Monday, October 31, 2011

Canadian Sandra Bastian fights in MuayThai Premier League Holland

Sandra Bastian, Canada
The MuayThai Premier League comes to Holland this weekend, and Canadian fighter Sandra Bastian takes on Julie Kitchen from Britain at 63.5 kgs. Sandra took some time out from training for a virtual-chat with us.

Her fight record stands at 31 wins 9 losses 16 KO as an amateur MuayThai fighter and 4 wins 1 loss 1 KO as a pro.

Sandra's trophy cupboard is just a little full with belts going back to her 2004 North American title and silver at the IFMA world championships. More space was needed in 2006 with for a gold medal at the IFMAs and ‘Best Female Fighter’. Three years ago she was WKA World Champion, and took bronze at the IFMA games.

Why keep fighting?

Tall with the rangy muscles of someone who punches a bag more often than she lifts weights, Bastian says the sport is so much more than fighting. “What other sport pushes you to your limits, lets you travel the world and meet the most amazing people?"
 It is a community of people that come together as one. I am so thrilled to have found Muay Thai.” So even with all that bling, she still has the drive to compete.
Bastian adds the cultural aspect of MuayThai is important to her. “The spiritual side of Thai boxing mesmerizes me. I love watching and learning and this sport always has room to do both.”

Challenge of international fights

Women fighters get to compete internationally quite early in their careers, often due to a lack of fighters in their home country. This can be quite a learning experience, says Bastian who fights out of Mike Miles’s gym in Calgary, Alberta.
“I don't believe countries make styles. Everyone I have fought has had their own way of doing certain things and each one of them has taught me something,” she says.

Sandra Bastian doing Ram Muay PIC Dale Shirley

Growth of women's fighting

At 42 Bastian has enough experience to remember when just meeting another woman fighter was special. Looking at the growing scene today, she sounds a little envious of the options opening up now.

“I am excited for the upcoming fighters,” she says. “They will have opportunities that I didn't. With Clifton Brown doing the MPL series I am hoping it will make Muaythai a sport that is bigger than the UFC.”

Working as an instructor, Bastian is playing her own role in growing the sport. She says: “I have had the opportunity to travel the world and I have been fortunate enough to be able to teach and share what I have learned.”

And after training ...

Outside the ring, Basitan is one of the growing number of mothers who don’t see any contradiction between parenting and fighting. “I have 3 boys: Dylan aged 20, Dawson aged 17 and Dalton aged 14. They are my biggest supporters and I love them dearly.” 

And not to leave anyone out, she adds that she ‘also loves dearly” her boyfriend of four years, Chris.
That growing brood meant making a few adjustments to the traditional life of a boxer; balance had to find its way. Bastian says it’s gotten easier as her kids get older. She says: “I remember taking Dalton to the gym to train when he was 2. He would sit in his stroller, watch me train then get to run around after. Now Dawson works at the gym part time so I actually see him more and Dylan trains along side me.”
And while it might sound difficult, she grins and says: “It has been our way of life for 12 years. We work together to make it work for all of us.”

MPL in Holland

Sandra will get in the ring on Saturday with talented British fighter Julie Kitchen – who brings 13 world titles from different bodies to the table – and her final words are the ones every coach loves to hear.

She said: “I think it will be a good fight. I'm looking forward to it.”

The other women's fight on Saturday at the MPL is between Valentina Shevchenko, Peru and Ilona Wijmans, Holland.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Let's play soccer Jalla, girls!

Jalla! Jalla! means Let's go in Arabic. And that's what the women in this great short from Annalisa Vozza are doing - playing soccer (or should that be football?) in Bethlehem with the Palestinian team. Vozza has made some powerful films about parts of the world we usually associate with conflict. This award-winning short is the story of Honey and Jackline. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

IRB Women’s Personality of the Year

So as many of you know the men's Rugby World Cup came to a half earlier this week. As well as the main focus on the matches, the IRB hands out Player of the Year and a host of other prizes based on performances during the year. 

For some reason there isn't a female Player trophy but there is a Women's Personality prize. I know, I know, don't get me started. But this year's winner Ruth Mitchell has more than earned any prizes given to her, whatever the title. A former player in Hong Kong - where the scene is vital enough that a Blediscoe Cup match between Australia and New Zealand was played there  - she is now the Director of Development.

