Monday, January 30, 2012

Talking women's sports at espnW

American sports channel ESPN launched their espnW channel at the end of 2010 and have been doing some great work in promoting women's sports. Have to put my hand up and say I was a bit cynical at the time but the espnW summit held this month has wiped my worries.

Great panels for fans of women's sport like women and (sports) journalism content, mentorship, female executives, female fans of male sports and their role. And one of my favourite bloggers Dr. Nicole LaVoi talking on the 'sex sells' panel. Obviously all from an American perspective but interesting points raised for us over here as well.

You can find videos from these panels and more on the espnW Summit page. *One slightly annoying note  - you can't forward the videos so if you accidentally log out of the page, you have to start again at the introductions each time!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Buffalo Girls - child boxers

How young is too young to fight? 

Director Todd Kellstein says: "Their faces beam with youthful innocence. Like other young girls, they laugh and play, in spite of their hardscrabble existence. But on Saturday nights in rural villages throughout central Thailand, some of the nation’s 30,000 child boxers enter the ring, where their tiny fists, elbows, knees and feet fly, pummeling one another in pursuit of prize money as strangers, neighbors, and even their own families, wager on the outcome. Is it exploitation, empowerment or economic necessity?"


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Not so Wordless Wednesday today: 

Thanks to photographer and footballer Melissa Vuong from the Bondi Shamrocks Australian Rules Football Club for sending these great shots from pre-season training this week on Coogee Beach in Sydney.
Read more about the club here in this interview with Sandra Ryan (in green above).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Time for the Paralympics too

It's an Olympic year, true true but it's also time for thousands of others to get ready for the London Paralympic Games. 

The Irish Paralympian Team got their first official outing this month   - interviews, profiles and news about the games. Includes some stories on how the games work, what the different classifications mean as well as interviews with paracyclist Catherine Walsh and profiles of Polish woman Natalia Partyka, Briton Ellie
Simmonds and the rest of the Irish team. 

A reminder this morning that no matter what limits you think you are facing, there is a way to be better. (ahem, corny thought of the week but have a read and see how cynical you're feeling!)

You can find the Paralymics Ireland supplement online here now. 


Monday, January 23, 2012

Taking your dog surfing?

Bruce takes to the waves as Raquel watches!
Anyone’s who has spent time on a surf beach will have seen bored dogs, lying on the sand waiting for their owners to come back in. Surfer Raquel Noboa has found an unusual way to keep her dog occupied – she takes him with her on the board.

Raquel has been surfing for six years, and a dog-lover all her life but it was only last year that she thought to put the two together.

“We used to walk on Lahinch beach with the dogs. There are two big worlds on any beach – the surfers and the animal-lovers,” she says. “Then I just had the idea, looked it up online and friended a few Americans who are big into it. They helped me get going.”

Lahinch (on the west coast of Ireland) is one of the most well-known surf beaches in the country so she was in good company. But she says the first time she approached a local surf school about doing a doggy day out on the waves, the owner thought she was mad.

Apparently the trick is to get your dog used to the board – don’t just take him into the water and think he will love it.

“We fed Bruce his meals on the board, so he started to associate it with something good. That gets him used to it,” she says. “So he was up on the board first day then in the water. But he only surfs with me, he still hasn’t surfed with another person.”

And it seems there are surf-styles for dogs. Raquel says if you have a long board, you can take the dog at the front – sitting or lying – and you both balance the board together on the waves. But for regular boards, you need to push the board out to about chest-deep in the water with your dog swimming along side and help him to jump up on the board. Then push and hope for the best.
Raquel and Bruce on dry land. (check out the shades to the left)
She organised the first Doggy Surfing Day in Ireland last year through her non-profit site My Pet Review, raising money for guide-dogs in the process. And says she has plans for an international day, hoping to join up with surfers from California. Who knew?

“Any dog can be trained to do this, but some are easier than others. You don’t need to be a surfer to do this either, it’s just another way to get off the couch and get healthy,” she says.

More pics from the first Doggy Surfing day are on Dog Surfing Ireland. And if you have any questions about how to get going, leave them here (or there!) for Raquel.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A girl, a rope and a canyon

This is incredible. Doesn't matter how busy you think you are this weekend, take a few minutes to see just how crazy sport can be. Emily Sukiennik is a slack-liner (nope, me neither) and this you need to see.
Have a great weekend!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bumps, bruises and rugby with Dani Bachmann

From au-pair to rugby player Dani Bachmann has had an eventful decade living in Ireland. I was watching a men's game a few weeks ago when she was pointed out as 'someone you should talk to for that blog.' So here she is ... 

