Women’s Sports Column 23-29 July

CiUasEcWsAAh-HkWelcome to this week’s column. Apologies for the lack of a column last week, but some of you may have seen I was invited to the Isle of Wight to watch the Magenta Project giving some professional female sailors the chance to sail a 32ft foiling catamaran. And most exciting it was too. Hopefully, if someone is interested enough, they will take the resulting article from me and you will all be able to read it. It’s such a great story and deserves to be spread far and wide.

Anyway, enough self promotion. This week I have stories from tennis, rugby union, football, cycling, golf, an Olympic snippet, cricket and a good-news “And finally” to send you into the weekend happy.

After her disappointing second round defeat at Wimbledon, Joanna Konta came storming back this week to win her first WTA title when she beat Venus Williams 7-5 5-7 6-2 in the Stanford Classic in California.

She looked to be cruising at 7-5 4-1, but Venus is never one to give up. She came back to win six out of the next seven games and take it to a deciding set.

Konta took the title on her third match point.

Her good form has continued into the Rogers Cup this week. She is now into the quarter finals after she beat American qualifier Vania King 7-5 6-1 in the third round and Varvara Lepchenko 6-3 6-2 in the fourth. Lepchenko beat British number three Naomi Broady in the first round, 6-4 3-6 6-3.

 

Stunning news from rugby union this week as the RFU announced that they will be awarding 48 professional contracts to England women players for the season 2016/17. After the Olympics in Rio, 16 players will be awarded full-time contracts to focus on 15-a side rugby. An additional 16 players will receive part-time contracts to focus on sevens. Then 16 short-term contracts will be awarded to allow players to attend residential camps ahead of major tournaments such as the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup.

In making the announcement, RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie said,

 “The RFU is committed to supporting the growth of women’s rugby. We are immensely proud of England Women’s achievements and we want to provide the best support to continue this success.

“More women and girls in this country are playing rugby than ever before and England Women are important role models to encourage more people to try our sport.”

This is a seismic shift in the position of women’s rugby in England and will be key in the build-up to the World Cup in Ireland in 2017. Mind you, it also means that big things will be expected of the squad – if they could win the World Cup without contracts, what should they be able to do with them?

 

The Women’s Under-19s Euros have been taking place in Slovakia over the past two weeks – who knew? (and the answer to that is no-one if you just follow the mainstream sports media)

The teams into the final tournament group stage were France, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. France finished top of group A and played runners up in group B, Switzerland, in the semi-final. Spain topped group B and played Switzerland, runners up in Group A, in their semi-final.

28 July

France 3-1 Switzerland

Switzerland took the lead just before half-time through Géraldine Reuteler. But an inspired substitution from France saw replacement Clara Mateo score in the 46th minute, set up another for Marie-Antoinette Katato in the 50th and put away the third and her second in the 54th minute to secure their place in the final.

Spain 4-3 Netherlands

The other semi-final was a thriller. Netherlands took the lead twice before succumbing to a hat-trick from Spain’s star striker Sandra Hernàndez.

Suzanne Admiraal scored the first for Netherlands in the 22nd minute, but Hernàndez struck back almost immediately to make it 1-1. Netherlands then took the lead for a second time through Jill Roord, but 10 minutes later Hernàndez scored her second to level it once again. Spain then made it 3-2 through defender Marta Cazalla, with Hernàndez completing her hat-trick in the 81st minute. Michelle Hendriks got a third for Netherlands, but it was nothing more than a consolation and Spain had booked their place in Sunday’s final.

The final is on Sunday 31 July. There is an excellent UEFA website dedicated to this tournament. If you would like to read more about it, here’s the link: http://www.uefa.com/womensunder19/

 

In the FAWSL Manchester City are looking more and more unbeatable. They demolished Notts County at Meadow Lane 5-1 to maintain their unbeaten record with 23 points from nine games – seven wins and two draws.

Notts County Ladies 1-5 Manchester City Women

City took the lead after just five minutes through Jane Ross. On 25 minutes Jill Scott doubled the lead with a header. It was 4-0 at half-time when Ross scored a second on 41 and in injury time Georgia Stanway made it four. After half time, County pulled one back through a penalty, scored by Jess Clarke, but it was not to be the start of a comeback and Izzy Christiansen scored City’s fifth to inflict County’s worst defeat in the Women’s Super League.

Chelsea Ladies 4-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Still no joy for the Belles as Chelsea ran out comfortable winners at Staines Town. Eni Aluko scored the first after 13 minutes, but this was the only goal in the first half and Doncaster must have gone in at the break with hope. However, they were unable to penetrate in the second half and Chelsea doubled their lead in the 68th minute through Ji So-Yun. Aluko got her second with seven minutes to go, and Beth England completed the rout in the 89th. Belles are still winless, and indeed pointless, after six games.

