Thursday, June 28, 2012

Emily Geraghty finds the balance in Karate

Emily Geraghty (left) pic: CestheDay Photography
Concluding the series of interview with women doing Karate in Ireland. These interviews first appeared as a single story in the June edition of "Irish Fighter". 

Dubliner Emily Geraghty, 25, says making weight can be the toughest part of competing.

Holder of six national titles under the Irish Kenpo Karate Union (IKKU) in the kumite -61 kgs category, she dropped down to -55kgs at the Europeans in Greece two years ago.

“It requires a strict diet, it was very tough. When we arrived I was two kilos over, they were only allowing 0.5 kgs” she says.

“We did a lot of running, there were three of us making weight. I had the sauna-top, two track-suits and a gym-top to make me sweat more. But even in all that heat, I only managed to lose 0.5 kgs.”

But because each country can only enter one person in each category, she had to make it down or get dropped. So from three pm until the weigh-in at eleven the next morning, Geraghty didn’t eat.

She says: “I weighed in at 54.96kgs. But I was so glad my fights weren’t on that day. I drank two litres of water and ate loads, you put the weight back on in a few hours.”

Finding a Balance ... 
Despite that, Geraghty says having earned her black belt four years ago, she loves the challenge of meeting new opponents.

But sometimes that challenge lies in balancing her job – in a crèche – with having a social life, training and finding some time at home in Glasnevin to eat.

“It’s difficult when you work shifts, I might eat just half my dinner, race to training and then eat a sandwich afterwards. I’m not too strict with my diet but I don’t feel guilty because I train so hard,” she says.

Geraghty trains with Paul Brennan at his gym in Santry, Dublin for the senior women’s sessions alongside Sorcha McCorry and Jennifer Byrne. She says fighters travel from as far as Clare, about 10 in total at this elite level.

And in spite of on-going "niggling" injuries, she stays focused.

“I loved karate from my first class (aged nine). I’ve been told to rest my knee more but that would be very hard,” she says.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - who are these women?

Thanks to Irish photographer Denise Lynch for these shots of a training session with the Irish Amateur Women's Squad.

Denise doesn't have the names of these fighters - if you know them, leave us a comment please?

Other Wordless Wednesday bloggers hanging out here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Will Saudi Arabia send women to London2012?

Saudi Arabia will send women to the Olympics or should that be may send? Depending on which newspaper you read Saudi's female athletes have had a life-changing week ... or not. 

The LA Times carefully reports: "A month before the London Games, Saudi Arabia appears to be moving closer to sending female athletes to the Olympics for the first time amid mounting pressure on the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom to grant women more rights." But closer to home the Irish Times baldly states: "Saudi Arabia will allow its women athletes to compete in the Olympic Games for the first time ever in London this summer, the Islamic kingdom’s London embassy said on its website." 

And what do I think? They have cleverly left the decision so late that with just 31 days to go it is unlikely any athlete will make the qualifying time. Sure if you have been training at elite level you could still do it - but considering the situation how many Saudi women were ? And how many qualifying events are even left? 

Dalma Rushdi Malhas on Flash Top Hat at the Youth Olympic Games in 2010.
Photograph: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images
A number of papers including the two mentioned here talk about show jumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas as a possible competitor. But late last night the Guardian reported a serious injury to Rushdie Malhas'  horse Caramell KS.

So it looks like more likely we will first see women competing for Saudi Arabia at the Rio 2016 Games, assuming nothing else changes in the meantime.

What do you think? 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Playfair 2012 in Indonesia

For thousands of workers in countries like Indonesia the Olympics just mean longer hours and more work - the factory floors are a world away from the London glam. But Playfair 2012 recently reported conditions for some staff are slowly improving ... 

Today's post is from Playfair 2012: 

Pic: Playfair 2012
Indonesia: how are leading brands doing on respecting workers’ rights to join a union?

Promoting workers’ rights in Indonesia, The Freedom of Association Protocol supports the rights of women and men producing for global brands in Indonesia to join unions and bargain collectively for better working conditions making a change.

On June 7th 2011 an historic protocol on freedom of association was signed by Indonesian trade unions, employers and multinational sportswear brands including Adidas, Nike, Puma, Pentland, New Balance and Asics.

The Freedom of Association protocol gives companies a practical set of guidelines on how to uphold and respect the rights of workers to join together to achieve decent pay and better working conditions.