Dani with her team (back row, 3rd from right)

So for anyone wondering just how much contact is involved in a contact-sport like rugby, Dani’s injuries tell a good story – broken nose nine times, one black eye so nasty that passers-by on her university campus suggested she dump him now and bumps and bruises too many too count. She’s been playing for four years but says the damage “hasn’t stopped me.”

Having moved to Ireland as an au-pair from her home near Frankfurt in Germany, she initially continued playing the lacrosse she'd played at home. That’s not exactly a gentle game but far from the pressure of a scrum. “I was playing away, but it didn’t click with me. There was a bit missing,” she says. “A friend said to try rugby, as a joke really. I wasn’t sure but then decided to give it a go.”

This coincided with going to university as a mature student at University College Dublin. So with college as the traditional place to start something new, Dani signed up with the team. Lots of other ‘newbies’ around gave her the confidence to get out on the pitch, and with the encouragement of her coach she found herself taking part in her first game days after the first training session.

“Women’s teams are always short of people. So I spent 45 minutes running around, not knowing what I was doing, just following the ball really,” she says. “It was fantastic, and the team was brilliant to be with.”

Thinking about it now, she says the physicality (this is a word you hear a lot when rugby players talk sport) brings the players closer together than in other sports she’s played. With the ball moving at speed between the 15 players, and potentially serious injuries never more than a mis-step away, she says it’s not for everyone.

“I think that people would have an image of a women’s rugby player would be of a big girl and all that so that if you say you are a rugby player, you are openly admitting to be a bit of an outsider, to being a bit odd. So when you show up and meet the other 14 women who also love rugby and they think like you think, it’s brilliant.”
Dani (extreme left in blue stripes) looking for the  ball

She played with the college team for a year, and then switched to club team Blackrock about three years ago, where she togs out as second row backrow. On a year out from matches to complete a Masters in Human Rights, she’s already counting down to the pre-season training in July.

And she’s no stranger to local passions - now a staunch Leinster fan, Dani jokes that she only watches rivals Munster when they’re not playing her home team.

She says: “It’s hard to explain, but I just found the sport that suits me to a tee.” 

If you have any rugby questions, leave them here for Dani!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: kid's karate

Des is fund-raising feet first ... here

Wordless Wednesday is a group of bloggers who give words a rest once a week. And today the WW page is blacked out to protest the SOPA and PIPA internet laws being debated in the US.

Monday, January 16, 2012

More bling for boxer Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor took home Boxer of the Year from the Irish Amateur Boxing Association at the weekend. Yes, that's 'boxer of the year' not 'female boxer of the year'. Great to see her achievements - world champion for the third time, European champ for the fifth time and fourth European Union gold medal - getting some serious recognition.

She was also voted Top Amateur Boxer of the Year over on the WBAN site by public vote.

Her father Pete, who trains her at their gym in in Co Wicklow as well as at the National Stadium in Dublin, was interviewed at the IABA event."Katie is absolutely delighted with the award. The previous twelve months were a big year for Irish boxing and 2012 will be crucial with the Olympic qualifiers for men and women and the Olympic Games just around the corner," he said here.

Katie Rowland was also recognised for her bronze medal at the World Youth Championships at the Irish event.

Any other awards ceremonies going on?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fighting time in Thailand

One of the stranger things about taking part in a sport like Thai Boxing is that non-Thais are always seen as the outsiders - and no matter how big the sport grows, there's always an Us against Them attitude. So of course promoters milk this for all it's worth.

I've interviewed Australian fighter Caley Reece a few times now for this blog - last time here - as her career continues. She's sent on a link to a great fight she had recently in Thailand, part of the Elite Boxing Thailand Vs Challengers series. For anyone who hasn't seen many fights, this is a great introduction.  Commentated by Rob Cox, owner of Kiatphontip Gym in Bangkok it's a learning experience as well as being an exciting bout. And nice to hear a shout-out to my old employers the World MuayThai Council for their progressive work in promoting women's fighting.

Thailand is represented by Ayadet Sor Sawaddee. And yes, that's Caley's husband Darren 'The Riddler' Reece in her corner.

