 March

20:00: Ireland v England – Donnybrook, Dublin (Sky Sports Mix)

Taekwondo

There was double success for Britain’s women at the Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Ivory Coast this week.

Bianca Walkden won her fifth major title of the year when she took the +67kg category, beating Da- Bin Lee of South Korea in the final 16-9.  She won all four Grand Prix events in this calendar year as well as taking gold in the World Championships in June – the first fighter to do so.

Then Britain’s Jade Jones also took gold in the -57kg category.   She beat Marta Calvo-Gomez of Spain 26-7 in the final and ends the year as world number one in the -57kg category.

They now go on to compete for Britain the inaugural Taekwondo Grand Slam in China.

BT Action Woman

England footballer Jodie Taylor was named BT Action Woman of 2017 this week.  She beat off competition from Tammy Beaumont, Elise Christie, Hannah Cockcroft, Mallory Franklin, Johanna Konta, Katy McLean and Anya Shrubsole to take the award in a public vote.

Franklin was second, with Konta third.

Unsurprisingly the England Cricket Team took the team of the year award, while Judy Murray was given a Lifetime Achievement award for her contribution to tennis.

Rugby League World Cup

Semi-finals

England 4-52 New Zealand

England were well beaten by New Zealand at the Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney.

In truth, they were never really in it as the Kiwi Ferns took the lead in the second minute with a try from Maitua Feterika.  Shontelle Woodman and Krystal Murray added further scores before England could reply with a try of their own from Tara-Jane Stanley in the 21st minute.

England were only 14-4 down at half-time and would have been hoping for better in the second period, but it was not to be as New Zealand put on the afterburners and England had no response.

They scored seven tries in the second-half, Honey Hireme ending with a hat-trick and Krystal Murray with two.

Australia 58-6 Canada

Australia were dominant over Canada from the off.  They scored 42 unanswered points in the first-half.

The second period was more even as Australia eased through.  Natasha Smith scored Canada’s only try, while Ali Brigginshaw, Steph Hancock, Isabelle Kelly and Karina Brown all scored two tries, while Talesha Quinn, Ruan Sims and Nakia Davis-Welsh bagged one each.

Final – 2 December

Australia 23-17 New Zealand

It was an altogether tighter, and exciting, affair.  Australia took the lead on eight minutes with a try from Isabelle Kelly, with the extra points kicked by Caitlin Moran.  Four minutes later, New Zealand were level through Honey Hireme, extra points kicked by Kimiora Nati.

Hireme got her second on 20 minutes to send the Ferns into the lead.  But the Jillaroos were not to be outdone and on 36 minutes Moran scored a brilliant solo effort under the posts, converting it to give them a half-time lead of 12-10.

The second-half belonged to Australia.  Kelly scored her second try on 53, while just four minutes later Elianna Walton went over to take the game away from the Kiwi Ferns; 22-10 with just 20 minutes left.

New Zealand made a fight of it with Raecene McGregor going over in the 69th minute to take them back within a converted score of the lead.

But the Jillaroos were to have the last word.  Moran kicked a field goal in the final minute and Australia had won their second successive World Cup.

Cricket

The WBBL starts this weekend with many of the cricketing world’s biggest stars on show. Representing England are Tammy Beaumont (Adelaide Strikers) with Charlotte Edwards coaching, Georgia Elwiss (Melbourne Stars), Lauren Winfield (Hobart Hurricanes).

Coverage is on BT Sport at unholy times.  Check your TV listings for details.

Cycling

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the Track Cycling Cup in Milton, Canada, last week.

Katie Archibald won gold in the points race, winning the first four sprints and gaining a lap to take the title.  Jasmin Duehring of Canada finished second, nine points behind, with Jarmila Machacova of the Czech Republic, third.

Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson also then took gold in the madison with 29 points.  France came second on 24 and New Zealand third on 15.

Katy Marchant took silver in the keirin.  Kristina Vogel of Germany took gold, with Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands finishing in bronze position.

