Friday, April 27, 2012

Women rock Triathlons

The Cannes Triathlon is on this weekend, and British triathlete Carolyn Hewett will be taking part. I'll have an interview with her up on the blog with her results.

Hmm, the video that was linked here (great Triathlon montage from James Clissold) seems to have disappeared off-line somewhere. I replaced it with this via Vimeo. The blurb says: "Spend a day-in-the-life with Specialized ITU Triathlete, Lisa Norden, as she trains for an upcoming race":

Anatomy of a Triathlete (in training) from BrakeThrough Media on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Joanne Cuddihy has her eye on London 2012

pic Athletics Ireland
UPDATE: Cuddihy ran 51.54 to dip under the qualifying A-standard on May 3rd and joins the London-bound team.

400 metres isn’t very long but to get to the starting blocks in London 2012 Irishwoman Joanne Cuddihy has gone all the way to Canberra, Australia. And a few stops like Japan, Europe and America in-between.

“It’s not all glamourous, you do get jet-lag,” she says over Skype. “You have to put most normal stuff on hold and you live a hermit’s life.”

But as she talks you realise Cuddihy thinks the sacrifices -  leaving family and boyfriend in Ireland, putting her medical training on hold – are more than worth it.

She says she loves the big events – the World Championships, the Europeans, but she’s also four times Irish champion at 400m with a Personal Best of 50.73. And this month took the Australian National Championships title in a time of 51.69 as well as running with the successful Irish 4 x400 metres relay team.

Training Schedule

But all those titles come at a price. Her typical training week with the Australian Institute of Sport would leave most people behind on the track.

Cuddihy says: “AIS is class. I’ve trained in the UK and North America. I definitely think this is the best, the coaching facilities and whole set-up are perfect. It’s quite relaxed too, Australians do that very well – intense but laid-back.”

Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – at the gym
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday – Cardio, jogging, core work

She lists out some of the work they do on the track - lactic tolerance work meaning long runs with very little recovery time. And then speedwork, other technical work like dragging sleds or pulling a harness with weights. They do hurdle-drills and short, fast races over short distances at a high intensity.

Are you keeping up?

There’s more. Running at race-pace over longer reps but quickly and closer to the 400m distance. Sometimes extra lactic work or speed work. And when that takes its toll, down to the pool for aqua-aerobic sessions. 

Not to mention keeping her mental focus after a false start at the World Championships last year saw her knocked out of the 400m. She rushes over that as we talk, moving onto the exciting relay result from the same event. 


Because it's not all ‘alone on the track’ stuff. The tall athlete is very proud of the Irish relay team, points out they are ranked 12th in the world with a great chance of qualifying for the Olympics.

“Our relay team is really exciting. I love being on the team, love the relays. We smashed the (Irish) National Record in Korea last year at 3.37m.”

Pic Zimbio

Relay qualifications are based on two races, so with that one in the bag they are aiming for another good time to confirm their place.

Funding a racing lifestyle

Like many elite Irish athletes Cuddihy is funded by the Irish Sports Council. But €12,000 doesn’t go far when a flight to Australia from Ireland can be almost €1,000.

This is where Cuddihy’s story gets interesting – she casually says she’s training to be a doctor to pay those bills.

She’s been mixing medicine and running since her student days in University College Dublin. Well-known for its sports programmes, she says the college helped plan her twin-careers.

“At the first Sports Scholarship meeting we talked about how to juggle both. Medicine gets trickier when you’re in fourth year and you have to be out and about doing internships,” Cuddihy explains.

“I did one year at a hospital, then took a gap year. Then I did my finals after Beijing.” That would be the 2008 Olympics.

She spread her internship over 18 months instead of 12 including time in Australia and back in Galway, something she describes with a grin as slightly unorthodox.

The flip side is falling behind women who can afford to train full-time thanks to government funding or full sponsorship. So Cuddihy’s time now in Australia is all about recovering from a niggling back injury and cracking the A-standard before the London Games.

“I’m still studying here, it can be tricky with the visa too so study is the best option. You can’t have big blanks in your CV applying for (medical) jobs. But I was far behind with training, you have to catch up,” she says.

She jokes that Canberra – as one of the few Australian cities without a beach – is the perfect place for focused training. Maybe it helps her boyfriend has returned to Ireland for his own medical training.

And younger sister Catriona was also at the Australian National Championships. Piling on the sibling rivalry she came 8th in the 400 m with a PB of 55.03.

