Friday, December 31, 2010

Jessica Kurten Wins Again

Jessica Kurten pic SportsIreland
Irish showjumper Jessica Kurten finished her year in style winning the Queen's Cup in Belgium on Tuesday and yesterday claiming the Rolex FEI World Cup qualifier.

Winning out an international field of 36 other riders, Kurten had to wait right until the end for former world champ Jos Lansink to make an uncharacteristic error leaving her top of the field. Riding (deep breath here) Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois, Kurten went clear in the first round and won-out in the jump-off by less than a second. Having come second in 2009 by a similar margin, it must be great to be on the other side this year.

Earlier in the week she swiped the Queen's Cup by an even smaller margin on Castle Forbes Cosma from a 15-horse field. 





Kurten wins in Belgium pic Inpho.ie
You can read up on her 2011 schedule on her site Jessica Kurten And with this inspirational end to the year, fans will be looking forward to seeing her in the remaining qualifiers for the World Cup in April next year.

Who will you be watching next year? 

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten Inspiring Sports Women 2010

1922 Washington USA flickr
It's the time of year for polls and surveys and in that spirit I offer the women you loved the best on this blog. It's a tad unscientific as ISW only started at the end of May but Statcounter says these are the sports women you enjoyed reading about the most:

  1. Caley Lewis, Australian Muay Thai fighter 
  2. Zenyatta, American race-horse 
  3. Jessica Kurten, Irish showjumper 
  4. Marjan Kalhor, Iranian skier 
  5. Melissa Ray, British Muay Thai fighter 
  6. With this Ring - a film on Mary Kom and other Indian boxers
  7. Dr Jessie Stone, American kayaker 
  8. Irish Surf Kayak team - Aisling Griffin and Muireann Lynch 
  9. Silken Laumann, Canadian rower  
  10. Mischa Merz, Australian boxer 
You also rated this post 'Sweat and the City' on the four girls we'd really like to be. 

Did Statcounter miss any of your favourites?
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Melissa Ray muaythai

Melissa Ray British Muay Thai fighter living in Thailand 



Wordless Wednesday is a group of photo enthusiasts who give words a break once a week.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Sports blog karma in the snow

Torah Bright

Every now and then emails from sports-gear companies and other sites land into the ISW inbox. Time to spread the blogging-karma before the year ends.

Equipo.com contacted ISW a few weeks ago to see what I thought about their site. It's packed full of gear reviews and recommendations ...mostly for men but a good read. And a few femme-friendly reviews have been popping up lately - including this from lacrosse player Anna on her K-Swiss Tubes trainers. Let me know if you buy anything on their say-so. 


Sweat and the City is a new site with nutrition and workout advice for women - videos and workout tips. Jennifer contacted me on the back on this post I wrote with the same title Sweat and the City. Good thing it's not a copyright title.
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Forty Foot Christmas Swim Dublin
Time for love and family - here's hoping all of you reading this are having a happy Christmas and not a Hollywood nightmare.

We are snowed in here in Ireland, well iced in at least. But luckily lots of mince pies and hot port in the cupboard so it's not so bad. Would not like to be an elderly person in this weather or dealing with small children, not fun - especially as we seem to be running out of grit.

Exercise? Running in this is out of the question for me, yes I am a wimp. Getting ready to make lots of healthy resolutions for the new year, I'm very excited about getting fit again following the health dramas of 2010. 


How is Christmas where you are?
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Lindsey Vonn Skier

 Continuing our week of women in the snow...
Lindsey Vonn was named as Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for 2010 - the first time a skier has won the award. It probably helped that she won a gold and bronze at the Winter Olympics and just capped her third world title this month. Just a little.

Vonn,26, said in an interview with the Denver Post: "For sure, 2010 was the best year I've ever had. It couldn't have gone any better for me. Even if I just won the Olympic gold medal, that would have made it the best year of my career and the best day of my life, period. Winning the World Cup races and the overall title just topped it off."

And remember Zenyatta from this post? She came 2nd in the AP poll. 

Lindsey Vonn in action
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Misschief Films Women's Snowboarding



Misschief Films make movies about women in snowboarding  - yes, exclusively sexist. We love it. 

Ps I can't find their website, anyone know if they are still in existence? This blog has some recent reviews.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Ski jumps

Camilla Stoddart Photography

PS- this is a new blog feature. Wordless Wednesday is a group of photo enthusiasts who give words a break once a week.  See Wordless Wednesday for more blogs. 
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Marjan Kalhor Skier

Marjan Kalhor
Continuing the week of snow, skiing is sometimes seen as the more staid cousin of the extreme snowboarding.