Obviously she works on promoting the men's game as well, but she is better known for the huge amount of work she's put into the Women's Sevens tournament. Now in it's 14th year, the women's game is spreading parts of Asia very far removed from being traditional strongholds. And you need someone to push that kind of change, it doesn't just happen.

Ruth Mitchell, Hong Kong Rugby
 Last year's winner was New Zealand player Carla Hohepa

PS - congratulations! to France and New Zealand for an exciting final game.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Report from European women's boxing champs in Rotterdam

Michael O Neill is a journalist with SportsNewsIreland who is very supportive of women in sport. He sent me some thoughts on his time at the European Women’s Boxing Championship in Rotterdam at the weekend.

I was fortunate enough to be covering the semi-finals and finals in Rotterdam and it really was a great occasion. Fantastic atmosphere both days I was there. A “sell out” crowd of 2,500 at the TopSport arena. And a superb advert for women’s boxing with several notable performances.
60kgs Katie Taylor, Ireland  Gold medallist
I’ve never seen Katie (Taylor) look so relaxed before a bout and naturally she was tremendously happy afterwards. She must be odds-on now for the Irish Times/Irish Sports Council  “Sportswoman of the year” award.

(Looking at the fight) The Team Taylor tactics were to steer clear of trouble and not to mix it with Ochigava. A typical Peter Taylor comment is pretty revealing of their highly successful plan:
"We studied all of Ochigava's fights out here this week and the important thing was that Katie remained patient. The Russian girl wanted her to come forward but Katie stayed composed and implemented the tactics,” Pete who is Katie’s father and trainer said. "We had to hold her back at one stage as she wanted to go for her, but that would have played into her hands."
pic IABA
And a nice quote from Katie herself: "Sofya is one of the best opponents I have ever met and I'm absolutely thrilled with the win. I can't believe it really. Obviously, we are rivals inside the ring, but we really get on very well outside the ring. She's a lovely person as well as fantastic boxer”
60kgs Sofya Ochigava, Russia Silver medallist
I must say that Ochigava was very gracious in defeat and smiled and chatted happily after the bout. The Russian coaches were less pleased and could not understand at all what happened to Ochigava. Their many supporters in the audience were really shocked.
I have to say I think that Ochigava was physically fit but psychologically in far from the right frame of mind for such an important contest.
Two other points I think are relevant are that Ochigava has been out of action for more than nine months due to a serious knee problem and she is not in my opinion a natural 60kg lightweight. Her two world championships have been at 51 and 54kg.
Sure she will be in the mix for the Olympic qualifiers and the  London 2012 Games if she qualifies along with Taylor. 
Olympics: But Taylor’s main opponents (for the gold medal) may well prove to be Gulsum Tatar of Turkey and the USA’s Queen Underwood. Also maybe the British entrant who could be Chantelle Cameron or more likely Natasha Jonas. It appears there will be a massive Irish support for Taylor since it was vastly easier to get tickets for the women’s bouts than the men’s. 
Irish Boxing team pic Alan Betson
Irish team 
As far as the rest of the Irish are concerned some fine performances. We will be hearing a lot more in next few years of Co Mayo youngster Katie Rowland. True she had a heavy defeat here by Nikki Adams (UK) but the latter is the World No 2 and now the European champion. Rowland shows real promise for the future, a point that Peter Taylor was quick to make in his capacity as one of the Irish coaches in Rotterdam.

Thanks Michael!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Run like a girl

Any book that combines Goldilocks, outdoor divas and a trapeze has got to be worth a look. When it comes packaged with an author bio listing no less than nine sports, you know you're in good company. 

Author and sports-fan Mina Samuels sent me her book Run like a Girl longer ago than I care to reveal. I've been reading chapters on the go and finally made it to the end. Finishing it this week was, shall we say, most useful. You could sum up her main theme with "If not now, when?" and just pull on whatever sports shoes you need and hit the road (or mountain, river, sea ....). 

Unlike some motivaltional books, Samuels uses people you might know in her examples. Sure, some of them have run marathons at high speed but others are the women who finish the 10km and know they've achieved something. Some have survived shocking accidents or illnesses but others just come to sport at messed-up time in their lives and it solves a problem, fills a gap. 

Samuels writes: "When I meet a goal I’ve set in sports nothing outward changes in my life. I don’t get product endorsements or coaching contracts or highpaid (sic) speaking engagements. I fit my sports in around my work and other obligations. Sometimes staying committed to the sports is an enormous struggle and I think, “I can’t wait until I’m too old for this.” At other times it is pure bliss and I know that I will be doing some sport for as long as I’m here. So it is for most of us."

