Women’s Sports Column 17-23 February 2018

winter-snow-nature-60561Welcome to this week’s column.  Last week I asked “what more does Elise Christie have to do to win a medal?”  Well, unfortunately that was answered this week by “wait until Beijing 2022” as she had a terrible experience x 2, crashing out in one and being disqualified from the other of her two remaining events.  But there has been plenty more to celebrate this week.  Stories come from the Winter Olympics, football, rugby union, cricket, netball and hockey.

So let’s crack on!

Winter Olympics

Marit Bjorgen

This week Marit Bjorgen of Norway became the most decorated Winter Olympian.  She has won four medals at Pyeongchang, taking her total to 14.

At this Olympics the cross-country skier won Bronze in the 10km, bronze in the team sprint with Maiken Caspersen Falla, silver in the pursuit and gold in the ridiculously exciting 4 x 5km relay.

Elise Christie

Love her or loathe her (and many do), she’s always good entertainment value.  Personally, I feel gutted on her behalf – is she under an Olympic curse?  There’s no denying her talent, she is a multiple world champion, after all.  So what happens when she sets foot on an Olympic course?

For the record, in the 1500m she crashed out on the final lap, colliding with Li Jinyu of China in the process.  She was taken to hospital and her place in the 1000m was severely in doubt.  She sustained ankle ligament damage and was not really fit to take part.  But she lined up in the 100m heat, even though she was obviously in pain.  She fell on the first lap, but the heat was restarted.  She finished second and would have qualified, but the judges said she had committed an offence during the race and was disqualified.

Skeleton

For all the trials and tribulations, British performance of the Games must go to Lizzy Yarnold.  She retained her skeleton title, taking the gold 0.45 seconds ahead of Jacqueline Loelling of Germany and with a fabulous performance by Laura Deas to secure bronze 0.62 seconds behind the winner.

Yarnold has shown such enthusiasm – she had such a poor season that no-one really expected her to win.  But when she did, it was with an abundance of joy that was clear to see.  It was also good to see her celebrate with her good friend Laura Deas.   A great competition all round.

Ice Hockey

There was a shock in the ice hockey final as the USA defeated Canada in a shoot out.   The scores were level after 2-2 after five penalties each.  Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the sixth for the USA but Meghan Agosta’s for Canada was saved by goalminder Maddie Rooney.

It’s the first time USA have beaten Canada in 20 years.

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill and Mica Moore finished eighth in the bobsleigh.  Not bad for a crowdfunded team, who were not deemed to be deserving of mainstream funding.  Let’s hope this brings them further funding that sees them compete again in Beijing.

Curling

Team Muirhead fell to Sweden in the semi-finals 10-5.  The Swedes went ahead early, and although GB pulled it back to 3-3 after five ends, that’s as close as they got to being in front.

Team GB will now compete for Bronze against Japan on Saturday.

Lindsey Vonn

Another woman to have had a mixed games is US skiing star, Lindsey Vonn.  Before the Games started she endured some serious social media trolling criticising her for her political stance against President Trump.  More than once she was accused of being “un-American”.   She was also still grieving the loss of her Grandfather, who died in November and, it has been revealed that she scattered his ashes on the course in Pyeongchang where she won her bronze medal earlier in the week.

In competition, as already stated, she won a bronze in the Alpine downhill.  Gold went to Sofia Goggia of Italy with Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway in silver.

But it all went horribly wrong in the Alpine combined.  She was top after the first run, but in the slalom she went off course and failed to finish.   Michelle Gisin of Switzerland took gold with Mikaela Shiffrin silver and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, bronze.

Hopefully she will continue to compete, although we will not see her in another Olympics.

Football – on the pitch

FA Cup Fifth Round
Birmingham City 1-3 Manchester City (after extra time)
Arsenal 1-0 Millwall Lionesses
Cardiff City 1-3 Charlton Athletic
Chelsea 6-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Chichester City 0-3 Liverpool
Durham 5-2 Leicester City
Lewes 0-6 Everton
Sunderland AFC 3-2 Aston Villa

The draw has been made for the quarter-finals:

Sunderland v Manchester City
Liverpool v Chelsea
Arsenal v Charlton
Durham v Everton

Fixtures to be played the weekend 18-19 March.