But for Iranian skiier Marjan Kalhor taking part in the Winter Olympics this year was the craziest thing she'd done. The first Iranian woman to take part, the 22-year old was quoted as saying "I'm just very happy, very happy," adding that she hoped her efforts would show "Muslim women there is no limitation for them, even with hijab they can do whatever they want and they can get here like me."





Out of the medals, this was definitely a case where taking part was the thing - she gave many interviews saying how delighted she was to be the first woman and break that barrier. You can read more from her on CNN Olympic dream a reality.

Marjan Kalhor
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Tara Dakides Snowboarder

Starting our week of snow is one of the pioneers of women's snow sports, American snowboarder Tara Dakides. 

Boarding was one of those sports boys liked to keep to themselves. It's dangerous, fast and you wear cool clothes - who wants chicks getting in the way? But good things come to those who ask and Dakides was one of the women who took that to heart.

Victories in the 2000 and 2001 X-Games Air, gold at the SIMS World Championships and a few well-timed magazine covers gave the 35-year old a profile many male boarders could only dream about. Throw in a few Best Freestyle Rider, Best Female Rider awards along with the Transworld Reader's Choice in 2002 and you can see she isn't your regular snow-bunny.

Interviewed for Omatic Snowboards (which she co-owns just to get that straight) and asked how strong she still is, her reply made me laugh. "Well, I lifted up my moto the other day after I got clipped by a tree trail riding. Does that mean anything? I was pretty happy I could pick it up."

And because it's not just about the sport, Dakides is also a spokesperson for the Surfrider Foundation , fighting to keep our oceans and beaches clean.

Snowboarder guide
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Women of the Snow

Royal Canal Dublin under snow
Oh the weather outside is frightful, But the fire is so delightful, And since we've no place to go, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

That's the theme for Ireland this winter - once again we're looking out at deep* snow and icy roads. Of course for some people, snow is the perfect excuse to get outdoors. So this week is dedicated to the women of the snow - boarders, skiers and skaters.

* in Irish terms people!
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thankless Female Film Roles

The Town
I posted a while back on MovieNewsFirst about sports movies with great female characters - took a while to find enough good ones for a list but we got there.

A reader ( Thanks Laura!) just sent me a link to this slideshow on NYMag -  14 Most Thankless Female Roles

It must have been hard to narrow it down to fourteen, just looking at it I can think of more to add already. I wonder what goes through producers' minds as they set up the films - I mean we pay the same ticket-prices, it might be fun every now and then to see actresses with their clothes on, brains intact and driving the plot?

Pic shows Blake Lively playing one of two female characters in The Town - she's a drug-addict, doesn't take care of his kids, brings the male lead down and all-round disaster. The only other woman in the film falls in love with her kidnapper. I really wanted to like this film but ...

Let's make some Christmas cheer - movies with strong women characters anyone?
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New book on women's boxing

You might remember I wrote a review of Bruising here a while back. Australian author and boxer Mischa Merz sent me on a blurb for her next book - The Sweetest Science.  She says:

"Thanks for writing a review of Bruising. I thought you might be 
interested in the next one too. It's called The Sweetest Thing - Inside the
 world of women's boxing, and will be published in the US by Seven Stories
. No feminist theory. I think you'll enjoy it more. "

That's a little reference to me not accepting that boxing is a feminist issue - as far as I'm concerned it's just a sport like any other. But different people bring different things to it.  Could be a good book for the aul Christmas list?

Any other books we should be putting on the list?
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sports Economics

Father Ted says it best
It might seem superficial to even think about sport considering the economic situation in Ireland. Comparing cuts in sports funding with welfare reductions, income tax increases and health cuts is far from comparing like with like. But yet, it's another hole chopped in our society.

Readers outside Ireland might be wondering what's taken over my head, but it's impossible to think of anything else here. Stats on the "Irish Sports Council" site show that sports only contribute " 2% of the overall value of consumer spending in the economy" which surprised me (yes, I live in a sports-bubble) but with 1.7 million people involved the impact goes far beyond money.

Now with some reports saying about 20% of overall sports funding was cut in this week's Budget, what will this mean for sports people?

And can anyone explain to me why the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund - already topped up by €545.8m - gets another 58 million in the middle of all this?
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Because I am a Girl

I just discovered this great campaign run by Plan Ireland.