What’s next?

Training, training and study. Cuddihy says everything between now and July is a step towards peaking on the track in London.

pic: Zimbio

“My plan is to fun faster than the A-standard by the London Olympics. 

In my event, you know you just have to run as fast as you can when you line-up.”

Friday, April 20, 2012

Surfing really is a man's game in Gaza

Today's issue of The Red Bulletin has incredible photographs from Irish photographer Andrew McConnell's time with the surfers in Gaza.

But one shot is different. Two young girls float happily on boards, while the caption reads: "Sabah Abo Ghanem and Kholoud Abo Ghanem, Gaza's only female surfers. The girls ... will have to stop when they reach puberty as their older sisters did before them. Surfing is not considered an acceptable pastime for women."  This Guardian video interviews the same girls.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sports Blog Karma

pic: London2012

The Olympics and the Paralympics are a'coming. Yesterday was 100 days to the Olympics  - I missed out on lots of cute photos cause I wanted to highlight jockey Katie Walsh but this one was so cute, it has to go in.
So who is blogging about the Games? 

Gymnastics - something never covered here, but this looks like the place to go if you want to know more: 

" Hello! I am Laura, a high school senior with a huge gymnastics obsession, which I hope to share with all of you. In 2010, I decided to start this blog dedicated to gymnastics, my favorite sport and a sport that is often forgotten between the olympic games. In reality, it is a year round sport, but it only gets the recognition it should for about five days every four years. My posts are almost always about elite women’s artistic gymnastics ."

This rather brilliant idea links fans to the athletes - the plan is that every athletes' FB and Twitter account will be linked to this page, and fans can scroll around and find out how training is going. Sounds good, a tad Big Brother-y maybe but innovative.

Ok, this is a little random. It's just one post but funny - how to show your support for a Paralympic team and stay stylish. 

If you know anymore blogs or sites we should know about, leave a comment!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Katie Walsh

Other Wordless Wednesday bloggers hanging out here.

(who is she? Katie Walsh, Irishwoman and first woman to place in Top Three in the Grand National, UK)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Women's amateur boxing in Ireland: Kelly Harrington

Irish boxer Kelly Harrington is the latest boxer to decide that all-women's sparring days are the way forward. Harrington has competed at Senior Amateur level for Ireland.

The Irish women's team trains in Dundalk, in the north of the country. Between travel-times and family commitments, Harrington says it's not always accessible for boxers in other parts of the country.

She talked to me on NearFm about this weekend's sparring session in her home club of Corinthians.


Interviews about other sparring sessions are here. And this FB group is the place to go if you'd like to join the next one: Women in Martial Arts in Ireland.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Young amputee sets sights on Paralympics

Kiwi Bryall McPherson is preparing for the Paralympics in London this year, but says she already has her eye on 2016. She explains in this interview with 3 News how she lost her arm but kept her motivation.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Do you see sexism in your sport?

Female media managers locked out of press conferences, questions on your sexual preferences and strings of comments on your appearance – just some of the issues raised by an interesting BBC documentary “Sexism in Football” this week.

Narrated by journalist Gabby Logan, the doco was packed with examples of behaviour you might have thought extinct by now. Based on interviews with women from “Women in Football” (WiF), it was an eye-opener.

Having worked in boxing for years, it wasn’t so much that the behaviour was shocking but I was surprised it takes place in such a mainstream sport. *shakes head at self *

Had to laugh at this story though: Logan was working at a football match and the fans started shouting: ‘Get your tits out’. Sitting in the press box, she ignored them as did the other journalists. Then Sir Bobby Robson, renowned former England manager, turned to the crowd, lifted his shirt and proceeded to massage his chest in their general direction. Priceless.

One thing mentioned in every interview will ring a bell for any woman working or playing in a male-dominated sphere – don’t rock the boat! Some of the women Logan approached declined to be interviewed, while others visibly pulled their punch-lines.

“Sexism in Sport” was reaching for positivity towards the end, looking at the inclusion of Helen Rabbatts on the FA Board and other changes. There's been a big shift for example since this story of the Dick Kerr Ladies in 1921. This is what really makes the doco I think, we do have to recognise the huge progress made in the last 50 years but the trick is to keep on pushing.

What do you think – has your sport changed, is there more to do?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No women's canoe in the London Olympics

Canoe Pam Boteler WomenCan
Canoeist Pam Boteler
The most vocal of the women pushing for inclusion in the Olympic Games, American canoeist Pam Boteler says the sport is simply extraordinary.