Unfortunately the video is not downloadable so you have click over to the Elite Boxing Channel here to Ayadet Sor Aawaddee vs Caley Reece.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Women's ski jumping at the Winter Olympics

Taylor Henrich, Canada

The 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games start tomorrow in Innsbruck, and for the first time in any Olympics the ski jump competition is open for women.

Sixteen year old Taylor Henrich from Canada was the first down the jumps - a trailblazer as she was described here.

"It was quite smooth for a first jump of the day. I trained here last year for three days just before the World Junior Championships in Estonia in January 2011, so I already know it a little. Today went well, but there's definitely stuff I can improve."

The first women's World Cup ski jump took place in December, won by another teenager American Sarah Hendrickson with French women Coline Mottel in second.  The sport had been rejected twice for the Vancouver 2010 games, and will be a full Olympic sport in 2014 for the first time.

Good to have some happy news to report!

The Winter Youth Olympics run from tomorrow until January 22nd.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Icy sea baths

Wordless Wednesday is a group of bloggers who give words a rest once a week. ( and ahem, sometimes post a little later than they should! Apologies if you've been waiting for this post)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Kyra Gracie on starting in BJJ

Kyra Gracie
"They said: 'that's good, that's enough for you but you're taking it too seriously. It would be hard for you to make money from jiu jitsu. You're a girl, leave this to us." 

Kyra Gracie's cousins and uncles weren't exactly over the moon when she started BJJ  but now that she's been World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion, Pan American, Brazilian and and Asiatic BJJ Champion on multiple occasions, she says they're changing their tune.

Now, it's more like this from her male relatives: "Now fathers come to me and say: 'Hey Krya my daughter's training, she's wants to be a black belt like you' And they are very excited about it."

This is a great interview with her talking about how she got started, the inspiration she got from her mother (who is a blue belt) and of course from the rest of the Gracie family. 

Thanks to Carlo at SHOCX in Brussels for the link!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Catherine Walsh, Paralympic cyclist

Longer post than usual - this interview I did with cyclist Catherine Walsh ran in the Irish Independent today, a supplement for the Irish Paralympic Team. 

Catherine Walsh, with racing partner Fran Meehan

Glance into Catherine Walsh’s windows and you might see her powering on a stationary bike, counting off the miles from her living room. But you’ll have to be fast if you want to spot the Paralympic cyclist out on the roads around North Dublin.

Clocking over 80km an hour on a good day, Walsh says she’s amassed a “collection of bling”. Bronze at the Sydney Olympics, silver and two bronze from the World Championships, World Duathlon champion and she’s not done yet.

Walsh is partially-sighted but shrugs off any suggestion this might be a drawback in high-speed cycling, uses the word “lucky” many times talking about her life.

“You know the board the eye-doctor uses? I can read the top line of that,” she says.

“I’m very sensitive to light so I’d have difficulty in bright conditions. And the changeover - say riding down a road with trees and then back into the sunlight - that might make me hesitate. But in a racing situation I’d just focus on cycling.”

Supported by her sports-coach parents, Walsh’s competitive career started at the Community Games running in ‘able-bodied’ races. She went on to run internationally, doing the 400m without guide-runners she points out.

From there, she made the leap to the Pentathlon at the Paralympics - fencing, swimming, showjumping, running and shooting all done on one day. Winning bronze in this competition from Sydney in 2000 remains one of her most treasured memories.

Having gone as far as she thought she could, Walsh figured the triathlon might fill a gap. But for that, you need to get on your bike.

That was in 2007 and she hasn’t stopped pedalling since. Although she does add she was ‘terrified and not even sure I wanted to do it. But I wanted to compete.”

Walsh (38) competes in tandem-races with team-mate Francine Meehan acting as her eyes at the front of the bike. She says the bond between them has to be strong as one mistake from either could over-turn the heavy bike.

Seemingly not bothered by being unable to see corners coming, Walsh says: “I just look at Fran’s body position. I know if she is moving left or right, I know there is a corner coming up.”

She adds they’re so close that when her teammate crashed in a solo race she couldn’t even look at their bike for a week.

Her own first year in the saddle involved a broken wrist and fractured thumb from two accidents but they weren’t enough to keep her away. Walsh just shrugs narrow shoulders, says you have your helmet so nothing too bad can happen and you just get on with it.

“You have to be committed, you have to squeeze everything out of the corners - you could lose by a fraction of a second. I’m not saying it’s dangerous but there is an element of danger in the sport,” she says.