Netball

It was Round 2 of the Vitality Superleague this weekend.  The scores were:

Saturday 17 February
Severn Stars 52-64 Wasps Netball
Team Northumbria 43-65 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 19 February
Celtic Dragons 35-54 Team Bath
Manchester Thunder 60-43 UWS Sirens
Benecos Mavericks 64-62 Surrey Storm

After two rounds, the table is split – five teams have two wins each and five have none from two.  Top are Team Bath on goal average, with Wasps second and Loughborough, third.

It’s a double-header this long weekend, beginning on Thursday and continuing until Monday.  The Sky televised match is on Monday 26 February:

Round 3
Thursday 22 February
Wasps Netball 69-37 UWS Sirens

Friday 23 February
Team Bath v Surrey Storm (7.30pm)
Manchester Thunder v Team Northumbria (7.30pm)

Saturday 24 February
Benecos Mavericks v Severn Stars (4pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons (6pm)

Round 4
Monday 26 February
Loughborough Lightning v Manchester Thunder (7pm live on Sky Sports)
UWS Sirens v Team Northumbria (7pm)
Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm (7pm)
Severn Stars v Team Baath (7.30pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Wasps Netball (7.30pm)

Football – off the pitch

Lionesses

The England squad for the SheBelieves Cup, which starts on 1 March has been announced.  Anita Asante is picked for the first time since 2015:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Carly Telford (Chelsea).

Defenders: Anita Asante, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright (all Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes (both Manchester City).

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh (all Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Fara Williams (Reading).

Forwards: Karen Carney, Fran Kirby (both Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Melissa Lawley, Nikita Parris (both Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Melbourne City), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

All England’s games are being covered by the BBC:

England v France (1 March, 9pm)
Germany v England (4 March, 8pm)
USA v England (8 March, midnight)

Casey Stoney

Not one of sport’s best kept secrets, this week it was announced that Casey Stoney will join Phil Neville’s coaching staff when she hangs up her boots on Wednesday 21 February.

She will play her last game against Sunderland and then will travel with the squad and staff to the USA for the SheBelieves Cup.

Neville could not ask for a more knowledgeable, more respected addition to the team.  Her view of the game and her knowledge of the both the current squad and potential newcomers will be vital to the new manager.

Needless to say, the article on the BBC website prompted some unbelievable bile masquerading in some cases, but not in all of them, as “banter”, directed at Stoney, her sexuality, England women’s football, women’s football in general, Neville, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.  Really chaps (and yes, it is chaps), I know I’ve said this before, but for people who profess to have no interest in or knowledge of the women’s game, you all have an opinion.  And judging by what was left in by the moderators, I’d hate to see what was taken out as unacceptable……

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Tyrell 15s Premier League results were:
17 February
Harlequins 80-7 Worcester Valkyries
Wasps 26-12 Bristol
Saracens 29-29 Gloucester-Hartpury
Loughborough Lightning 21-15 DMP Sharks

18 February
Richmond 20-12 Firwood Waterloo

All the teams have now played 15 matches.  Saracens’ draw sees their lead at the top of the table cut to just three points.  They lie on 68, with Harlequins on second with 65 and Wasps third on 54.  Worcester are still tethered at the bottom with two points, with Firwood Waterloo second from bottom on 11.

This weekend sees the third round of the Six Nations:

23 February
Scotland v England (Scotstoun, 7.05pm, live on Sky Sports)

24 February
France v Italy (Stade Furiani, 8pm GMT, French TV)

25 February
Ireland v Wales (Donnybrook, Dublin, 3pm, RTE & S4C)

Hockey
Argentina v Great Britain

Well, this series completely passed me by, for which hearty apologies.  GB avoided a series whitewash by winning the fourth game of five.

10 February: Argentina 2-1 Great Britain
GB took the lead through Susannah Townsend, but the hosts hit back through Maria Campoy and Eugenia Trinchinetti.  The GB team included players winning their first caps.

