Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Duchess of Cambridge's old school and sport

The University of St Andrews in Scotland is more well known these days for being the back-drop to a right royal romance. You may have seen the wedding photos. But it's also home to the Umutima 2015 International Development Youth Summit which takes place next week.

One of the partners in this is Friend of Edusport, a British charity who see sport and education as ways to combat poverty. The spiel on their site says that in much nicer language and also that they "advocate for female empowerment towards more equal and equitable societies."

Of course to do that, you need money. They appear to fundraise through a mixture of  inspiring sports women (and 1 lonely man!) as ambassadors, and running events around the UK,  New Zealand, America and Norway. All for their work in Lusaka, capital of Zambia.Some of those projects are giving sport or education support to children with HIV/ AIDS, and delivering 17,000 books (so far) to school and community libraries.

It's easy to be skeptical of small charities - especially when you read the Three Cups of Tea story as re-told by CBS - but in this case, when people are genuine and determined to make that difference, it reminds you that charity doesn't always have to be on a large scale.

Do you know of any other sports charities? 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Women's rugby sites

The Irish men's teams had a great rugby week - winning the Heineken and the Magners league between them. I was a tad more excited when my* team Munster won the Magners but it's great to see both teams doing so well. These are some of the best sites covering women's rugby.  If you know of any others, please leave a comment and I will add them to the list later on. And of course all the national and club websites have a section dedicated to their women's teams.

Scrum Queens
Probably the most comprehensive site dedicated to women's international rugby. You can find everything from fixtures, interviews, news on 7s as well as the regular game to match reports. Best part is maybe the national reports with news on each team.

Singapore Women's Rugby
Most countries have their own sites, I like this one as it's completely separate to the men's and really focuses on what their women's team is all about.

Almost there! Eliza Downey Ireland

Women's Ruby History
Something different - an archive of media stories on women's rugby. It hasn't been updated for a while but the historical info on the growth of the sport is fascinating.

A woman's place in the maul
Great line. This is an interview with Australian Jula Singer on a mixed-gender site. Interesting read. 

Women's Rugby World Cup
Info, highlights, photographs and video from the 2010 World Cup. That should keep you going until 2014 when the games will be held in ... TBC  Apparently an announcement is due this year, as the tender process is still open.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Audio: Why do we box?

Interviews with Irish pro-boxer Christina McMahon, Australia Muay Thai fighter Kelly Simon and a few boys including Irish pro-boxer Willie "Big Bang' Casey - talking about Why We Box.

This is a short set of radio interviews I made a while ago and have just put together. Enjoy! 

  Why do we box ngriffin 2010 by niamhg

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Watching Hanna

SPOILER WARNING: if you haven't seen Hanna stop reading now.

I finally made it in to this, having been excited since I saw the trailer in February. Great to see Saoirse Ronan (Ireland) and Cate Blanchett (Australia) starring and running a film together (well, with some input from Eric Bana to be fair). So aside from having two strong female roles with any gratuitous sex - except that strange scene in the camping tent between Ronan's character and her new best friend, what was that about? - was it a good film?
Not quite sure in the end how strong the female roles are as Ronan is completely guided by Bana's character, to the point of not even being sure who she is. Blanchett, although her actions start the sequence of events off, also seems dependent on Bana's decisions. I'm not quite sure if that is how the director meant it to play out.
But from a martial arts perspective, great fight scenes, very well-choreographed and executed especially for the scenes between Ronan and the 'baddies' in the truck-yard.
And definitely set up for a sequel with that lovely circular ending. I enjoyed it a lot more than most films out at the moment, and read a piece on how teenage girls in the States were inspired by watching it.
This is, of course, the slightly sticky ethical point; inspiring or glorification of violence?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is cheerleading a sport?

Question of the day - what is a sport? This is something which exercises (sorry!) me coming from an Olympic perspective; what sports should be included and what ones not? And it seems from a collection of articles in my inbox this morning that cheerleaders have the same problem. 

Really if you leave cheerleaders on the sidelines (again apologies) then perhaps gymnastics or synchronised swimming would also be voted out? Yes, cheerleaders train incredibly hard but are they there as an extra to the main event or are they athletes in their own right? Maybe any American readers out there can enlighten us on how this is seen on the ground over there as we don't have a huge cheerleader tradition in European sports. I saw some photos of all-male troupes, is this growing or just a gimmick?

You can read up on the cheerleader debate here on the SMH from Australia, the Daily Mail from the UK and on Jezebel.

What other sports do you think suffer from an image problem?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Brazilian Women's Soccer Guerreiras!

Did you know women's football was banned in Brazil by the milatary dictatorship until the early 80s? Neither did I until this week. I've discovered this exciting trailer** for "Guerreiras Do Futebol Feminino" which sent me off on an internet search for more info.

Seems a strange thing to ban until you think about the advantages playing sport brings to anyone, male or female. But that's all changing now. The Brazilian national team played their first game in 1986 and have been in the top finishers at the World Cup and Olympics ever since, ranked the top team over-all in South America. 

And of course have produced one of the world's most famous women players; Marta Viera da Silva, four times FIFA Player of the Year.