It's inspiring reading the stories about women who set up clothing companies - Outdoor Divas - women who climb mountains or learn to ski at times in their lives when it seemed like it was all over. And readers, when some commentators say it's all over by 16, it's refreshing to hear someone say that sometimes you just have to wait until it's right. Could be 26, could be 66, it's up to you.

It's one of those books you will probably dip into again and again. A good book to keep on the shelf for when that old injury acts up again, when an illness comes by to say hello or just for when you need a little extra something to get out in the cold. Read it, share it and keep on doing sport. 
A final thought from Samuels: 

"What is running like a girl, anyway? It’s getting out there. Challenging ourselves. Finding new possibility within. Finding strength in our own accomplishments. It’s accessing our ageless girl spirit, where the enthusiastic “let’s go” of youth meets the “I can” of experience"  


Have you read any books that gave you that kick-up you needed?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Boxer Katie Taylor is European Champion

And the main post for today has to go to Irish boxer Katie Taylor. What a win - her fifth time taking the European title at 60kgs. She beat Russian Sofya Ochigava 10 - 5 in the final last night.

Taylor European Champ pic iaba

I watched the fight here  on the European Women Boxing Championships site. It was a slow enough start with both fighters seeming to hand out the respect in shovels but once Taylor started landing with her right, Ochigava knew all about it. A full report is over on this post.

If you click through some of the other fights, interesting to see some of the women wearing the infamous skirts. These have been creeping into MuayThai too, not a big fan but some say it's progress so ... The commentary is in Dutch and you need to download Silverlight (link on the site). Some great fights, well worth the effort. But strangely seems to be just Dutch fighters up there now.

The other results are listed here on the EWBC website.


New look for Inspiring Sports Women

Just a short post to say thank you to illustrator Katie Male at Flatsphere in Bangkok, Thailand for drawing this great picture for the blog!

I haven't changed too much; everything is still in the same place, just a little clearer. Love the determination on the faces of these women. Hope you can still find your favourite posts.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Women wrestlers in Turkey

Wrestling always reminds me of reading John Irving's The World According to Garp. Strange but true.

And in the week of the European Boxing championships in Rotterdam, it seems like a good chance to look at another contact sport for women. This short clip from Women's ENews looks at how women in Turkey are making their way into this most traditional of sports.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: MuayThai referee

 pic by Luanda Smith

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Mud Sweat and Tears, on a mountain-run

"It is 2 am on Saturday morning. I’m so used to being alone on the mountains by now that I presume that I’m the only one up here. But before I know it, I see three other head torches pointing right in my direction. “Who the hell would be up this mountain at this time of night?” I wonder. I start to panic" 

For some people climbing a mountain means walking slowly and steadily to the summit and back. For others it means ropes and dizzy ascents. For some people in Ireland it means running 26 peaks totalling over 100 km with over 6,000m of climbing - all inside 24 hours.

Aid-worker and blogger Moire O Sullivan took on The Wicklow Round in 2009. And now she's put it down in writing for us to share. 

"Mud, Sweat and Tears, An Irish woman’s journey of self-discovery" starts from the pain and humiliation of not completing the Round in 2008 to the painful joy of finishing in 22 hours 58 mins and 30 seconds a year later. As she says at the end: "I feel proud for getting back out there after that difficult first attempt. I’m proud that I learnt from my mistakes ... I’m proud that I’m a girl. I am a girl who was the first person to complete the Wicklow Round. So often us girls think that these things simply can’t be done. But at the end of May 2009, I’ve proved this belief totally wrong." 

It's not a comfortable read, Moire takes us right into the bloody blisters and the things long-distance runners think but it's a book that makes you believe in the addictive power of mountain-running. And makes you see how powerful that feeling of achievement can be.

For the runners among you, her descriptions of how she balances her food-intake with running and works out a route to get her safely over the peaks in darkness is a great insight into the practicalities behind her triumph. Her support team had more than a small role to play in this. 

Moire, at the end of the Wicklow Round
She writes: "Andrew, Lara, and Mark are also checking my bag at the transitions to make sure I am finishing the food. When I arrive off the mountains with a morsel of food left, I get reprimanded for not eating enough ... a psychological trick to ensure I consume enough calories for the journey." 