11 February: Argentina 3-1 Great Britain
Alex Danson’s 100th cap saw another loss for GB. The visitors took the lead on seven minutes through Elena Rayer, but again Argentina hit back.   Delfina Merino scored the equaliser.  By half-time Argentina were ahead, their second goal scored by Maria Granatto.  In the third period they grabbed another, through Julieta Jankunas.

14 February: Argentina 5-2 Great Britain
After two tight games, the third was a convincing win for the home side.  Maria Granatto scored after just five minutes, but shortly afterwards Alex Danson equalised. Granatto grabbed another  and Bianca Donati two to take it to 4-1.  Milagros Fernandez added a fifth, before Danson grabbed her second and fiftieth for Great Britain to make the final score 5-2..

17 February: Argentina 2-4 Great Britain
There was at last something to cheer about for GB fans in the fourth match.  Danson scored twice in the first quarter and sealed her hat-trick with nine minutes to go.  The fourth GB goal came from Laura Unsworth.  The Argentine goals came from Campoy and, with just five minutes remaining, Noel Barrionuevo got a second for the hosts.

17 February: Argentina 1-0 Great Britain
It was back to winning ways for the home side in the fifth and final match of the series.  Eugenia Trinchinetti scored the only goal of the game in the tenth minute.

Investec Hockey League Premier Division

17 February
University of Birmingham 5-0 Clifton Robinsons
Canterbury 3-2 Buckingham
Surbiton 1-1 Bowdon
East Grinstead 2-1 Leicester
Slough 0-1 Holcombe

After 13 games, University of Birmingham are top with 26 points, one point ahead of Surbiton.  Holcombe are third on 23.  At the bottom, Leicester prop up the table with 10 points. Just ahead of them are Slough on 12.

Cricket

Second T20
16 February
South Africa 142/7 (20 0vers)
India 144/1(19.1 overs)
India won by 9 wickets with 5 balls remaining

India went 2-0 up in the five-match series on Friday.  Again the batters mostly got starts, but no-on e could make the big score that would seriously cause problems.  Sue Luus top-scored with 33.  Poonam Yadav and Anuja Patil took 2/18 from four overs and 2/37 from four overs respectively.

In response Mithali Raj was in majestic form yet again.  She scored 76 not out from 61 balls with fine back-up from Smriti Mandhana with 57.  Harmanpreet Kaur came in when Mandhana was out in the fifteenth over, scoring seven to get India home comfortably.

Third T20
18 February
India 133 all out (17.5 overs)
South Africa 134/5 (19 overs)
South Africa won by five wickets with 6 balls remaining

Shabnim Ismail produced an excellent spell of 5/30 from 3.5 overs to help skittle India out for just 133.  But it was Marizanne Kapp who began the rout, taking the wicket of Raj for a duck in the first over.

Although Lizelle Lee was also out for five, in the first over of the response, Sune Luus scored 41off 34 balls and the middle order all contributed as South Africa won with an over to spare.

 Fourth T20
21 February
South Africa 130/3 (15.3 overs)
Match abandoned due to rain

India went into an unassailable 2-1 lead as the fourth match at Centurion was abandoned.

The last match in the series, and South Africa’s opportunity to draw it, is on Saturday 24 February at Newlands.

Alex Blackwell

Australia’s vice-captain, Alex Blackwell has announced her international retirement.

The 34-year old is Australia’s most-capped female player making 251 appearances over all formats.  She scored 5,250 international runs.

She will continue to play for Sydney Thunder in the WBBL.

And Finally,

Just a quick note to say it’s been a mixed week for reaction to women and women’s sport.  The Winter Olympics has been exciting and enthralling and, as several commentators on women’s sport have pointed out, no-one seems to say “it’s only women’s skiing” or “It’s only women’s short track.”  Why is this?  Why is it deemed “ok” for women to compete in these events, but not to play football?  Ah, but if I had the answer to this question, I would be a rich woman indeed….

Sorry, no column next week as I’m out and about.

 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 February 2018

skisWelcome to this week’s column.  The Winter Olympics is upon us, the Six Nations has kicked off in style, the FA Cup is progressing and, sadly, the WBBL is now a distant memory.  Relive everything that’s happened this week here with stories from the Winter Olympics, cricket, tennis, golf, football, netball and rugby.