Curling

Scotland’s women’s Team, led by Eve Muirhead won the European Curling Championship in St Gallen, Switzerland, this week.  They beat Sweden, unbeaten up to this point, 6-3, on Saturday.

The team, Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray went behind early on, and were 2-1 down after the third end.  They took a double in the sixth end and one in each of the last three to take the match and the title.

Tennis

Serena Williams has entered the Australian Open in January.  She has returned to training after giving birth to a daughter in September and, if she takes part, this will be her first tournament back. There is no doubt that she’s still looking to equal (and break) Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles titles record of 24.  At the moment she has 23.  Who can bet against it?  Whatever happens, it will be great to see her in action again.

Horse Racing

Jockey Hayley Turner is to face a British Horseracing Authority inquiry after she was charged with a breach of betting rules.

The hearing will be on 14 December.

Football

Continental Cup

The final round of group matches took place this week:

Saturday 2 December

Bristol City Women 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Chelsea Ladies 8-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Sunday 3 December

Manchester City Women 2-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies 3-2 Durham Women

London Bees 1-1 Watford Ladies

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Reading FC Women

Oxford United Women 1-5 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Tuesday 5 December

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Liverpool Ladies

Wednesday 6 December

Chelsea Ladies 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-3 Manchester City Women

The quarter-final draw was made on 7 December:

Bristol City v Manchester City

Chelsea v Liverpool

Arsenal v Sunderland

Everton v Reading

Ties will be played over the weekend of 16/17 December.

And finally,

It’s that time again – the time when we look at the SPOTY shortlist and go, “seriously?  How many women?”  And this year is no exception.  In this year’s field of 12 twelve shortlisted, we have four women.  In the year of the Cricket World Cup, the Women’s Euros, the Rugby World Cup etc, etc, the BBC, in its wisdom, has managed to come up with four names.  Hey ho.  ‘Twas ever thus.  So the women to vote for (I’m not going to curse you if you vote for one of the men) are Elise Christie, Jo Konta, Anya Shrubsole and Bianca Walkden.

Voting has already closed in the Overseas SPOTY category.  The women shortlisted are Katie Ledecky (swimming), Tatyana McFadden (Para-athletics) and Sally Pearson (athletics).

No prizes for guessing who I’ll be voting for in the main event.  I’ve already said as much on social media – Anya Shrubsole gets my vote.  She made my summer and my year with her performance in the World Cup final.  I’m hoping the England team is nailed on for the Team of the Year award, but it would really be something special if Anya was at least close to winning it.

The programme is on Sunday 17 December and you will be able to vote by telephone on the night.

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 28 January – 3 February 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Over the next few weeks my posting may be sporadic due to a family bereavement – totally unprofessional to mention, but I’ll make every effort I can to keep the column going.  There’s so much going on that it will give me purpose and encouragement to carry on writing.

So, on that note, let’s crack on.  News this week comes from tennis, netball, winter sports, football, cricket, This Girl Can, rugby, Be a Game Changer and the biggest news from Australia for a while – the introduction of the Women’s Aussie Rules Football league.

Be a Game Changer Awards 2017

The public nomination period for the Women’s Sports Trust “Be a Game Changer” Awards 2017 is open from 1-15 February.  Check out the Women’s Sports Trust website for details.

The categories for nomination are:

Sporting Role Model (individual), Sporting Role Model (team), Ambassador of Women’s Sport, Sponsor Partnership of the Year, National Governing Body of the Year, Inspiring Initiative (National), Inspiring Initiative (Local/Grassroots), Photographer/Filmmaker of the Year, Imagery of the Year, Media Initiative of the Year, Media Individual of the Year, Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport.

If there’s someone you think should be recognised in any of these categories, don’t wait as the nomination period is a short one.