As you read you feel you are there on the mountains - watching the sky change colour, looking out for the goats and munching on the chocolate muffin with Moire on another steep climb. 

Having done much less strenuous climbs in Wicklow,  I'm awestruck at the commitment and the fitness needed to get around every peak in sight. I love that some of her running friends tog out to run with her for a few hours here and there, that's friendship.

In a funny aside she remembers how she nears the end of her marathon, she passed a runner who had probably just woken up a short while earlier. The runner calls out a loud hello and is affronted not to receive a proper reply. " “Whatever”, she says as she whizzes past me ... “But, but... I did answer you,” I think. “It’s just that I’ve been running for 22 hours. I’ve been on my feet since yesterday. I’m doing the Wicklow Round."" 

But it's something beyond the ken of most people, that anyone would undertake this. Moire was the first person to complete the Round, within a couple of weeks four men completed it in various times. But she was the first and you can race up those peaks with her.

I interviewed Moire on this blog here and here
Have you read any other "I did this" books recently?


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Action Day 2011 Food

I am proud to be taking part in Blog Action Day OCT 16 2011

When I saw the topic for Blog Action Day this year, at first I wondered what can a sports blog add to the UN World Food Day?

Maybe it seems right because I did most of my sport in Thailand, a country where MuayThai fighters come from the poorest section of society. A country where many of the fighters choose between working 14-hour days in the rice-fields or getting in the ring.

They fight to put food on the table. Boxers talk of training as young kids having only eaten a boiled egg and a handful of sicky rice for breakfast before school. That’s a three-hour training session on ice-water and an empty stomach.

After training, people sit – on the floor or benches – and eat together. Rice, fish, chicken, green veg and plates of hot chilli. It’s not the rich coconut-flavoured food you see in western Thai restaurants. This is cheap but healthy if you get enough of it.

There is no ‘my plate’. Everyone eats together, picking food from the main dishes onto their plate, sharing the green shoots.

The chilli isn’t there to just test your staying power either, chilli raises the metabolism, makes you feel full even when you haven’t eaten nearly enough.

Some of the bigger gyms attract lots of western boxers now, they come with expensive shoes to protect their feet and they bring tins of tuna or protein supplements to dinner.

They say it’s incredible the Thais can fight on so little food. Mate, it’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s not a variant of the Atkins Diet, it’s not some secret MuayThai technique.

It’s poverty.

Sawasdee mag 2000

Friday, October 14, 2011

Amy does Parkour in Melbourne

This is great! Only a few minutes long, it's the best explanation I've heard for why some people are addicted to leaping buildings. Another sport I wish I had tried when I was 17 and thought I was invincible. Filmed in Melbourne, lovely shots of the city as well as Amy show us what she does.
Have a healthy weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sports Blog Karma

It's been a while since I listed some of the blogs I read while floating around the internet.* 

This is a relatively new blog, clue is in the title. Some fascinating stories from places like Bosnia, Australia, Iran and Pakistan. Brings a whole new angle to the posts I've written here about clothing for women in sport. 

Ok, so it's a FB page not a blog but still a great place to get pictures of national team members competing in MuayThai. Lots of great shots from the recent World Champs in Uzbekistan.

Incredible photos of adventure races in places like the Himalayas, Cambodia and Moire's homeplace of Ireland. 

 *working and researching I mean ...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New surf kayak champions from England

So the England women's team swept the medals at the World Championships of Surf Kayaking this week. Emma Wynter took the Long Boat title while Tamsin Green won out in the Short Boat. 

Emma (19) has only been surf-kayaking for three years but has won British title in 2010, came 3rd  at the World Championships in 2009, and was on the English team which won the Home Internationals  in 2010. Not a bad start.  
Tamsin Green
Tamsin (36) has been in the water since 2006, and was ranked British No 1, was a member of that same English winners team in 2010 and ranked No 2 in the world. 

Once again there wasn't an Irish team due to lack of funds. I foresee that sentence becoming the theme of the blog for the rest of this year and into next. Perhaps we should all take up soccer?! Oh, and become guys before someone from the ladies soccer team says anything about unequal funding.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Irish boxing team prepares for Olympics

pic Alan Betson
It was tempting not to write a post at all today and just upload an article from the weekend, written about the Irish amateur boxing team by journalist Aine Kerr. So if that's your interest:  The gloves are on is here. 