They say: "Across the world, girls face the double discrimination of their gender and age, leaving them suffering at the bottom of the social ladder. Girls are denied access to health services and education, and also face extremely high levels of violence, abuse, and harassment. Girls in the poorest regions of the world are among the most disadvantaged people on the planet, so no country has emerged from poverty without investing in its girls.
Because I am a Girl is Plan's campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls' rights and break this cycle of poverty."

The attached blog sees amazing women from different walks of life posting up on what being a girl means to them. A lack of athletes so far but Mary Davis, MD of the Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia  posted up a few days back. 

Two great quotes from her: 

Because I am a Girl I dream… of playing off a golf handicap of much less than the 24 I play off.
Because I am a Girl I remember… Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her amazing vision over 40 years ago when she started Special Olympics in her backyard so that her sister Rosemary could be included and accepted in society. Look at what Special Olympics has become today out of that one vision.

What would you write?
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Inspiring Women in Sports Advertising

Adverts for women's sportswear used to be painfully girly. But manufacturers have caught up with us and some of the latest ads actually reflect real women. Comment on this is divided. I've read blog posts saying many sports women in the ads are unnecessarily sexualised as well bloggers who feel progress is being made.

My personal feeling is that being strong doesn't exclude being attractive. The problem is the line between celebrating beautiful athletes and exploitation is a thin red one. This post on Women Talk Sport got me thinking again.

Ann posted up two new ads; one from Under Armour and one from Nike. I'm posting the UA one here because I love it. They're strong, fit, focused and wearing normal workout clothing. I like the idea of the Nike one but seriously who works out dressed like that? Not in any sport I've ever done anyhow - maybe I was in the wrong line of work! Nicole on One Sport Voice had a piece on women in tennis here.

What kind of effect do you think ads like these have? 

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Choosing Christmas Gifts

First of December and it's already snowing in Ireland. That pic is from the weekend - just a little early for us really but looks like thermals will be high fashion here this winter.

This also means it's time to start thinking about Christmas presents. I know, I know it's all commercial and meaningless but there are still some people you just have to shop for. Just remember if the women in your life do sports, they might appreciate something fun more than another smelly candle.

Read this post on Pink Stinks for a look at how we still stereotype our kids when it comes to presents. We definitely prefer She-Ra to Barbie on this blog, but what do you think? Is it right to always give glitzy gifts to little girls and trucks to little boys or should we try and break the mould? 
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Glowing Edge of Boxing

American Lisa Creech Bledsoe describes herself as a speaker, writer, media ninja, live music fanatic, and boxer chick. Boxing is a big part of her life and her blog The Glowing Edge. She recently had her first fight, aged 45 and I'd like to share her love of sport here with you. 

I start boxing training

I discovered boxing by accident. About 3 years ago my husband saw heavy bags on sale at our local sporting goods store. He brought one home and hung it in the garage, thinking our boys would enjoy it. They weren’t all that interested, but I was fascinated. But I also didn’t know what I was doing, so a friend connected me with Bonnie Mann at LA Boxing. I worked out in the gym there for about a year before I decided I wanted to get in the ring, and once I made that shift, I was completely and totally sold on boxing.

I want to fight
I loved the first workout class I took at the boxing gym – it was fast-paced, incredibly varied, and there was no way in hell I could possibly finish it. The workout demanded my entire body rather than just one part. My knees were fine, but I was sore after that class for the better part of a week. And I was definitely going back; I loved the challenge of it.

Because I was a runner, I had thought I was fit, but I spent the first few months at the boxing gym just getting my fitness level up enough to get through a one-hour class without giving out. And maybe I was looking around for the next challenge, I’m not sure, but I started watching some of the people sparring in the ring.

My friends said ... 
At first I got plenty of strange looks and odd reactions – most people were simply baffled: why on earth would I do such a thing? A few people reacted more strongly, chastising me for being irresponsible. I encountered many of the same misconceptions that I myself had held about boxing.

But I actually found I could use my writing to help bring people on board and open up the world of women’s boxing to them a little bit. In fact, it was largely writing about my boxing experiences that began to draw attention to my blog. I went from a handful of readers to several thousand, and now my boxing content gets republished on Women Talk Sports as well; that makes me feel pretty awesome. I never imagined I could help bring boxing to the attention of more women and men.

