Review of the Week – 14th August 2017

Part two of my ‘catchup’ weekly reviews – it’s been a bit hectic at work, and I will be on holiday next week so will probably immediately fall behind again, but I’ll just keep plodding on when I get the chance. The Premier League is back, meaning that every other sport takes a back seat for the time being, but hopefully this review will be able to highlight some of the other excellent sporting action going on around the football juggernaut.

KEY HEADLINES

Athletics – Relays give Great Britain something to cheer about

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/40919285

Before Saturday night, the World Athletics Championships in London had been something of a washout for the home team. Although Mo Farah had won gold early-on, since then it had been near-misses and disappointments: Katarina Johnson-Thompson sixth in the heptathlon, Holly Bradshaw sixth in the pole vault, Sophie Hitchon seventh in the hammer throw, Laura Muir fourth in the 1,500m, with Laura Weightman sixth behind her, Eilidh Doyle eighth in the 400m hurdles, Lorraine Ugen fifth in the long jump, Dina Asher-Smith fourth in the 200m. A week which had promised so much seemed to have fallen short for the British, but then, the relays happened. I love watching relays even when Britain aren’t involved, so watching the team win silver, gold, silver, bronze across the four relays was something special indeed. Kudos to the women’s 4x100m relay for starting it all off, although the men’s triumph in their 4x100m was obviously the pick of the bunch, even with the sorry sight of Usain Bolt pulling up in his final race.

While the coverage of the championships focussed on the retirement of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, there was plenty of action to be had elsewhere. The championships saw many female stars justifying their ‘favourites’ tags (see Dafne Schippers, Caster Semenya, Brittney Reese, both relays), but many events saw shocks as well: Phyllis Francis pushing compatriot Allyson Felix down to third in the 400m; Sally Pearson winning a redemptive 100m Hurdles while favourite Kendra Harrison finished out of the medals in fourth; and USA’s Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs stunning the Kenyans in the 3,000m Steeplechase.

 

Rugby Union – World Cup kicks off

http://www.rwcwomens.com/?lang=en

The first two matchdays of the women’s rugby union World Cup took place on the 9th and 13th August. Defending champions England got off to the best possible start with a 56-5 win over Spain, and followed that up with another demolition, 56-13 against Italy. Results were mixed for the rest of the home nations: Hosts Ireland scraped a 19-17 win against Australia and then came through a tough examination against Japan 24-14; meanwhile Wales lost their two games, 44-12 to New Zealand in their opener and 15-0 to Canada in the second.

The competition so far has seen a number of mismatches. On top of the lopsided results above, we have seen New Zealand win 121-0 against Hong Kong; USA beat Spain 43-0; France beat Australia 48-0; Canada beat Hong Kong 98-0; France beat Japan 72-14. There is one more group stage matchday, on the 17th August, before the semi-finals on the 22nd. The organisers will be hoping for some closer results in the knockout stages, to demonstrate the sports progression.

 

Cricket – England’s World Cup-winning stars return to domestic action in Kia Super League

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

From the 10th August to 1st September, six teams from across the country will be competing in the KIA Super League. The competition will see each of the six teams play Twenty20 matches in a round-robin league format, with the top three teams qualifying for the finals day on the 1st September. The teams this year are: Lancashire Thunder (captained by Danielle Hazell); Loughborough Lightning (Georgia Elwiss); defending champions Southern Vipers (Charlotte Edwards); Surrey Stars (Nat Sciver); Western Storm (Heather Knight); and Yorkshire Diamonds (Lauren Winfield).

The teams taking part in the competition include a number of overseas stars who are still in the UK following the recent World Cup, including Suzie Bates (Southern Vipers and New Zealand), Stafanie Taylor (Western Storm and the West Indies), Ellyse Perry (Loughborough Lightning and Australia) and Chamari Atapattu (Yorkshire Diamonds and Sri Lanka).

Since the kickoff, the Southern Vipers, Yorkshire Diamonds, Western Storm and Surrey Stars have each won their opening matches.

 

COMING UP THIS WEEK

  • Rugby Union: World Cup, Ireland – August 9th-26th
  • Cricket: KIA Superleague – August 10th-September 1st
  • Golf: Solheim Cup – August 18th-20th
  • Cycling: Tour of Norway – August 17th-20th
  • Tennis: Cincinatti Open – August 14th-20th

 

Advertisements

Review of the Week – 7th August 2017

Posts have been slightly delayed due to, amongst other things, camping holidays, general illness and work commitments.  This is the first review post to catch up on, hopefully with a second not long behind.  Then I should be back on track.