Let’s crack on

Winter Olympics

There was the worst news for British snowboarder Katie Ormerod this week as she was forced to withdraw before the Games even started, after suffering not one, but two crashes in training.

On Wednesday she fractured her wrist, but was determined to carry on, but on Thursday she crashed again, this time fracturing her heel.

She has now had surgery in Seoul and will stay in hospital for at least a week.

Ormerod was a real Olympic medal hopeful for Great Britain.

In other news, Great Britain’s flagbearer in the opening ceremony is Lizzy Yarnold.  Yarnold, who won gold in the skeleton at Sochi will be defending her title on 16-17 February.

There was also good news for Sochi Paralympic gold medallist, Kelly Gallagher.  She was originally not allocated one of the two places for visually impaired skiers, but has now been given one of the spare slots.  She will be partnered by new guide, Gary Smith.

Much more from the Games next week, when we will be in full swing.

Tennis

Fed Cup

Great Britain started their Fed Cup campaign with aplomb this week, defeating Portugal 3-0 in Tallinn.

Heather Watson beat world number 796 Francisca Jorge in the first singles rubber 6-4 6-1.  Then Johanna Konta won against Maria Joao Koehler, 6-1 6-0.

Anna Smith and Katie Boulter took the doubles against Jorge and Koehler 6-0 6-2.

Great Britain now plays Estonia, a different prospect from the Portuguese team.  If they win the tie and top the group, they will go into a play-off against the winners of Group C.  The winner of the play-off will qualify for the World Group II plays-offs in April.

It’s quite a complicated format, but here is Europe/Africa Group I:

Group A: Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia
Group B: Great Britain, Estonia, Portugal
Group C: Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Sweden
Group D: Latvia, Poland, Austria, Turkey

 St Petersburg Open

Petra Kvitova won the St Petersburg Open, beating Kristina Mladenovic in the final 6-1-6-2.

It is Kvitova’s 21st WTA title and she won it as a wildcard entrant to the tournament.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Wales 18-17 Scotland

Wales started well with wings Jess Kavanagh-Williams and Hannah Bluck scoring tries in the first half.  They led 13-0 at the break.

On the restart Scotland pressed until Chloe Rollie went over, but Wales came back with a try from Kerin Lake.

Wales hit Scotland again with a second for Rollie, but the visitors launched a late comeback.

Ten minutes from time Jade Konkel pushed her way over and the conversion from Sarah Law cut the lead to 18-17.

But Scotland couldn’t quite overtake Wales as they opened their Six Nations account with a single point win.

France 24-0 Ireland

France claimed their first win, and bonus point, of the Championships on Saturday in Toulouse.

Les Bleues scored their first try of four after just six minutes through Cyrielle Banet.

Ireland then had a period of pressure that should have led to a try, but somehow the Irish just couldn’t break through, but then Jade Le Pesq went over for a second for France and it was 12-0.

Jessy Trémoulière scored a third before half-time to take the score to 17-0 at the break.

The second-half was more even but then Ireland suffered a blow as Ciara Cooney went down with a knee injury.

France were still looking for the bonus point, though, and seven minutes from time they got it as Le Pesq scored her second.  Ireland had no answers and the final score was 24-0.

Italy 7-42 England

England captain Sarah Hunter bagged three tries in the second-half to see England pull away in what had been a tight match up to this point.

At half-time it was 7-7.

England took the lead with a try from Sarah Bern, which was converted by Katy McLean.  But Italy pressed and Valentina Ruzza scored in the 34th minute and was converted by Michela Sillari to make it all square at the break.
Three minutes into the second-half McLean hit a penalty.  After that, England went up a gear (or several).

Sarah Hunter bagged her first and England’s second, quickly followed by their third, this time through Poppy Cleall.

Abigail Dow crossed for England’s fourth and it was Hunter again for the fifth.

Ellie Kildunne slid over with ten minutes to go and then, with the final play of the game, Hunter claimed a loose ball from the scrum to go over for her hat-trick.

The only disappointment for England was McLean’s kicking form – something that will need to be remedied in future, tighter, fixtures.