I love boxing
I’m always incredibly anxious before a sparring session. So many things have to come into play before you get in the ring – eating right, training right, good cardio, no injuries or strains. But even when I know I have all those other things I’m scared, going over strategy in my mind, reminding myself that I can do this, telling myself that I know how to take care of myself in the ring. I have to psych myself up, every single time.

But once that first bell rings and I begin to box, I feel incredible. Powerful, strong, capable. It’s worth all the struggle and anxiety. When I come out of the ring I feel like a superhero. I feel like the most amazing woman in the world!

My first fight 

The call came, and I trotted down the hall behind Biggs, entered the ballroom, climbed between the ropes. I assume the ring announcer was talking, but nothing registered. I bounced restlessly and gazed around the ring as the dull roar of hip-hop and shouting washed past me. People in tuxedos and ball gowns made eye contact with me in the ring, but I didn’t feel like I was about to perform for them; something was coming but it had little to do with this sparkling, crystalline crowd.

Bledsoe fights Trecia “The Nail” Neal
And we fought. I don’t know if I threw the first shot. I know I felt power in my body; the peculiar exhaustion of adrenaline drain mixed with the undeniable force of training, habit, and strength. I had power, and I could feel it at my disposal.

I had no grace. While my arms remembered their job, my feet seemed to forget. My opponent came at me with plenty of punches, but I couldn’t feel them, and I can’t tell if I blocked or slipped any. I only remember landing punches, over and over again with power. I remember stalking her, walking her down, demanding the ring.

It’s a strange feeling, having the ref lift your fist as the ring man announces the win. I was almost too overwhelmed to look up, and instead I gazed at the canvas and privately exulted. This canvas, these ropes, this beautiful, stark 22-foot square space was mine. This was what I’d worked for. And I’d won.

You can read more from Lisa's first fight on her blog The Glowing Edge.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Post on Movie News First

pic credit speckham on Flickr

I was chatting the other day with some boys-who-like-sport and sports movies came up. There are so many great films about sportsmen. But women in sports movies? That was a little harder to list. But when Olive over at Movie News First asked me to write a guest-post, I did find some inspiring work for her.

My Top 5 women in sport movies are on her blog here Movie News First

Pop over and have a look, and please share if you have other faves not here! And as always, please leave a comment for her too.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Steph Gilmore Surfing World Champion x 4

Gilmore, pic credit Rip Curl Australia
You know the saying "better late than never"? Well, that's this post. Exciting news ....from two weeks ago, ahem.

Steph Gilmore, who is interviewed on this blog here, won her fourth ASP World Tour this month. Yep, that's fourth. And she's only 22. Feeling inadequate anyone? Level now with record-holder American Lisa Anderson, who knows what the future holds for this young Aussie? Some great footage of Gilmore surfing on her own blog Steph Gilmore.

Do you know anyone else who is successful at a young age in her sport?

Gilmore pic credit Rip Curl Australia
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guest-Post on Shantiwallah

New Zealand Black Ferns Carla Hohepa
Today's post is in New Zealand.

I've been reading Shantiwallah and swapping thoughts on travelling, sport and food since last year. I finally got around to writing a guest-post. for you. Thanks Marie for the invite!

And on the night Munster (my local male provincial rugby team) beat Australia (male national team) 15-9, it's great timing to have a post up linking sport and travelling.

You can read the guest-post here on Shantiwallah  Do please leave some comments on Marie's blog - and have a poke around her travels in New Zealand.
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Iranian Women's Rugby Team

Every now and then you see a sports documentary that really opens your eyes to something new. A Kiwi director made a documentary called "Salam Rugby" about the Iranian women's rugby team. I read about this a few months ago on Ricochet but hadn't watched the clips. But with the men's teams taking to the fields this week in Ireland and the UK, it seems like a good time to bring it all up.

The women play wearing a maghneah which covers them and protects them from charges of immodesty at home. The fuss made over their clothing reminded me of the drama in Thailand when women started fighting MuayThai there. Imagine women wearing vest T-shirts in public, imagine taking off your clothes at the weigh-in, imagine kicking a head-kick and displaying your thighs in public. All very shocking at the time.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Irish Surf Kayak Team Photos

You'll remember I posted a while back about surf-kayaking? It's a crazy sport mixing surfing and kayaking with lots of fun. I got some great photos yesterday from the Home Internationals, Portrush at the end of October.
Aisling Griffin and Muireann Lynch are on the women's team.
(ps - yes Ais is my sister)

Photos by Aileen Foy - more here on Picasa



Team Sponsors Munster Dive and Canoe


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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Zenyatta We Still Love You

It's not often you see horse-racing journalists coming over all feminist but Zenyatta changed all that.