Irish boxer Katie Taylor has been on this blog a few times, but this article takes a look at the other members of the team. It's interesting because it shows the depth of interest in women's boxing here now and hopefully a sign of good things to come as they prepare for the European Championships and of course for the Olympics next year. 

The Olympics has come to represent the stamp of approval for sports - if you're in, you can't get members and if you don't have members you can't get in. Women's boxing had the advantage of already having a male tournament to piggy-back on. I'm curious to see how this will play out in terms of audience-interest and ticket-sale for the run-up tournaments. 

The whole process of qualifying sports for the games is so political, I guess we should just be relieved that boxing got in before we start worrying about coverage and attention. Articles like this are a great start, and hopefully there will be a lot more. 

If you come across any media coverage of women preparing for the Olympics that you think deserves some extra attention, send it this way? 


Friday, October 7, 2011

Joan Benoit and the Chicago Marathon 2011

American marathoner Joan Benoit won the first Olympic Marathon for women at the Los Angeles games in 1984. Twenty-six years later, she's not just still running, she's trying to make an Olympic time once again at 53 years of age. Now married to Scott Samuelson, this clip follows her preparations for the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

Enjoy, be inspired and have a great weekend!

"There Is No Finish Line" from Sarah Henderson on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

ESPN in the nude

Stephanie Gilmore pic RipCurl Australia
I was wondering why an old post on Aussie surfer Steph Gilmore was creeping up the Popular Posts list but now I get it. Nothing like a bit of booty to get attention I guess. 

At least from what I've read there are boys in the mag too. Don't really know what I think about it, but hey, maybe I'm a prude? 
It's meant in the spirit of celebrating sports, celebrating the incredible things you can do with your body with more than a smidge of effort. I doubt I'd buy it, would be too grossed out at the thought of what some customers might be doing with the mag *euw*

This article lists the athletes taking part:

"the WNBA's Sylvia Fowles; LPGA rookie Belen Mozo; track and field star Natasha Hastings; hockey player Julie Chu; tennis player Vera Zvonareva; tattooed roller derby player Suzy Hotrod and bowler Kelly Kulick" for the girls and "speedskater Apolo Ohno; NHL player Ryan Kesler; UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones; IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves; snowboarder Louie Vito; boxer Sergio Martinez; marathoner Ryan Hall and paralympian Jeremy Campbell". 

What do you think - are they mad? 


Portugal are Eurosurf champions

Portugal are taking the Eurosurf title back home with them, 14 years after winning it the last time the competition was held in Ireland. Written in the stars maybe? 

The winners women's categories were Catarina Sousa in bodyboarding (Ireland's Ashleigh Smith came second by 0.07 for silver), Sarah Beardmore (Eng) in the Ladies Open. Full details are here on the Bundoran 2011 site. 

Ashleigh Smith, Ireland

One of the highlights was the visit by American surfer Bethany Hamilton, yes she of that incredible recovery-story following a shark-attack. It's all very well to talk about being committed to surfing but it's when you see a story like that, you realise how serious people can be about their passions.

What's the most inspiring recovery story you've heard?


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

The sports women watch

Shocking new finding ... wait for it ... women watch sports. News to rock your Monday folks, courtesy of the researchers at Nielsen Media. 
Anne Flore Marxer, snowboarder ... wonders at the genius of these boffins

Stephen Master, head of Nielsen Sports is quoted in this Forbes mag article as saying: "I don’t think people realize how big a percentage (of viewers) is women."  I tried to find the original report but none of the online articles link back to it (sloppy) and I don't have access to the Nielsen site but the stats generally reported point to women in the US making up to 1/3 of the audience for sports classed as 'male' like the NBA Finals, World Series, Daytona 500, and Stanley Cup Finals. 

You'd think that looking around the stadiums and stands for those games especially the football and the racing would give advertisers and media outlets a clue but apparently not. Masters also says in that interview that this 'trend' has been around for the best part of a decade. 

The report points out that women's sport is watched by more men than women, again not sure why this is new as you anecdotally you could predict that more men than women are interested in sport overall. But it's exciting to see American viewers tuning into the women's world cup in record figures even when compared with the male game.

What I'd like to see is advertisers and sponsors taking note of stats like these. The standards in women's sports is rising all the time - you can see the difference money and training makes. A little bit more of both and we can keep on narrowing the gap between the boys and girls.

Have you noticed any change in the audiences for your sport over the last few years?