This is a trailer for a doco following 40 female soccer players from the Santos FC club in Brazil. Adrianne Grunwald uploaded it on Vimeo recently, saying "we began to explore how these women were navigating new tensions and contradictions, while questioning Brazil’s seemingly progressive move towards gender equality."

The women raise similar questions to those being faced by other women in sport - what to wear, how sexy is too sexy, how far to go for sponsorship and what does it really mean to play sport for an audience. Look forward to seeing the full doco.

** UPDATE OCTOBER 2015: So the VIMEO film clip has been made private at some point since I wrote this post. You can still watch Guerreiras Do Futebol Feminino on Vimeo here, but I can no longer embed it. Sorry about that.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Arsenal Ladies footballers win again

Arsenal Ladies won their 11th FA Cup title in the UK this weekend. Yes, that's right, 11 times since 1993 when the FA took over the compeition in its present form. They won out 3-0 over Bristol Academy, who were in their first ever final. 

Arsenal Ladies win FA Cup pic: Talk sport
It wasn't as much of an mis-match as those stats might suggest, Bristol did hold the Gunners (as all Arsenal teams are known) to a 2-3 draw last week in an FA WSL match.  Goals came from Kim Little and Julie Fleeting while Irish keeper Emma Byrne held a solid defence at the back. BBC Sport has a detailed report on the game here.  And Women's Soccer Scene cover it here. 

The other teams must be wondering at this stage what they have to do to get past Arsenal?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Audio: Women's MMA on Gospel MMA Radio

Thanks to Cheryl over on That Girl is Funny for drawing my attention to this radio show. A round-table debate on the future of women's MMA with input from MarQ of Fighter Girls and Women Talk Sports, WMMA fighter “Thundercat” Michelle Ould (4-3, 1NC), Chris Schenk of WMMA management company Schenk MMA, and Dan Griffin of MMA Gospel. The show starts with an interview with Cat Zinganao, successful American fighter.

The first 12 minutes are general intro and chat, i.e. takes a while to get going for European ears. But good insight into martial arts radio in the States anyhow.

Listen to internet radio with MMA Gospel Gary on Blog Talk Radio

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sweat-free Olympics Play Fair 2012

"The legal minimum wage in Sri Lanka is Rs7,900 (£45 per month). Although workers making goods for Adidas, Nike and Speedo tend to get paid Rs10,000 (£55 per month) this is still below the official UN global poverty line of $2 a day. People can't meet their basic needs with this meagre wage. A recent survey by the Sri Lankan government found that 67 per cent of women working in the garment sector are suffering from anaemia because of poor diet." 

This is an extract from a disturbing report on the Trade Unions Cogress (TUC) site on working conditions for the (mostly) women making sports-clothing for Adidas, Nike and Speedo in Sri Lanka.  Trade unionist Nirosha Priyadarshini Manankanda Dewage recently came to the UK to give a series of speeches on the factories and let us know what we can do to help her improve life for these workers. 

You can read this full TUC report here

It's disheartening how little things have changed. Have you read No Logo? You could think with all the attention given to sweat-shops they might disappear but it seems the bottom-line still rules.

What can we do?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: biking in the hills

Jennifer O Reilly
Sub-head - how to look good in a cycling helmet!

Wordless Wednesday is a group of bloggers who give words a rest once a week.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

13 reasons women should box

This is an inspiring speech from one of my 'online training buddies' Lisa Bledsoe over on The Glowing Edge. Given at the Ignite event in North Carolina, USA, her slides in the background are great! If you've ever had a secret yearning to box, this might tip you over the edge.

I interviewed Lisa here if you want to know more about her boxing career. 

Got any more reasons to add to the mix?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Women athletes on the Magic Roundabout

Too high, too short, too sexy, too long, against my religious  beliefs ... the Miss Universe contestants? Nope, women athletes thinking about or being told what to think about their game-clothes. Now it's the turn of women badminton players to see what's its like to have your concentration disrupted and focused on something completely irrelevant.

But the thing is, it's not irrelevant. What you wear when playing sports can make the difference between winning and losing, getting that ball or dropping it, punching accurately or not. The decision should be based on what works for you as an athlete, not what works for the TV ratings. And yes, I know women's sports have to sell ourselves to get the ratings, to get the sponsors but why does it always come back to revealing more flesh? I feel like Dougal on The Magic Roundabout,  going round in circles without ever getting off or making any changes.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gaza marathon

Marathon in Gaza pic Al-Jazeera

There's an unexpected headline. Over 1,000 runners took part in the first marathon held there a few days ago; a 10km, a half and a full marathon. Most did the shorter races, the marathon was run by Palestinian athletes training for the London Olympics.

The course says a lot - run from the border with Israel to the border with Egypt, exactly 42 km. Aside from hundreds of school children, the only woman running was one of the UN workers who organised the tournament. The race was run to raise funds for summer schools held every year for school children in Gaza. You can read more about how it all works here on the UNRWA site.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Apologies for the break in transmission the last few days. Can I just say two words: In-design project. I think I have established I am a words person, not design! Too much stress.