Netball

Quad Series

The Quad Series is currently underway.  This is the story so far:

Saturday, 28 January, Durban

Australian Diamonds 57-50 New Zealand Silver Ferns,

South Africa Proteas 55-60 England Roses (After extra time)

Tuesday, 31 January, Durban

South Africa Proteas 46-62 Australian Diamonds

Thursday, 2 February, Echo Arena, Liverpool

England Roses 37-61New Zealand Silver Ferns

Sunday, 5 February, SSE Arena Wembley, London

England Roses v Australian Diamonds (live on BBC Two from 1pm)

New Zealand Silver Ferns v South Africa Proteas

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Don’t forget it’s the start of the Six Nations this weekend.

It all kicks off tonight (Friday) with Scotland v Ireland at the Broadway Stadium.  Kick-off is 6.35.pm.  It will be covered in Ireland by RTE.

Ireland will be favourites to win even though they will be without regular captain Niamh Briggs.

Teams:

Scotland: Chloe Rollie (Murrayfield Wanderers), Megan Gaffney (Edinburgh University), Lisa Thomson (Edinburgh University), Lisa Martin (Murrayfield Wanderers, capt), Rhona Lloyd (Edinburgh University), Helen Nelson (Murrayfield Wanderers), Sarah Law (Murrayfield Wanderers/Edinburgh University); Tracey Balmer (Worcester), Rachel Malcolm (Lichfield), Lindsey Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill), Emma Wassell (Murrayfield Wanderers), Deborah McCormack (Aylesford Bulls), Karen Dunbar (RHC Cougars), Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Jade Konkel (Hillhead Jordanhill).

Replacements: Lucy Park (Murrayfield Wanderers), Heather Lockhart (Hillhead Jordanhill), Katie Dougan (Edinburgh University), Sarah Bonar (Lichfield), Jemma Forsyth (Hillhead Jordanhill), Jenny Maxwell (Lichfield), Lauren Harris (Melrose), Eilidh Sinclair (Murrayfield Wanderers).

 Ireland: M Coyne (Connacht); N Kavanagh (Munster), J Murphy (Leinster), S Naoupa (Aylesford Bulls), A Miller (Connacht); N Stapleton (Leinster), A Hughes (Leinster); L Peat (Leinster), L Lyons (Munster), A Egan (Belvedere); O Fitzsimons (Leinster), ML Reilly (Leinster); C Griffin (Munster), C Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), P Fitzpatrick (Leinster) capt.

Replacements: J Finlay (Leinster), I Van Staden (Ulster), C O’Connor (Connacht), E Anthony (Munster), N Fryday (Connacht), M Healy (Connacht), C McLaughlin (Ulster), E Considine (Munster)

Second to kick off will be Italy v Wales in Acona at 2pm on Saturday 4 February.

Wales: Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets), Elen Evans (Scarlets), Kerin Lake (Ospreys), Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys), Adi Taviner (Ospreys), Elinor Snowshill (Newport Gwent Dragons), Keira Bevan (Ospreys), Caryl Thomas (Scarlets), Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Rebecca Rowe (Newport Gwent Dragons), Mel lay (Ospreys), Sioned Harries (Scarlets), Rachel Taylor (Scarlets), Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys)

Replacements: Lowri Harries (Scarlets), Cerys Hale (Newport Gwent Dragons), Gwenllian Pyrs (Scarlets), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Sian Moore (Newport Gwent Dragons), Gemma Rowland (Newport Gwent Dragons), Jessica Kavanagh-Williams (Scarlets)

England v France takes place on Saturday at Twickenham at 7.35pm (after the men’s game).   This is already being billed as the Six Nations decider.

The game will be live on Sky Sports and on the radio on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.  There will also be highlights on BBC TV.

DMP Sharks second row, Tamara Taylor will receive her 99th England cap.

England:  Danielle Waterman (Bristol), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Amber Reed (Bristol), Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol), Marlie Packer (Bristol), Sarah Hunter (Bristol)

If you can’t find TV or radio coverage, try the Six Nations You Tube channel.

Sevens

This Friday and Saturday sees the next round of the World Seven Series, this time in Sydney.

England finished third in Pool C on Friday as they beat Spain but lost to both Russia and the USA.  They failed to make the Cup quarter finals and now face Papua New Guinea in the Challenge Trophy semi-final.