Sunderland AFC Ladies 0-4 Arsenal Ladies

Early goals seem to be key to success, if this week’s results are anything to go by. Arsenal struck in the 10th minute through Vicky Losada. Jordan Nobbs made it two with a stunning strike on 24 after a fine passing move with Dan Carter at the heart of it. After the break, Carter herself grabbed a goal and Fara Williams the fourth for Arsenal from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute, after missing another penalty earlier in the game.

Reading FC Women1-1 Birmingham City Ladies

Reading were denied their first Super League win by German international, Isabelle Linden, who scored her first goal in English football on Sunday. Melissa Fletcher put the home side in front with a header early in the second half. Birmingham’s equaliser came on the 73rd minute and the points were shared.

Sunday 24 July 2016

FA WSL 2

Yeovil Town Ladies FC 4-0 Durham Women FC
Oxford United Women 0-1 Everton Ladies FC
Sheffield FC Ladies 2-2 Millwall Lionesses
Watford Ladies FC 0-2 Aston Villa Ladies FC

Saturday 23 July 2016

FA WSL 2

Bristol City Women 3-0 London Bees

 

The International Crown golf tournament was won by United States this week. This biennial competition, played in even-numbered years, is contested by eight countries determined by the World Ranking of the top four players from each country. Countries must have a minimum of four ranked players to be eligible. The top four ranked players from each qualifying country should make up their team, but if a player chooses not to or is unable to play, their place should be taken by the next ranking player.

The competition takes place over four days. It comprises three days of four-ball rounds and one of singles. After the four-balls, the bottom three countries are eliminated.

The eight countries finished in the following order: USA, Korea, England, Chinese Taipei, Japan, China, Thailand and Australia. The last three on this were eliminated after the four-balls.

England led after the first round of four-balls, but couldn’t maintain their good form. USA finished the tournament on 13 points, with Korea second on 12. England and Chinese Taipei tied for third on 11. The England team was made up of Charley Hull, Melissa Reid, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Holly Clyburn.

 

It’s the Women’s British Open at Woburn this week and it’s good to see it on terrestrial TV. Check it out on BBC2 if you get the chance.

After the first round the leaderboard is as follows:

10 M Lee (Kor); -7 A Jutanugarn (Tha); -6 S Feng (Chn); -5 S Lewis (US), MH Lee (Kor)

Selected others:

-3 C Hull (Eng); -2 C Matthew (Sco), B Law (Eng); -1 JE Shadoff (Eng); +1 C Woods (US), L Young (Eng); +2 L Davies (Eng), L Ko (NZ)

South Korea’s Mirim Lee made a storming start with a course-record 10 under 62. She is already three shots ahead of Ariya Jutanugam of Thailand with Shanshan Feng a further stroke behind in third. England’s Charley Hull, playing on her home course, had a steady start and is currently tied 11th on three under par.

 

In cycling, the 89km-long La Course took place on Sunday in Paris. Australian Chloe Hosking sprinted away down the Champs Élysées to win with Finland’s Lotta Lepisto in second and Marianne Vos third.

The 13-lap race included several crashes, one of which involved Hosking’s Wiggle High5 teammate, Briton Dani King.

An interesting Olympic snippet has emerged this week. For the first time, the Australian team will have more men than women competing. It was a close-run thing, but the late expulsion of the Russian women’s rowing eight meant that the Australian squad was called-up as replacement.

The team now comprises 212 women and 207 men.

“It’s a very strong statement that shows women’s sport is genuine sport,” said Australian Olympic team boss Kitty Chiller.

“It’s about time the female athletes were given the credit, recognition and accolades they so richly deserve.”

I think we all agree with that, don’t we?

 

I wouldn’t be doing my cricket-promoting-loving job if I didn’t give one more plug to the Kia Super League, which starts on Saturday. The ECB has been on overdrive over the last fortnight, getting the women on TV, radio and in print wherever they can. Pity it hasn’t been a bit more of a consistent build-up to keep people thinking about it, but there we go. I’m hoping it’s not panic on the ECB’s behalf – I haven’t heard anything about ticket sales.

My WSUK colleague Simon Cafferty and I have previewed the six teams for WSUK; here’s the link http://www.womenssportsuk.com/cricket/.

It’s no secret that I’m backing my local team, Loughborough Lightning, for the title (which has probably put the mockers on them). I would encourage my readers to get out and see a game if they can. It’s not on television (scandal, no room to talk about that here), but there are several matches on Test Match Special on 5Live Sports Xtra.