For many of us, the words 'canoe' and 'kayak' are used interchangeably, so what's the difference between canoeing and kayaking?

Canoe evolved from the Native American nations in the US and Canada. You kneel on one knee in the boat, it’s a powerful position. You have a longer blade (than in Kayaking) and it’s a single-blade. There is more power and a grace to it because of being in a superior kneeing position instead of sitting. 

It is more extraordinary than being in a kayak.This is a very exciting event to watch - in Canada there is an event with war-canoes, they play the traditional music during the race.

Typically the Europeans dominate the sport, Canada are also very strong. China won the team event in 2004 and 2008. There were 22 countries at the last (women’s) World Championships, and 36 countries that have women training.

*Pam asked me to add this in here: 

The primary distinction is the paddle:  canoeing uses a single blade and kayakers use a double blade.  The paddling style in this Olympic discipline requires the paddler to be kneeling on one knee (similar to the position of one being “knighted”) in flatwater/sprint or kneeling on both knees inside the boat in whitewater/slalom.   The actual paddling motion to propel the boat is only done on one side in canoeing because of the single blade, though in slalom, they may "cross over" the paddle from one side to the other to maneuver the course.

Kayakers us a double blade (a blade on both ends of the shaft) always sit, and always take strokes on both sides of the boat.  Kayakers in sprint have rudders to go straight, whereas canoeists have no rudder and must steer with the single blade.  This makes canoeing even more difficult a discipline to master. In my opinion, Olympic style - kneeling - has more power, grace and beauty because of being in a superior kneeling position.

That all sounds very positive, so why have you set up WomenCan International? 

Women kayakers can compete at the Olympics but female canoeists are barred.

If a girl wants to do canoe, her coach will say there is nothing ahead of you, you have to be a kayaker. And who wants to be alone at 13? If you want to do it, you have to believe you will be part of paving the way for the future.

There are 16 canoe-kayak events on the Olympic programme and the IOC tells us they are not going to give our sport anymore medals. But they keep adding other sports.

We want equality with the men’s events. But we are seeing men’s kayaking events being taken away to make room for women’s kayak and that is causing resentment among the men. 

WomenCAN International tries to support women canoeists, it's me really and private donations. We typically don't have a lot of money but even 500 dollars can go a long way. 

Laurence Vincent Lapointe, Canada
What’s the argument against adding women’s canoe to the Olympic programme? 

The argument is that women’s kayak is there … but that is a sitting sports and we kneel, it’s not the same. There are five men’s canoe events as well as men’s kayak.

The IOC has made decisions to exclude women and to favour kayak events.

So what do women canoeists want?

We want equality, we want the same number of events as the men. 

We would like to be added to the Olympic programme, Canoe 1 and Canoe 2 in the sprint event and Canoe 1 in the slalom.  The numbers refer to the number of people in the canoe, single or pair events.

We meet the base criteria of the IOC, 24 countries is the base. We feel we can revitalise the sport of canoeing. But we are still struggling against people who say we don't belong.

Read more about women's canoeing at WomenCAN International. 

More great pics at WomenCAN Intl on Facebook.

Women's canoe event in the Czech Republic


Friday, April 6, 2012

Paralympian Ellen Keane on the line

The Paralympics are coming up in a few months time just after the Olympics in London. I've had a few of the Irish team on here already, and today's post is a radio interview I did with Dublin swimmer Ellen Keane.

Wishing Ellen the best of luck at the British International Disability Swimming Championships over the weekend in Sheffield, England. 

I know bloggers are never supposed to steer people away from their site, but I haven't got the interview embedded so you have to click over here to the NearFm podcasts.

Have a great weekend - remember all that sport justifies a chocolate egg no matter what your religion is!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Time to spar!

One of the main challenges for female fighters in Ireland is finding people to fight. A definite flaw in the plan you might say. So lately some women have been working around this problem by arranging all-women sparring days around the country. The first one was organised by MMA fighter Aisling Daly in Dublin, and the second took place this week in Cork.

Organiser Lorraine Horgan said it was a great day out. She joked that as this was only the second event she was worried no-one would turn up but in the end with women travelled from all round the country to take part.

"All the girls were delighted," she said. "And best of all they're keen to keep it up, we had people from Kerry, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Tipperary and Limerick."

The mix of established fighters and novices worked well as the more experienced women gave out tips and showed off their fight technique - leaving up to novices to step up and take on some new challenges.