This weekend sees round 2:

Saturday 10 February
England v Wales (12.15)
Scotland v France (19.05)

Sunday 11 February
Ireland v Italy (13.00)

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Here are the results from last weekend’s fixtures:

Gloucester-Hartpury Women 80-0 Worcester Valkyries
DMP Sharks 10-18 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens Women 41-0 Richmond Women
Bristol Ladies 13-12 Harlequins Ladies
Loughborough Lightning 26-20 Wasps Ladies

Saracens are 10 points clear at the top on 65.  Second, on 55, are Harlequins with Wasps third on 49.  Worcester Valkyries are still clearly bottom with just two points and a massive points difference of -712.  Firwood Waterloo are second bottom on 11 points.

Just one fixture again this weekend:

DMP Sharks v Harlequins (4pm, Darlington RFC)

Golf

Three cheers for the Oates Vic Open!  The event, held at Barwon Heads near Melbourne, had men and women competing at the same time, on the same course and for the same prize money of £370,000 apiece.

It’s an innovation that seems to be admired by both the women and the men.  The women’s winner was home favourite Minjee Lee, who won by five shots.  Another Australian, Simon Hawkes, won the men’s version.

The crowd gets to see both sets of players in action, widening both the fanbase and exposure of the sport to those who may not ordinarily have watched.

Some of the best Ladies European Tour golfers were in action as the tournament counts on the LET.

In an interview with the BBC, Cheyenne Woods said,

“They do value the equality in both men and women’s golf together.

“I think a lot of tours and sponsors can learn from that. You see it in the tennis game, just watching tennis the last few weeks, the Aussie Open. I think that hopefully in the next few years it will get more like this.

“I love the format.  It’s different from any professional event that we play. I think a lot of tours could learn from this format because it brings so many different fans to come and appreciate not only the men’s game, but the women’s game as well.

“From a player’s point of view, I love it. I love being alongside the men and from a fan’s perspective, it’s nice to get the best of both worlds.

“A lot of tours could take something from this, including the LPGA and PGA Tour and I’m hoping that in the next few years we can get a little something similar to this.”

Cricket

WBBL Final

The Sydney Sixers retained their WBBL title in style as they thrashed Perth Scorchers at Adelaide.

Perth Scorchers 99 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 100/1 (15 overs)

It was not the fitting end to an entertaining WBBL3 that we’d all been hoping for.

The Scorchers won the toss and elected to bat.  But from then on it all went wrong for the Scorchers.  It began with acceptable, if slow, opening partnership of 23, but as soon as Villani was out for 16 in the seventh over, all hell broke loose.  Bolton went for five and Sciver, two, in quick succession as the Scorchers slipped to 29/3.

Only Piepa Cleary with 18 not out provided any resistance as the Scorchers slumped to 99, taking 20 full overs to get there too, with Emily Smith run out for duck on the last ball.

Sarah Coyte (player of the match) was standout bowler, taking 3/17 off her four overs.  Erin Burns took 2/26 off her four.

It’s not unfair to say the Sixers cruised home, losing only one wicket in the process.  Alyssa Healy was probably kicking herself as she fell, stumped by Smith off the bowling of Emma King for 41.

Ellyse Perry (36) and Ash Gardner (22) took it home for the Sixers, in a mere 15 overs.

South Africa v India Series
Counts towards ICC Women’s Championship (qualifying for 2021 World Cup)

First ODI
India 213/7 (50 overs)
South Africa 125 all out (43.2 overs)
India won by 88 runs

The home side was out-classed in the first ODi in Kimberley.  The visitors won the toss and batted.  Opener Smriti Mandhana made 84 from 98 balls and Mithali Raj 45 as they posted a competitive total.  Marizanne Kapp was the standout bowler for SA, taking 2/26 off her 10 overs,

But it was the Indian bowling that caught the eye. The brilliant Jhulan Goswami took 4/24 from 9.2 overs and Shikha Pandey 3/23 from 8 as the hosts were skittled out with more than six overs to go.

The response started badly as South Africa slumped to 23/3 with Lizelle Lee (3), Trisha Chetty (5) and Mignon du Preez (0) all falling early.  Dane van Niekerk showed some resistance, scoring 41, before she was stumped off the bowling of Rajeshwari Gayakwad.