Here are the fixtures again:

Sat 30 Jul Yorkshire Diamonds v Loughborough Lightning (Headingley 14.30)

Sun 31 Jul Southern Vipers v Surrey Stars (Ageas Bowl 14.00)

Sun 31 Jul Western Storm v Lancashire Thunder (Taunton 14.30)

Wed 3 Aug Loughborough Lightning v Lancashire Thunder (Haslegrave 16.30)

Thurs 4 Aug Surrey Stars v Yorkshire Diamonds (Kia Oval 18.30pm)

Fri 5 Aug Lancashire Thunder v Southern Vipers (Stanley Park, Blackpool 14.30)

Fri 5 Aug Loughborough Lightning v Western Storm (Haslegrave 16.30)

Sun 7 Aug Western Storm v Surrey Stars (Bristol 14.30pm)

Mon 8 Aug Southern Vipers v Yorkshire Diamonds (Ageas Bowl 14.00)

Tues 9 Aug Surrey Stars v Lancashire Thunder (Guildford 14.30pm)

Fri 12 Aug Loughborough Lightning v Surrey Stars (Haslegrave 16.30pm)

Fri 12 Aug Western Storm v Southern Vipers (Taunton 17.00)

Fri 12 Aug Lancashire Thunder v Yorkshire Diamonds (Old Trafford 18.00)

Sun 14 Southern Vipers v Loughborough Lightning (Ageas Bowl 14.00)

Sun 14 Yorkshire Diamonds v Western Storm (Headingley 14.30)

 

Finals day is Sunday 21 August at the Essex County Ground, Chelmsford.

 

And finally, doctors gave her just a 1% chance of survival following a motorbike accident in Vietnam, but now Scottish judoka Stephanie Inglis is going home.

In the accident she suffered two neck fractures and a serious head injury. Whilst in hospital she contracted infections including pneumonia and septicaemia. She’s had deep vein thrombosis and was also unable to talk after undergoing a tracheotomy.

She has been in Edinburgh hospital for six weeks, but now returns to Inverness to continue her recovery.

A crowdfunding campaign, set up by her judo teammate and friend Khalid Ghelan, raised over £304,000 to help pay for her treatment in Bangkok.

She obviously has a fearsome amount of determination;

“My physio is helping me improve every day, I’m feeling much more confident on my feet plus I have an occupational therapist and a speech and language therapist, so I think my speech is back to normal.”

What can I say that won’t sound trite or insincere? Inspirational, humbling: definitely. And with that kind of drive and courage, who’s to say she can’t return to the top? A great way to end this week’s column.

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Women’s Sports Column 7-13 May

Charlotte-Edwards-award-300x197Plenty more interesting stuff this week, and although we’d love to see it in the mainstream press emblazoned all over the back pages, it’s not, so I’m happy to say you can read it all here  instead.

This week’s stories come from cricket, judo, netball, tennis, football, rowing and diving, plus another groaner from tennis in “And finally”.

Only one story for me this week (don’t worry, I will cover more).

England cricket captain Charlotte Edwards retired from international cricket on Wednesday. Needless to say I immediately put finger to keyboard to add my contribution to the thousands of words produced on that day in tribute to this brilliant cricketer:

http://www.womenssportsuk.com/cricket/news/end-of-an-era-as-england-captain-charlotte-edwards-retires-from-internation.

At the time there was some debate about why she had made the announcement – I said, “Did she fall or was she pushed?” Unfortunately it became clear later in the day that it was the latter. She admitted that it was “a complete shock” as she revealed that Head of Women’s Cricket at the ECB and new Head Coach Mark Robinson informed her that they wished to take the captaincy away from her. Apparently she thought she would be able to continue in the team, but then was further stunned to find that she was not to be part of Robinson’s plans in any way.

I have real doubts as to the wisdom of this move, as I outline in my piece above. This round-up is not the forum for this discussion, but I would just say that Edwards still has plenty to offer. Her England career, in my view, has been brought to a premature end. Please read my piece for a list of Edwards’ biggest achievements.

My favourite Twitter tribute comes from cricket writer Vithushan;

“She fought to play, she fought to win, then fought again & won even more. Charlotte Edwards fought so those after her wouldn’t have to.”

In better cricket news, the ECB announced this week that the England team will travel to Jamaica in October to play five one-day matches against T20 World Champions, West Indies.

The first two games will be at the Trelawny Stadium and the other three at Sabina Park in Kingston. If anyone would like to pay me to go out to Jamaica to cover this series, I am happy to do it (seriously).

 

News, good and bad, from judo this week. Terrible news emerged today that Scottish Commonwealth silver medallist judoka, Stephanie Inglis, is in a coma after a motorbike accident in Vietnam. She had been teaching English there and was on her way to the school in Ha Long in NE Vietnam, when it is thought her dress caught in the wheel of the bike and she was dragged off the machine. She suffered extensive head injuries in the accident.