KEY HEADLINES

Football – The Netherlands triumph at Euro 2017

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/live/football/40335321

Having knocked out England in the semi-final, hosts the Netherlands went on to triumph in a hard-fought final against Denmark. It looked set to be a long game for the Dutch when Nadia Nadim converted a penalty for the Danes in the sixth minute, after Sanne Troelsgaard was tripped in the box by Kika van Es. The lead was short-lived, with the Dutch hitting back just four minutes later through Vivianne Miedema after an excellent cross from Liverpool’s Shanice van de Sanden. Lieke Martens then scored a lovely individual goal to give the home side a 2-1 lead in the 28th minute, before the Danes hit back through captain Pernille Harder, to leave the match delicately poised at 2-2 at half time. Shortly after the break, Dutch captain Sherida Spitse hit a daisy-cutter freekick under the Danish wall to restore the Netherlands’ lead, and despite plenty of effort from the Danish ladies, it was left to Miedema to confirm the victory, scoring in the 89th minute to kill off the Viking challenge.

So congratulations to the Netherlands. It was a worthy final for what has been a very entertaining tournament. My abiding memory of the competition will be the direct comparison between Portugal v England and Everton v MFK Ruzomberok. A lot is made about the gulf in quality between the men’s and women’s game, but anyone tuning in to watch these matches would quickly have realised that there was only one worth watching. Obviously one swallow does not make a summer, but perhaps that difference in quality is not quite so pronounced as some would have you believe? There are still some areas of concern for the women’s game, notably the goalkeeping, which has been fairly poor at times, and from an English perspective, Euro 2017 was a successful tournament right up to the point that it wasn’t. My main concern with the England team is that they seem to be very physical, energetic and clearly very fit, but not as technically adept as some of the other teams, like the French, Germans and Dutch. Fitness will take you a long way, but as with the men’s team, at some point you need to be able to string passes together under pressure and maintain possession. On the plus side, at least we weren’t knocked out on penalties.

 

Athletics – Thiam triumphs, Schippers circles, and Ayana demolishes rivals

https://www.iaaf.org/competitions/iaaf-world-championships/iaaf-world-championships-london-2017-5151/timetable/byday

So far, so predictable for the female stars of the athletics world. Nafissatou Thiam came into this event as a comfortable favourite for the heptathlon gold and duly delivered, albeit not quite so comfortably as some had predicted. There was disappointment for Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson, whose below-par performance in the high jump cost her too many points to be able to challenge for a medal. In the 100m sprint, USA’s Tori Bowie pipped Marie-Josée Ta Lou to gold, with Dafne Schippers looking in ominously good form in taking bronze. In the 10,000m event, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana was head and shoulders above the rest of the field, winning by over half a minute from compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba.

 

Beach Volleyball – Ludwig/Walkenhorst take World title

http://vienna2017.fivb.com/en/news/ludwig–walkenhorst-capture-world-championship-trophy?id=71892

Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkehorst from Germany defeated USA’s Lauren Fendrick and April Ross in three sets to take the World Championships title in Vienna. In doing so, the Germans became the first European team to triumph in beach volleyball, with the event being dominated by Brazil and the USA in previous years.

Brazil’s top seeds Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca took home a bronze medal after defeating Canada’s Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan.

 

COMING UP THIS WEEK

  • Athletics: World Championships, London – August 4th-13th
  • Rugby Union: World Cup, Ireland – August 9th-26th
  • Cricket: KIA Superleague – August 10th-September 1st
  • Cycling: Vårgårda, Sweden – August 13th
  • Tennis: Canadian Open – August 7th-13th

Preview – World Athletics Championships

What is it?

It’s a biennial competition to work out who are the best athletes on the planet. It first took place in 1983, and the 2017 competition to be held in London will be the 16th edition. It takes place from the 4th-13th August, in the London Stadium (previously known as the Olympic Stadium, but rebranded following West Ham’s takeover).

Who are the main athletes to look out for?

  • Nafissatou Thiam (Belgium) (Heptathlon) – The UK are holding out for Katarina Johnson-Thompson to come of age (see below), but standing in her way is the formidable figure of Nafissatou Thiam, who announced herself on the world stage by winning gold at the Rio Olympics. Earlier this year, she became only the fourth woman to pass the 7,000 points mark for the heptathlon, and at only 22, has a fantastic chance to break the world record held by the USA’s Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
  • Caster Semenya (South Africa) (800m and 1,500m) – The South African will double-up at the World Championships this year, as she looks to compete in the 1,500m as well as her recognised event, the 800m. Semenya remains a world-class athlete, but will understandably continue to draw headlines for reasons other than her performances on the track, as she continues to be made an unwilling poster-girl for hyperandrogenism. Those discussions are even more likely this week in light of the new rules and regulations which were announced by the IAAF last month (look out for a future post on this, once I’ve got my own thoughts in order, and found the time to write it).