"One of the girls who came down from Galway had her first experience of sparring here, " said Lorraine. "She said she never got kicked so much in her life. We do spar with the lads normally, that's what makes you tough at the end of the day but it's important to know what it's like to spar with someone your own weight."

For information on the next All-Women Sparring Day, contact Lorraine on her Facebook page here.  

Thanks to Cecile from Ces the Day photography (in T-shirt here!) for the photographs! Lots more great shows on her website: Ces the Day

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Caley Reece vs Magdalena Rak in Bangkok

Wednesday: Update from Caley: Thanks to everyone for their messages!! Had a great fight against Magdalena Rak from Poland and won on points. Was good to fight a westerner again.!Thanks to Sinbi Taewoong , Daz, Ben Needle, Robyn Marinkovich Needle, Steve Morris and Pinky BuaChompoo and to Stephan Fox and WMC for bringing over for such a great historical event! Now for EPIC..... 10 DAYS! What?? Really no more choc milk???? xx

Some very exciting sports news out of Thailand this month - a tiny step closer to having MuayThai in the Olympics. This has been a long time coming, and I mean a long time. I started working with IFMA in Bangkok in 2001 and it was already a historic process back then. There is so little space on the Olympic card* that you just don't know what could happen but for now, it's all good.

And tonight one of the best female fighters in the world Australia Caley Reece takes on Polish champion Magdalena Rak in a celebration of this journey. Umm, some boys are fighting too. Here's Caley training earlier this week down in Sinbi Gym in Phuket, Thailand.

*Will have a great interview with Pam Boteler from WomenCAN International on this topic later in the week


Monday, April 2, 2012

Visit the FLOW - for ladies of watersports

Amy Carter from ‘FLOW - For Ladies Of Watersports’ in England took some time out of her hectic week to tell us why the world needs more windsurfers.

Amy edits Boards magazine as well as working on her own website promoting women in watersports, but was a professional windsurfer until injury came knocking last year. She won two Formula Youth World Championships, and holds a number of British and European racing titles.

“I competed internationally from about 12 years of age, I grew up with windsurfing really,” she says. “There are lots of things to love about it. 

"It’s really challenging, you can’t pick it up straight away. But whatever level you get to, there is always something new to learn.”

Cornwall and the south-east of England are some of her favourite places to get out on the water, so it’s maybe a good thing that she’s recuperating in London she says – far away from temptation.

“I never forget about the water, but it’s easier here,” she says while explaining her shoulder injury. “It’s like any sport, when you get to obsessive levels where you do the same sport every day, you get injuries.”

Not that anything like surgery and up to six months of recuperation is going to keep Amy away from her boards… 

Why windsurfing?
“There is a complete feeling of freedom in windsurfing. When you plane, you can glide quickly over the top of the water instead of ploughing through it. That feeling when you first start going quite quickly, well it’s just hard to explain,” she says.

But like lots of other watersports, there is one drawback to being a woman in windsurfing – being a woman in windsurfing. Amy says she was often the only girl on the national squad and even now she estimates only about 10 per cent of professional windsurfers are female.

And what happens on FLOW ? 
That’s where “FLOW” comes in. Amy set up the website when she was working in Tenerife in Spain and she says the main aim is to encourage more women to take up all watersports. 

“It’s about role-models. I never wanted the site to be about me, it’s about getting women involved in the sport. We’ve had great feedback on the site, there is definitely more buzz about women’s windsurfing now which is positive,” she says.

Amy says there are more women’s only events taking place in the UK now, which she sees as a good thing to encourage beginners. And she’s happy to see some women’s only events taking place for professionals too as that means the numbers are slowly increasing.

Slowly … she says a British Windsurfing Association event which normally attracts three or four women managed to pull in 14 last year. So yes it’s four times more but still lots to do.

Is success all about the money?
Sponsorship is another tricky area she says. Getting small sponsors to give surfers a 10 per cent discount on equipment isn’t so hard she says, the problem lies in getting enough money to travel to events. Women can be stuck in what she describes as a Catch-22 where they don’t want to say No! to the small money but then sponsors think there is no need to give more.

Looking to the future, she says: “I would like to see more coverage of women in windsurfing and other watersports. It all comes down to money, there needs to be more videos and photographs of women.”

Pic from UK Windsurfing

You can read more about Amy and other British watersports stars on FLOW - For Ladies Of Watersports