In competition news British judoka Alice Schlesinger won her first Grand Slam event since 2012 when she beat Marijana Miskovic Hasanbegovic from Croatia in Baku this week in the -63kg category just 27 seconds into the final.

There was also a silver medal for Nekoda Davis in the -57kg category.

In a fitting finale for the netball Superleague season on Saturday, defending champions, Surrey Storm, retained their title in a pulsating victory over Manchester Thunder 55-53 at the Copper Box in London.

It looked to be all over by half-time with Storm’s 32-19 lead, but Thunder mounted an incredible comeback which nearly led to the win, but they fell just short, leaving Storm hanging on to take the title.

In the third place play-off Team Bath beat Hertfordshire Mavericks in another tight game 49-48.

I don’t say this often, but at this point I would like to congratulate Sky Sports on their coverage of the netball this season. It has been committed and regular and of an excellent standard. No wonder netball is one of the fastest growing sports for women in Britain.

 

The Madrid Open last weekend was claimed by world number seven, Simona Halep, as she beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-4.

Some good signs for British women’s tennis at the Italian Open in Rome this week. British number one, Johanna Konta reached the third round with some impressive tennis, but ultimately she will be disappointed with her exit at the hands of Misaki Doi of Japan 4-6 7-5 6-2. Doi is 22 places below Konta in the world rankings. However, her recent form has secured her a seeding for the French Open.

Heather Watson had to come through qualifying to get into the main draw. In the first round she recorded an excellent win against world number 18 and home favourite, Sara Errani, 6-4 3-6 6-0. Unfortunately she couldn’t repeat this form in round two and lost to world number 36 Barbora Strycova, 6-4 6-2.

In other tennis news it was announced that Andy Murray has split with his coach Amélie Mauresmo. Since giving birth to her first child last year, Mauresmo has struggled to combine her coaching commitments with being French Fed Cup captain and commitments to her family.

Needless to say the announcement was the cue for those with a sexist agenda to cry out that he should never have appointed a woman in the first place. But Murray has been vigorous in his defence of Mauresmo, pointing out that such issues do not only affect women, citing the case of Stefan Edberg who gave up coaching Roger Federer to spend more time with his family. He also insisted that the two years spent with Mauresmo have developed both his physical game and mental approach.

Two games to catch-up on in the FAWSL.

Sunday 8 May

Chelsea 6-3 Liverpool

A goal-fest at Wheatsheaf Park saw Chelsea Ladies put six past Liverpool Ladies take the points to maintain their winning start to the season.

Liverpool went ahead in the match through a goal from Zelem, but the Blues came back to be 4-1 up at half-time with goals from Carney, Kirby, Spence and Aluko.

Liverpool were better in the second half but couldn’t convert their chances. Chelsea showed them how to do it as Kirby and Spence each got their second to take them to a convincing win.

Notts County Ladies 0-1 Birmingham City Ladies

Notts County couldn’t follow up on their good win against Liverpool last week as a single goal from Emily Westwood gave Birmingham City the win at Meadow Lane.

The teams couldn’t be separated at half-time, but some sloppy defending from County saw Westwood head in from Jo Potter’s free kick.

 

At the European Rowing Championships in Germany over the weekend, Britain took seven medals in total (men and women).

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning retained their women’s pairs title and there was also gold for the women’s eight who beat the Netherlands by 0.37 to take the title.

Katherine Grainger and her new partner Vicky Thornley could only finish fourth in the women’s double sculls.

Kat Copeland and Charlotte Taylor missed out on the A final of the lightweight women’s sculls but finished second in the B final on Sunday.

 

It was also the 2016 European Aquatics Championships this week, held at the Olympic Park Aquatics Centre in London.

This year is the first that mixed competition has been included.

Britain’s Georgia Ward and Matty Lee won team bronze alternating 10m platform and 3m springboard to score 353.85 from their six dives. Gold was taken by Russia’s Nadezhda Bazhina and Viktor Minibaev with 413.30 points with the Ukrainian pair of Iuliia Prokopchuk and Oleksandr Gorshkovozov in silver position with 396.40.

Grace Reid and Tom Daley won gold in the mixed 3m synchronised event with a score of 321.06. Silver went to the Italian pairing of Tania Cagnotto and Maicol Verzotto and bronze to Nadezhda Bazhina and Nikita Shleikher of Russia.

 

And finally, I was listening to BBC 5 Live Sports Extra’s coverage of the men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray when a discussion ensued about scheduling. Barry Flatman, the “expert” summariser was bemoaning the fact that the men’s final was at a strange time on the Sunday, while the women’s was at a better time on the Saturday. His comment was, “perhaps the women’s final could be moved to the morning and it can be played as a preamble to the men’s”. Yes. Really. He really said that.