England Women squad, Sydney

  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

Pool C results

Friday 3 February

England 19-10 Spain

England 14- 22 USA

Russia 31-5 England

New Zealand, Australia and Russia finished unbeaten in their respective pools on day one.

Ireland beat Fiji and Brazil and lost to Australia in Pool B and to finish second.  They will face USA in their Cup quarter-final.

The full Cup quarter-final line-up is as follows:

New Zealand v France

Ireland v USA

Australia v Fiji

Russia v Canada

Australian Rules Football

Possibly the biggest thing to hit women’s sport in Australia in years.  The AFL has, at last, launched a women’s league and it is set to be huge.

The first game took place today and a crowd of 24,500 (with reportedly 1,000 locked outside) saw Carlton beat Collingwood 46-11.

No-one can say it hasn’t been a long time coming.  I’d love to go through the history here (perhaps a new column for WiSP Sports?), but I haven’t got time or space.  For a quick introduction try this piece by Russell Jackson in The Guardian.

For weeks on end now my social media timeline has been buzzing with the league’s imminent arrival.  Cricket Australia and other sports governing bodies must be quaking in their boots.

It’s not my game, I admit it now, but the enthusiasm is infectious and if I can find a reliable source for news, coverage and information I’ll certainly feature it in the future.

One thing’s for certain – the AFLW means business.

Football

Indian League

As I mentioned last week, the new Indian Women’s league is now go.  I’m happy to give the results so far:

28 January

Jeppiaar Institute FC 1-7 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Rising Student FC 6-1 Aizawl FC

29 January

FC Pune City 0-0 Alakhpura FC

30 January

Eastern Sporting Union FC 1-2 Rising Student FC

31 January

FC Pune City 1-0 Jeppiaar Institute FC

Alakhpura FC 6-2 Aizawl FC

2 February

Eastern Sporting Union FC 3-1 FC Pune City

Rising Student FC 0-1 Alakhpura FC

3 February

Aizawl FC 2-3 Jeppiaar Institute FC

Transfers

The threat of the demise of Notts County Ladies seems to have receded and they have started making signings again.  This week they signed striker Kirsty Linnett from Birmingham City.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have strengthened their forward line by signing England Under-23 striker, Beth Mead, from Sunderland.  This may have something to do with the news a few week ago that Sunderland are reverting to part-time status, while Arsenal could offer Mead a full-time contract.

I’m hoping this doesn’t signal an exodus from Sunderland, especially as they club went to such pains to reassure us all that their part-time decision was agreed by all – players and staff alike.

However, this week also saw midfielder Brooke Chaplen out of the door as she signed for Reading on an 18-months contract.

This Girl Can

Sport England launched the second phase of its This Girl Can campaign this week.

Since its inception in 2015, 1.6 million women and girls aged 14-40 have taken up or restarted sport.

The next four-week campaign will tackle fear of judgement, preventing women giving up sport and widening the approach to women in their 50s and 60s.

Look out for the adverts on social media, TV and the new fantastic billboards and posters at bus-stops.

Cricket

India

It is well known that the governing body of Indian Cricket, the BCCI, is undergoing a period of change and reform.   A new panel of administrators has been appointed to run the body.  And surprisingly, there is just one ex-player in the panel of four – and that ex-player is a woman.  Diana Edulji played for the Indian women’s team from 1976 to 1993.  She took 63 test wickets in 20 matches and 46 ODI wickets in 34 matches during this time.

Since her retirement she has been involved in sports administration, and is, thus, well qualified to help restructure the BCCI.

Needless to say she went through the ignominy suffered by so many cricketing women when she was refused entry to the inner sanctums of Lord’s even though she was in charge of the Indian tour of England in 1986.  Apparently she suggested that the MCC be renamed MCP (Male Chauvinist Pig).

She also clashed repeatedly with former BCCI president N Srinivasan who told her that regarding women’s cricket,

“I’m not interested, we have no choice but to run it, so we are running it for the sake of running it.”

She has also been a devoted advocate of better conditions and pay for the women’s game and is not afraid of wading into an argument.