So, what is new this weekend in sport? I read about an interesting iPhone app from the Irish Sports Council. You can use it to check your medication against the WADA list of illegal medication. Very useful, as we all know how easy it is for asthma meds or cold meds to slip over that edge. I was involved with writing doping codes for a sports org a few years ago, it's very comprehensive but complicated to keep in mind when you're stuck in the middle of a nasty winter-illness.

And heard about a new photography project running in Ireland - focused on women in sport. You can see some of the photographs here on Laurence J Photography and if you're interested in taking part, or know someone who is interested, then contact Laurence through that blog. Some great shots up already and big plans for developing the idea.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mary Kom wins again at Asian Cup

Mary Kom pic Glamour Indian
Indian boxer Mary Kom won gold in the 48kgs division at the Asian Cup yesterday. This was her fourth time taking the title, beginning to be bit of a habit. She beat Kim Myong Sim from North Korea in the tournament, running in China at the moment. 

Mary Kom with her medals
Her website reminds us she has already won five World Titles and somehow finds time to mother twin boys as well, hope her husband helps out a lot! 
Unfortunately the 2012 Olympics will not include a 48kgs division for women. As this is the first year they are including us, there are only three divisions - compared to ten for boys - to start with. They are: 
Fly Weight (48-51kg), 
Light Weight (57-60kg) 
Middle Weight (69-75kg) 

I'm sure Kom will be gunning for one of the 36 slots  - 250 men - but it will be a big ask to get in the ring with women that much heavier. For those of you not initiated into the madness of boxing, fighters usually 'walk around' a good bit heavier than their fight weight and then come down to meet the requirements. So Kom could be aiming to fight at that heavier weight, feeling sluggish and out of sorts. That said, she has a year to prepare so you never know. I'd love to see her take an Olympic medal to add to her amazing story. 

More on Kom here

Monday, May 9, 2011

Global Big Wave Awards: the girls

It's a beautiful morning here in Ireland. A day for the beach, not the computer but unfortunately ... So have to make do with blogging about Irish surfer Easkey Britton instead. Nominated to the final five of the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, she's a rarity here; a female big wave surfer. She didn't make the final prize - that went to Keala Kennelly from Hawaii - but says a lot for the time she puts in on the cold water around here that she made it that far. Inspiring indeed.
A report she wrote on the event for Mpora is here. She says: "For me the quote of the night came from Keala Kennelly when she went to claim her Award, “When you ride one of those big waves it doesn’t matter what you got between your legs!” It felt like a win not just for her but for women’s surfing."

Easkey Britton pic Laurence J Photography
More on Easkey here

Friday, May 6, 2011

Let the countdown begin

I found this on Vimeo earlier this week, great to see the hype building up around women boxers for the Olympics next year. Enjoy -- and have a great weekend!

First Assignment: Women's Boxing 2012 Olympics from Montana Mann on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sports Blog Karma

I haven't given a shout-out to some great blogs for a while. So, these are some of the new and not-so new blogs I've come across recently:

Element 22

This blog has great photographs of people hanging off mountains, skiiing down mountains, camping in mountains and even some rather large bear paw-prints. Definitely worth a read.


An unusual mix of cycle-races, mountain photos and needlework! Have to say I probably don't appreciate the patterns as much as some readers but the bike descriptions are inspiring.

Muslim women in sports

With all the talk of war, it would be easy to forget that life goes on as normal for the majority of Muslim people in the world. Great collection here of sports women from many countries and a wide range of sports.

Women's Views on News

Not just about sport, this website reports on women's roles in mainstream news stories. Some you might have heard of already but others were new to me. Great read.

Do you know any other sites or blogs I should mention in the next round-up? 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Winter Olympics joins 21st century

A Norwegian reader (thanks Marte) sent me a link about the IOC's decision to allow women ski jumpers in the tournament. I'm a bit late to the party on this one but bloggers' prerogative and all that ...

So it seems ski-jumpers have Canadian Katie Willis and her friends to thank for this. They took a rights case to a Canadian court, claiming they were being discriminated against by not being allowed to take part. Can you imagine having to take a human rights case to be allowed compete in a sports tournament? Well, not just any tournament but still. Really Jacques Rogge, this is what you want happening on your watch? Can we all please pack up and join the 21st century? (hard to do in Europe at the moment with royal weddings and beatified popes everywhere but let's try)
Katie Willis, Canada
I'm pleased for the new generation of ski-jumpers, and sure there will be more of them now with the Olympic gold as a lure. But was saddened to read that Katie Willis herself is near the end of her career so may not compete in Sochi 2014. In the story, she said: "I've been off for a bit so that does make it hard to get back and get into the rhythm of it. But it's definitely possible, there's still a few years."

I'm sure we missed out many great boxing fights too. Looking forward to seeing all of these women compete in the next few years.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stop gender violence with sport

Dr. Auma Obama (sister of that Obama) talks on a World Health Organisation (WHO) project to help girls find self-respect and help against violence through the confidence of sport.

UPDATE: Shea Morrissey from Women Win has been in touch to say that grassroots organisation is behind this project not the WHO.  Full post on WW to follow.

How effective do you think sport can be in these situations?