25490332424_9d617dd198_zDafne Schippers (picture courtesy of Filip Bossuyt)

  • Dafne Schippers (Netherlands) (100m and 200m) – Schippers is that relative rarity: a world-class white sprinter. Schippers started out as a heptathlete, and was very successful, particularly at junior level, before making the decision to focus on the sprint events from the 2014 season onwards. Her breakthrough came in the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where she won a silver medal in the 100m and a gold medal in the 200m. She then backed up these performances at the Olympics, although was disappointed to finish second behind Jamaican rival Elaine Thompson. With Thompson also competing in London, Schippers will be looking to avenge that Olympic defeat, as well as defend her world title.
  • Kendra Harrison (USA) (100m Hurdles) – Another woman with scores to settle, Harrison was the standout sprint hurdler in 2016, but will forever be remembered for having missed out in the American Olympic trials, where she finished sixth, and therefore did not compete in Rio. Shortly after missing out on Olympic qualification, Harrison broke the long-standing 100m Hurdles world record, which had been in place for 28 years. Coming to the World Championships will not hold happy memories for Harrison, who was disqualified for a false start in the semi-finals in Beijing, and she will be looking for a breakthrough at a major championships to put some of her demons to bed.
  • Allyson Felix (USA) (400m) – Felix is one of the most-decorated athletes of all time, but her record is a bittersweet one, with the majority of her gold medals at Olympic level coming the way of relays. In individual events, Felix is the defending 400m world champion, but lost out in the 2016 Olympics to Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas.
  • Usain Bolt (Jamaica) (100m) – OK, so you may have spotted he’s not a woman, but I can’t let this one pass by. It will be his last ever appearance on a track, and he is arguably the greatest athlete who has ever lived, and certainly the fastest sprinter we have ever seen. Don’t miss the men’s 100m final on Saturday.

What about the British hopes?

  • Laura Muir (1,500m and 5,000m) – Muir had been flying under the radar with her quiet improvement over the past few years, right up to the point that she broke the 1,500m British record, and in doing so set the fastest time in the world during 2016. Winning over 1,500m will be difficult, but Muir will go into the championships full of confidence and ready to spring a surprise.

7712282072_944c3a9489_zKatarina Johnson-Thompson (picture courtesy of David Pilbrow)

  • Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Heptathlon) – Widely touted as the heir to the British heptathlon legacy of Denise Lewis, Kelly Sotherton and Jess Ennis-Hill, ‘KJ-T’ has struggled to align her best performances with major championships. Having finished in an impressive fourteenth place at the London Olympics, great things were expected at the 2015 World Championships, only for Johnson-Thompson to record three fouls in the long jump and finish a disappointing 28th. That was followed up with another disappointing performance in Rio, finishing sixth (although she did record a high jump that would have won gold in the individual high jump event). She has since split with her coach and moved to Montpelier, and will be hoping her change of scenery can inspire her to the upper reaches of the international circuit.
  • Holly Bradshaw (Pole Vault) – Another British hope who will aim to fly under the radar. Bradshaw has finished sixth and fifth in the last two Olympic Games, and was seventh at the World Championships in Beijing, but with none of these performances representing what she feels is a top drawer performance. She will hope that she can hook up a few of her best jumps in London, and if she can she will definitely be in the running for a medal.
  • Dina Asher-Smith (100m and 200m) – Asher-Smith’s main successes to date on the track have come as part of the British 4x100m Relay team, which won bronze medals at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympics (and will be hoping to emulate that here). Asher-Smith will also feel she has a chance to make an impact as an individual in the 200m, having finished fifth in Rio.

What is the schedule, and which are the events to look out for?

  • Friday 4th August
    • No women’s finals
  • Saturday 5th August
    • 10,000m Final
    • Heptathlon – Day One (Thiam and Johnson-Thompson)
    • Men’s 100m (Bolt)
  • Sunday 6th August
    • Marathon
    • Pole Vault (Bradshaw)
    • Heptathlon – Day Two (Thiam and Johnson-Thompson)
    • 100m (Asher-Smith)
  • Monday 7th August
    • Hammer
    • Triple jump
    • 1,500m (Muir)
  • Tuesday 8th August
    • Javelin
  • Wednesday 9th August
    • Shot put
    • 400m (Felix)
  • Thursday 10th August
    • 400m Hurdles
  • Friday 11th August
    • Long jump
    • 3,000m Steeplechase
    • 200m (Schippers and Asher-Smith)
  • Saturday 12th August
    • High jump
    • 100m Hurdles (Harrison)
    • 4x100m Relay
  • Sunday 13th August
    • 20km Race Walk
    • Discus
    • 5,000m
    • 800m (Semenya)
    • 4x400m Relay

Where can I watch it (UK only)?

BBC are showing coverage of the event.