Unbeaten for 19 races, she sadly lost out in a thrilling finish to the Breeder's Cup Classic yesterday. The only mare on the track and probably the only mare to have been profiled in W magazine or on Oprah, she's been taking on the big boys and winning for years.

So close, so so close - nail-bitingly, on the edge of the seat, screaming in the stands and all those other great sports cliches.

But we love her anyway. You can read jockey Mick Smith's description on his blog Mike Smith Blog and watch the race. I defy you not to scream and will her on even when you know the result!
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Iron Jawed Maidens

Elections are taking place in the States as I type. It's strange how large they loom over here in Ireland. I'm excited about how many women are running. But scared at the kind of woman so many of them are. End of political broadcast.

And I've been dossing off work watching clips from this film "Iron Jawed Maidens". It tells the story of the first American suffragettes and what they went through to get the vote for women. All women, even Sarah Palin. I read about it over on From Byline to Finishline  - thanks!
Best Movie quote: In women courage is often mistaken for insanity

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Diana Nyad Cancels Extreme Dream

I posted over the summer on 60-year-old American swimmer Diana Nyad and her plans to swim from Cuba to Florida.
It all sounded very exciting but has been slowly cut off by visa regulations, problems with permits and finally the weather. This inspiring sportswoman has just announced that the dream is being postponed until next year. SHe posted a sad farewell on her blog a few days ago - Extreme Dream

Do you think she should go for it next year again?

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is a Women Only Sports Channel a Good Idea?

You might have noticed that I get a bit irritated with the lack of coverage for sports women in the mainstream media? Well, it looks like ESPN has met some other frustrated athletes. They are giving us espnW in the new year. Not a network but a blog and other digital media although so far it's just a FB and Twitter page. 

Bloggers seem generally positive. Megan Hueter, a Women Talk Sports blogger   posted this: "I think it’s safe to say that, at the very heart of this new business is the mission to serve current and former female athletes… a uniquely different audience, one that’s been struggling for public attention for 38 years."  She's talking about the progress/lack of progress (depending on your view) in promoting American women in sport since Title IX. Read about Title IX here.

But on the Mister Women's Sports blog, we get: " What I am confused about, even after reading the opening remarks from the recent espnW retreat, is why ESPN is committing to the creation of a blog rather than bringing more gender equity to their current array of cable channels."

I'm curious to see what they will actually do. It could be an opportunity for women to gain exposure, new fans and sponsorship. Or it could become a backwater used to sideline women's sport or deepen the divide between so-called real sport and girls just messing around.

What do you think - a great idea or are we moving backwards?
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Surf Kayak Championships Portrush

Surf kayaking is another one of those sports which sounds easier than it is; a cross between two great sports that's somehow better than either....according to those in the know.

Garazi  Iturralde, Basque country





This month the Irish team will be out and about in a few beautiful places. Portrush up in the north of the country will host the British Open Surf Kayak on the 23rd of October.
Found some great shots of women in action in their kayaks - it is another sport more popular with men than women but what can you do except focus on the people having fun!


Ainhoa Tolosa Portugaltalks blog
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Buenos Aires Marathon Result

Agneieszka Gortel Winner Buenos Aires
Australian marathoner Marlo Perry was here last week, talking about her preparation for the Buenos Aires marathon. Very excited to report that she came home in four hours 11 seconds. Just a squeak outside her aim of four hours but a PB all the same. Well done! Other results are here Buenos Aires marathon. 

Marathons are one of the toughest ways to test your sporting mettle,  we'll have some more inspiring runners on here soon. 
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Athletes Aid 350 Actions

10.10.10 was a busy, busy day; marathons (more on those later in the week) and the 350 climate action group hosted Work Parties in 188 countries.

Their website 350 tells us: " Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet. Our focus is on the number 350—as in parts per million CO2. If we can't get below that, scientists say, the damage we're already seeing from global warming will continue and accelerate.  But 350 is more than a number—it's a symbol of where we need to head as a planet"

Quite a few international sports women were involved in promoting this goal this including American climber Kate Rutherford and British rower Roz Savage.  By its nature, professional sport encourages athletes to become self-absorbed so it's exciting to see women making the effort to remember what lies outside the training room.