Away from the glamour of racing, there’s training sessions six days a week on the bike, either indoors or on the road with the tandem. And up to three specialised gym sessions to build power for those explosive starts at the Velodrome.

But what is it really that keeps her out on the road in an Irish winter? 

“Oh, the speed,” she says laughing. “When you run you might feel you’ve done as much as you can. But with cycling there is always another gear, there is always something new to learn.”

She refers to “technical corners”, says you just don’t think about it too much, crank up the speed and power through.

Behind that power is a team of supporters from her husband to the team mechanic Gerry Beggs. A living-room strewn with bike-parts is the norm for her two children, aged five and eight. Apparently Olympic medals don’t impress them much, not big enough or shiny enough they say.

Walsh says the elderly patients she cares for in her other life as a physiotherapist are among her most devoted fans, something she puts down to childhoods spent on bikes.

Not that Walsh’s bike – costing anything from €10,000 to 11,000 - is anything like a High Nelly. Balanced and weighted for two, she says they’re “a real pain” to carry around.

And she carries them a lot. In the next few months Walsh and the squad will hit Holland and Majorca to prepare for the Para-Cycling World Championships in Los Angeles in February.

Joking she would make a great logistics manager, she says balancing training with family and work is “a fantastic nightmare” that’s getting harder as her children grow older. As Walsh is unable to drive, her father is the main driver and using that stationary bike means she spends more time at home than you might think.

Together with Meehan, she races in the 1km and 3km on the track, the time-trial and road race outdoors. Their target is the 3km for February and she says they’re not yet sure which race will suit them best for London 2012.

“It’s great that it’s so close this time. We are really committed to London, we need to get on that podium,” she says. “Hopefully we will be able to ride the course before, we’ll have that preparation. I perform the best when I feel totally prepared.”
But in spite of competing at every Olympics since Barcelona in 1992, Walsh still has room for one more ambition. 

“At the world championships, the winner gets to wear a rainbow jersey. When you race, you can wear it afterwards. I really want to get that in Los Angeles. I have a silver (medal) and two bronze but I still don’t have the rainbow jersey. We’re gunning for that this year,” she says.

If you're in Ireland pick up the supplement, some other really inspiring sports women in it too!

UPDATE: the Irish Independent Paralympics Ireland supplement now online here

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Snow time

Running through Dublin in snow - oldies but goodies

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Women in sport talk new year's resolutions

I just heard a medical expert on the radio here in Dublin telling us that giving up alcohol or ...(fill in with your choice of vice) for one month isn't enough - you need to change your approach during the whole year. Well, duh! Now if only it were as easy to do as to say. Thanks mainly to the power of Twitter, here's what some of women in sport are planning for 2012.

Surfer Claire Bevilacqua says her mission for 2012 is to "encourage and inspire" starting with teaching her 9 year old niece to surf. 

Wombat Sports: Lots of ambitions for women's MMA here, they plan to re-organise the weight divisions and bring European + Japanese fighters to train in the US. More plans here.

Like so many Olympic athletes swimmer Femke Heemskerk is looking to the Olympics saying it's her dream and "go for it, never surrender" is her message to other hopefuls.

Snowboarder Tara Dakides left this slightly crptic thought for us: "When changes come I close my eyes and see a door. A door that opens to another world another chapter and chance 2 grow n discover greatness." 

Women Talk Sports:  Over on one of my favourite sites, Rebecca says "ditch the dieting". 

Boxer Laila Ali looks like she's planning a nutrition overhaul with lots of links to Healthy Eating sites. 

Cyclist Deborah Atkinson lays out her plans on Snowcatcher to keep up the 60-mile bike-ride. (96.5km)

Katarzylna at A Runner's Life is planning big changes to her running and fitness routine - summed up as "Train harder and smarter. In 2012 I need to be more systematic." Details here. 

Surfer Stephanie Gilmore: "Christmas is about celebrating the year past with the ones you love, but it can drag on to a few days of over-indulging, so I try to pace myself, and make sure the day is full of physical activities so I can enjoy myself – eat like a king and then dance it all off!"  from Body and Soul 

I loved snowboarder Helene Olafson's wish - "May the new year bring you all sparks!!" with a link to this gorgeous photo

And me? If you've been following for a while, you know I'm on a long-term mission to get fit again having had some nasty stuff happen about 2 years ago. So the small steps continue! What about you - what are your healthy resolutions for 2012?