Watch this space to see how it goes.

Kia Super League

Big news from the Kia Super League this week, with not only the fixtures being announced, but also a new broadcast package from Sky and TMS.

Thursday 10 August – Southern Vipers v Western Storm (Ageas Bowl, live on Sky Sports)
Friday 11 August – Yorkshire Diamonds v Lancashire Thunder (Headingley, live on Sky Sports)
Saturday 12 August – Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning (Taunton, live on Sky Sports)
Sunday 13 August – Surrey Stars v Yorkshire Diamonds (Kia Oval, live on Sky Sports)
Tuesday 15 August – Loughborough Lightning v Southern Vipers (Derby, live on Sky Sports)
Wednesday 16 August – Lancashire Thunder v Surrey Stars (Emirates Old Trafford, live on Sky Sports)
Friday 18 August – Loughborough Lightning v Yorkshire Diamonds (Loughborough)
Sunday 20 August – Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Blackpool CC)
Sunday 20 August – Southern Vipers v Surrey Stars (Ageas Bowl)
Sunday 20 August – Yorkshire Diamonds v Western Storm (York CC)
Wednesday 23 August – Lancashire Thunder v Southern Vipers (Liverpool CC)
Wednesday 23 August – Surrey Stars v Western Storm (Guildford CC)
Saturday 26 August – Surrey Stars v Loughborough Lightning (Guildford CC)
Saturday 26 August – Western Storm v Lancashire Thunder (The Brightside Ground, Bristol)
Saturday 26 August – Southern Vipers v Yorkshire Diamonds (Arundel)
Friday 1 September – Finals day (1st Central County Ground, Hove, live on Sky Sports)

There will be six double-headers with the T20 Blast.  There will be coverage from every round on Test Match Special.  Personally I’m still not convinced about the efficacy of double-headers in either the cricket fashion (women playing before) or rugby fashion (women playing afterwards.).  I’d be happy to hear what you think.

WBBL

Perth Scorchers were unable to do the double last Saturday as the women’s team lost to the Sydney Sixers at the WACA in the final of the second WBBL.

The Sixers batted first and scored a respectable 124/5.  Alyssa Healy, in storming form throughout the tournament, was top scorer with 40 and Marizanne Kapp scored 34 not out.  English fast bowler Anya Shrubsole took 2/17.

The Scorchers were unable to reach the target though, falling short by seven runs.  They finished on 117/7 off their 20 overs.  Katherine Brunt top scored with 35 not out.  Nicole Bolton scored 34.  Sarah Aley took 4/23.

So that’s two from two for Sydney as the Thunder took the inaugural competition in 2016.

World Cup Qualifying Tournament

The World Cup Qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka gets underway on 7 February.

Group A comprises:  India, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Thailand

Group B comprises: South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Scotland and PNG

Four places are still up for grabs.

Tennis

Serena Williams claimed her 23rd Grand Slam title on Saturday as she beat her sister Venus to win the Australian Open in Melbourne.

She won the match in straight sets, 6-4 6-4.

Winter Sports

More success for Britain in winter sports this week.

Snowboarder Katie Ormerod won a bronze medal in slopestyle at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

She scored 80.33.  The gold was taken by Julia Marino on 94.66.

Meanwhile, in bobsleigh, Mica Moore and Mica McNeill won junior Bobsleigh World Championship gold in Winterberg, Germany.

Moore of Wales and McNeill of England only teamed up this winter but have already won four medals in competition.  They won in Winterberg in a time of 53.96 seconds.  Anna Koehler and Franziska Fritz of Germany won silver with compatriots Kim Kalicki and Lisa-Sophie Gericke taking bronze.

And finally

French League Un club, Lille, have offered free match tickets to women after sexist banners appeared in the crowd with their match at Lyon.

I’m sure most of you have seen the banners; one was a picture of a man with the word “stadium” underneath, while the second was a woman with the word “kitchen” underneath.

Ironic really, as the Lille women’s team have won the French title 14 times…..

 

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.