Kate Rutherford


            


Roz Savage
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Birthday She-Ra

Some little girls had Barbies, some She-Ra. I was coming to the end of my doll phase when she appeared which was a pity. I battered some Sindys through an assault course or two; She-Ra might have been more durable. And, of course, there was that classic line: "For the honour of Greyskull! I am She-Ra"? As clear as mud that. Fighting the Evil Horde and Skeletor - if only life was still so simple.

I didn't appreciate then how unusual it was to have a doll who didn't depend on high heels and an invisible corset to hold herself together. But I'm sure there are lots of kick-ass martial artists and sportswomen out there who have a She-Ra stashed in their cupboards.

She-Ra from Hack Princess
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Marlo Perry Prepares for Buenos Aires Marathon

Aussie Marlo Perry has run marathons in Bangkok, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro but her running heart lies in Buenos Aires. She ran her first marathon there in 2008, and is lining up again for the 10.10.10. Working in BA with the Buenos Aires WHL, Buenos Aires Urban Adventures and Vamos Spanish Academy, she has also cycled through Brazil, Uruguay, Vietnam (8 times), across Argentina and Cambodia (twice), summited some 6000m peaks in Bolivia, walked the Inca Trail (over 20 times), and competed internationally with the Argentine MuayThai team. Phew!

Tell us about your first marathon
My goals were simple; to finish, and to finish under four hours. I ended up with a time of 4:11. I still had a bit of energy left and pulled up really well the next day so instead of being proud I was actually annoyed I was 11 minutes over. Especially as at least 5 minutes was spent waiting to use the toilet at km 25! 
There was a transport strike in Buenos Aires that day and I hadn’t brought enough money for a taxi so I walked about 10km home – eating a caramel-chocolate-chip ice-cream. That’s my most vivid memory of the day!

What’s special about running in Buneos Aires?
Twice a week in the mornings I go for a short fast run in an area known as the Palermo Parks. It is a park in the middle of the city and a great way to escape the noise and congestion. I usually run with a group from the Vamos Spanish Running Group Weekends I head to the Costanera Sur area or do a long run out of the Palermo neighbourhood. I enjoy this much more than 50 loops of a plaza!

 You travel a lot for your work, how do you fit in training?
When I was training for my first marathon I was still working as overland tour guide, based in South America. It was really difficult to fit in the long runs as my work schedule was never much of a routine. I was also working a bit in Bolivia, and training at altitude might be great for an Olympian but as a normal runner a few laps at 4000m is not advised.
But it also meant I never ran the same route. My training runs included desert runs in the Atacama, the beaches of Brazil, hill runs in the volcanic landscapes of the Lakes District and the most beautiful run I have ever done – a crisp morning in the National Park near Bariloche, Argentina. There was snow on the mountain peaks, crystal lakes, autumn colours in the forests. I ran twice as long as I intended and it will forever be the most awesome run ever!  


What do you eat in the run-up to the race?
I don’t pay much attention to my diet. I know I should be carb loading but I also like a bit of chocolate milk. Anything plain that doesn’t upset my stomach too much as there is no way that I am going to get stuck 5 minutes waiting for the toilet this time!

Good luck to Marlo and the other runners in Buenos Aires on 10.10.10!
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Would You Watch More Women's Sport ?

If you've noticed that more and more women are taking part in sports, you're not alone. The Commission on the Future of Women's Sport (UK) released figures this summer which shows surprisingly high levels of interest.
  • 50% of those questioned said women's sport is getting more popular (only 36% said the same about men's sport)
  • 44% think the quality of women's sport is better than ten years ago
  • 54% think watching women play sport is as exciting as men's
  • 61% say they would watch more women's sport if it was on the television
You can read the full report here on the Women Sport and Fitness Foundation website. It goes on to push this growth as an investment opportunity so hopefully, as we lead towards London 2012, business people will take notice. So what about you, what sports would you like to see more of on the TV?

Flickr pic by Robert Couse-Baker
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Chick Flick Wakeboarding

Talking to Melissa Ray this week reminded me of how hard it was to fit in MuayThai training with friends.

She learns Thai on her day off, I used to head out to Lake Taco and try to wakeboard while my mates zoomed around the man-made lake. Fun, lots of fun. The Chick Flick is a doco written around female wakeboarders Dallas Friday, Amber Wing and a list of other great athletes.

They make it look so easy but I've got the embarrassing photos to prove it's not quite so effortless. Read more about the film on The Chick Flick

How do you cope with learning things which are fun but super-hard to do?

