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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