Laura Wolvaardt, Kapp and Sune Luus all made it into the 20s, but couldn’t push on.  No-one else got into double figures and India won by 88 runs.

Second ODI
India 302/3 (50 overs)
South Africa 124 all out (30.5 overs)
India won by 178 runs

It went from bad to worse for SA in the second ODI.  They won the toss and put India in to bat.  But India put them to the sword.

Smriti Mandhana showed her excellent form once again and was player of the match for the second game running.  She scored 135 from 129, finally stumped by Chetty off Raisibe Ntozakhe in the 44th over.

Harmanpreet Kaur scored 55 not out and Veda Krishnamurthy 51 not out as South Africa were only able to take three wickets in the innings.

Lizelle Lee top-scored for the home side with 73, but began to run out of partners before she was lbw to Deepti Sharma.

Marizanne Kapp was the only other player to get into double figures with 17.

Poonam Yadav took 4/24 off just 7.5 overs with Gayakwad and Sharma taking two apiece.

The third ODI will be on Saturday 10 February.</em

Football

FA Cup Fourth Round

There were some hefty defeats for lower-league sides in the fourth round with Chelsea putting 10 (ten) past London Bees and Sunderland 13 (thirteen!) against Brighouse Town.  The Chelsea score should give cause for concern considering the Bees are only one league down in WSL2 and so we see the ever-widening gap between the two divisions, a gap that is not going to close any time soon, if the FA’s new plans are anything to go by.

Liverpool 5-0 Watford
Aston Villa 4-0 Middlesbrough
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester City
Cardiff City 0-0 Oxford United
Durham 2-1 Sheffield FC
Everton 3-1 Bristol City
London Bees 0-10 Chelsea
Reading 0-1 Birmingham City
Sunderland AFC 13-0 Brighouse Town
Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Yeovil Town 0-3 Arsenal
Millwall Lionesses 4-1 Coventry United

FAWSL1
Wednesday 7 February

Liverpool 0-3 Arsenal

Meidema 29 (pen), Janssen 45, Evans 62

England

According to reports, new England boss Phil Neville is looking to those English players who play abroad to possibly strengthen his squad.  Obviously stalwarts such as Lucy Bronze (Lyon) and Toni Duggan (Barcelona) will be firmly in his sights, but there are others, not so well known, who are also playing overseas and may come into the reckoning.

Australia: Jodie Taylor – Melbourne City, Laura Bassett – Canberra United
Cyprus: Ashleigh Bullock and Rosella Ayane – Apollon Limassol
Finland: Sarah Burn – Aland United
France: Lucy Bronze – Lyon
Germany: Leah Galton – Bayern Munich, Lily Agg – Frankfurt, Jessica King – FF USV Jena
Italy: Ellie Brazil – Fiorentina, Katie Zelem – Juventus, Emma Lipman – Verona, Sophie Williams – Calcio Latina
Netherlands: Abby Holmes – PEC Zwolle
Spain: Chloe Richards – Zaragoza, Toni Duggan –Barcelona
United States: Natasha Dowie – formerly Boston Breakers, Rachel Daly – Houston Dash

It’s a fair point.  Some of the European leagues, especially, are far ahead of the WSL when it comes to facilities, fanbase and player-experience.  Anything these players bring to a squad could be of benefit.  But it’s also true to say that the WSL has no shortage of excellent English players to choose from.  So Neville must balance the squad between home-based (and therefore easily accessible) members and those playing further afield.

It has also been reported that Neville has petitioned Manchester United in the hope that they will start a women’s senior team.  Good luck with that.

Netball

Don’t forget the Vitality Netball Superleague begins again this week.  Get out and support your local team!  But if you can’t, tune into Sky Sports on Saturday when they will be showing Wasps Netball v Surrey Storm at 7pm.

And Finally,

It would be remiss of me this week not to mention and celebrate the glorious 6th.  One hundred years ago on Tuesday, the Representation of the People Act 1918 became law, granting property-owning women over 30 the vote.  And yes, there was still plenty of opposition (there’s probably still some today!), and yes, there was (and is) still plenty of work to do if women are to play their fair part in all sectors of society.  Of course, that includes in sport, as inch by inch we redress the balance.

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.