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Melissa Ray MuayThai and Mould in Bangkok


The first time I met Melissa Ray in Bangkok her right eye was bandaged and swollen. She looked like she'd been in a fight but hey, apparently the other girl looked worse. It's been great watching her career develop over the last few years, and meeting up every now and then for noodles and a chat.

Melissa Ray wins WMPF Lightweight title Bangkok August 2010
When British MuayThai fighter Melissa Ray first moved to Thailand, she only intended to stay for a short visit. That was four years ago.  Now she lives within cycling distance of Eminent Air gym in Bangkok (website here) and fights in Thailand, China and the UK. Her record stands at 38 fights with 25 wins, 12 losses, 1 draw. Ray says “I’d visited Thailand to compete in an amateur tournament and really enjoyed my time here. That’s when I decided I would like to come and train for longer and started saving money. Initially I thought I would only stay 3 months!”

As time passed, Ray found learning Thai was the best way to survive in a gym where she was the only fluent English speaker. She studies on Sundays; her one training-free day. MuayThai isn’t a big money sport in Europe so fighters there usually work and then train in the late evening or early morning.  But in Thailand fighters live in their gym - training morning and afternoons, spending the hours in-between sleeping or playing PS2. Choosing to live on her own in an apartment sometimes attacked by tropical mould, Ray says “ I don't have a kitchen so all my food is bought on the street. I love Thai food but sometimes feel I have less control over my diet here. In the UK I would be able to prepare all my own food and have more control over the fat and salt content.”

During her years in Thailand, she’s seen the popularity of female boxing grow. There was a similar growth spurt in the late ‘90s when women’s fights from Rangist stadium were televised; then all went quiet. But even though Ray points out that many of the main stadiums still ban women’s fights, she adds “I think there are many more high profile female fights than there used to be especially for international boxing with female boxers such as Usanakorn occupying prime TV slots.”

Not that Ray has much time for chilling out with her TV. Asked what her favourite time of the day is, she zooms in on a time most of us are still sleeping. “I’m a strange person who likes mornings. I like the quiet time between 5 and 6am when I eat my favourite porridge and yoghurt, and slowly prepare myself for training.”

Do you know of anyone else who has moved countries for their sport?
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Katie Taylor Mary Kom World Champions Again

Katie Taylor pic credit IABA
Watching Irish boxer Katie Taylor talking about her win in Barbados was a good reminder that sport is really about the people not the sponsors or the big money. I have been known to be a touch cynical at times but she seemed genuinely overwhelmed by winning and by the plaudits the journalists were wrapping about her. A tough semi-final against American Queen Underwood gave us a real idea of how tough the competition is, but she had few problems in the final against Chinese boxer Cheng Dong; winning 16-5. Two of  the other Irish boxers Allana Murphy and Sinead Kavanagh made it to the last 16 which was a solid showing and gives us hope for 2012 as well. And Indian boxer Mary Kom - who I posted about here - won an incredible 5th World Title at 48kgs.
More posts on Taylor here and here.  Did you see any of the fights?

Mary Kom pic credit Sports Keeda
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reading and Suffering with Paula Radcliffe

Reading a sports bio. you could expect some inspiration, some positive thinking but having just finished Radcliffe's biography, I'm also thinking you need a strong stomach.

One of the fasted marathoners in history - 2.15.25 in London 2003, her list of injuries drips from almost every page; to a point where you wonder how she keeps going. Or even why she kept going.

But she does, in spite of asthma on top of all the sporting injuries. And in the end when you finish the book, you do feel inspired. As much by her determination to stay honest in a sport where cheating seems rife as by her refusal to give in to pain.

The photo below shows Radcliffe and her team-mate Halley Tullett demonstrating against the use of EPO at the World Championships in Canada in 2001.

In the book she remembers:


 "As we held the sign up, there were Russians nearby yelling at us, and we worried about what other athletes would think of what we were doing. We knew we were taking a risk, putting ourselves up as targets for what we believed in. Yet I have always said that fear is no reason not to do what you believe is right. We felt that the IAAF wasn’t listening to us or doing enough to fight doping; we wanted the public to know that most athletes were clean and weren’t happy with the way our sport was being portrayed."
But it's the physical injuries that really stand out in my mind.  Reading, you are reminded of how tough we become as we train professionally. Radcliffe describes getting knocked over by a little girl on a bike before a big race which doesn't sound too traumatic until you see the photos and realise how hard she hit the ground. Because of course she was going at speed when the collision occured.

You can read some extracts from the book on her site Paula Radcliffe but I'd recommend reading the whole book. It's well worth a little bit of sofa-time to that inspiration. 

Canada 2001

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Autumn or Fall It's Time to Recycle and Cleanup

Old trainers Richard Faulder Flickr
There's something about this time of year. I feel like throwing out smelly training gear and getting ready for cold weather work. Even more excited than usual this year as I've been out of sports for ages thanks to a few illnesses. So the trick is to find ways to clean out without just dumping everything in the trash. And yes I do get a little emotional about throwing away running shoes which have carried me over way too many hills.

  • Recycle your Shoes. Find a company near you at Shoes Recycling Programmes here.  
  • Irish chain Lifestyle Sports ran an exchange programme earlier this year - maybe we can get them to hold another? Or check your local shops  
  • Recycled Runners links up with brandnames to recycle shoes and unused shoe material. Who knew the shoes on your feet could make a basketball court - 2,500 pairs - or a running track - 75,000 pairs. 
What do you do with your old sports gear? 

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    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Marathon Day in Chicago Buenos Aires 10 10 10

    Chicago Marathon ad campaign
    Marathon runners have one month to go to two of the most popular marathons around; Chicago and Bunenos Aires. From a sport which began on the battlefield, the marathon - and half-marathon - has become an area where women sports stars excel. The field for the NYC Half-marathon 2009 was 53 percent female according to Runner's World, while the Chicago Marathon consistently has the highest number of women running every year; 43 percent last year.

    Personally I'm a halfie 'cause I'm too lazy to train for a full marathon, but people who crank down their times at each outing deserve a shout-out. I'll be posting an interview soon with an avid marathon runner from Buenos Aires on how she prepares for running in the heat.

    Do you prefer longer or shorter races?
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    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    The Shock of a Woman Reporter in a Locker Room

    I came across a older post on Salon.com yesterday. Former NY Times reporter Robin Herman posted on how she accidentally became a feminist icon - when all she wanted was a few quotes before deadline. Alright, this was 1975 but considering that 30 or so years later, women like Orla Guerin (BBC) and Christina Lamb              (Sunday Times) regularly report from war zones, it's bizarre to think that a locker room was off-limits.

    When I was competing in Thailand, I found that many MuayThai gyms still hold to the tradition of barring women from touching the ring - this makes training a little bit difficult as you can imagine. The main stadiums there are still for male-fighters only. Plus ca change ...


    Read "A Girl in the Locker Room" on  Salon.com here.
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    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Red Bull Illume - my favourite photograph

    I went to the Red Bull Illume photo exhibition the other day in Dublin. Some incredible shots of really fit folk. Of course as I have a one-track mind, I was looking out for female photographers or pics of female athletes. Not so many. But one of the finalists was Camilla Stoddart with this great shot of base-jumper Josie Symons diving from a 1,000m cliff in New Zealand. You can see more of Stoddart's work on her site Camilla Stoddard Photography.

    Josie Symons by Camilla Stoddart
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    Monday, September 6, 2010

    AIBA Women's World Championship Barbados

    So today is the first day of the AIBA women's championships and first step on the Olympic road. Lots of fighters to cheer for but, of course, this blog will be flying the flag for Irish lightweight Katie Taylor. Taylor, twice world champion, fights out of Bray in Dublin and is one of Ireland's main medal hopes in the Olympics. Small matter of qualifying as it only takes on punch to finish it all the wrong way.

    She lost out to Sofya Ochigava in March - her first loss in 42 fights, so here's hoping she has pulled up from that and has a great tournament. This video is from another fight earlier this year in Dublin against American Caroline Barry.
    Who will you be cheering for?

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    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Salt How Strong Does Jolie Look?

    I went to see "Salt" yesterday and spent most of the film wondering how it is actually possible for a woman who is so thin to, cough, be so strong?

    Schreiber and Jolie in Salt credit Hollywood Chicago

    I do appreciate that it's just a film - and that Santa isn't real. But seriously, could they not try to build her up just a little? Liev Schreiber is not a small guy but she takes him out. Plus dozens of agents on the side. Okay, she sweats a little over it but seriously, if guys were this easy to beat up, we'd all be world champions. To be fair she trained in MuayThai and Krav Marga to get ready but ...

    Am I being too picky - do I need to just work on the 'suspension of disbelief' and get on with the popcorn?
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