Play Fair calls on all footwear and garment brands
sourcing from Indonesia to endorse and sign the protocol.

To date, Nike, Puma, Adidas, Pentland, New Balance and Asics have all signed the protocol. These brands source their products from more than 100 Indonesian factories, which employ hundreds of thousands of workers.

Find out how the brands are doing

Friday, June 22, 2012

Biking in the mountains

How did it get to be Friday again? Today's video is ..well it's an advert. I've written a few posts drawing attention to insulting sports clothing adverts so when I see a good one, it's got to be shared.
(I've never even heard of this company before so no connections if you wondering).

Enjoy the bike-ride and have a great weekend.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jennifer Byrne stays safe with Karate

Jennifer Byrne (left) pic: CestheDay Photography
Continuing the series on women in Karate in Ireland .... Jennifer Byrne's love of Karate is spilling over into her college projects as she designs better protective gear.  

After 14 years of training, Jennifer Byrne, 20 says a few bumps and bruises are the most serious injuries she's had

So with no injuries to worry about, travelling abroad with the ONAKAI Senior Squad is the highlight of her year.

“It’s great to get new people to fight against, see the moves they do,” she says. “The whole adrenaline is part of how you fight, I love it. It’s just part of my life.”

So much part of life is karate that her final year project at DIT is on protective fighting gear.

Fighting Fashion 
In one corner of the hall someone has set up a stall selling gear. Byrne says karate can be expensive with body protectors costing up to 90 euro and even the mitts as much as 30 euro per pair.

The women say new protective equipment under Olympic guidelines is very restrictive, with female fighters having to wear a chest-guard under a body protector.

“It’s quite bulky really. We find the body protector so uncomfortable, we’re trying to get used to it,” says Byrne.

McCorry adds: “Your upper body balance is changed; it cuts your arm-pits and rides up as you punch. You’re trying to tie the belt as tight as you can to hold it all. It would be better to just wear one.”

Another team-mate Emily Geraghty jokes that women fighters really aren’t delicate enough for two protectors.

Training, training and training 
Byrne instructs young children now at her club in Navan, and says keeping them tied into their gi is a funny experience. Having come up through the junior system with three junior Black Belts to her name, she’s looking forward to earning her Senior belt this summer.

Summer is easier for the commute from Navan to Dublin. She sometimes stays well into the evening for karate with her mother roped in as a chauffeur when buses let her down.

Byrne says: “People don’t understand how hard training can be. There’s definitely no room for partying or student life.”

Interview with teammate Sorcha McCorry is here, with one more to follow on Emily Geraghty.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Western Wolves AFL

Tipperary woman Sandra Ryan in blue

Thanks again to Melissa Vuong from Sydney-based Australian Rules Football club Western Wolves for these great shots!

Other Wordless Wednesday bloggers hanging out here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From fashion to football at the Fair Play Cup in Dublin

A team put together from the fashion industry to raise awareness of women's rights took part in their first tournament as part of the SARI/UNHCR annual Fair Play Cup in Dublin at the weekend. 

pic: Eleonora Gatti SARI

Captain Kamilla Angulska (Poland) said playing soccer was a way for her to get fit and put the human rights on show. 

"This is a way to play against other teams and encourage people to look at Female Genital Mutilation and show that we are all the same. On this team we are all different nationalities but we can play together on one team," she said after their final game. 

The team - made up of players from Ireland, Poland and Somalia - have been together since January, training once a week with Adam Zdebiak, also from Poland. 

Angulska said they were pretty happy with their results - playing three games, drawing two and losing one. And relieved that in spite of some nasty-looking clouds, the sun hung on for the day. 

Somali player Ifrah Ahmed, an active campaigner against FGM in Ireland, said: "We want to show the possibilities to everyone, many Irish people might not know why someone is a refugee, might not know why a refugee exists. We are Irish too." 

Smiling broadly, Angulsksa said the week was a special one for them. 

"On Friday we went to the Mansion House (to meet the Lord Mayor) and celebrate the bill against FGM, and now we're playing so this weekend is very important for us."

Coach Zdebiak, his arm in a sling, joked that back in January he had to explain to the team what a football was. 

"The girls started as beginners so it wasn't difficult for me. They were completely new, if you have had some experience it can be more difficult to train people. Maybe in the future we can play in the league."

The SARI teams male and female pic Eleonora Gatti SARIFor
For more information about the day - and more pictures, go to the SARI Facebook page.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Taxonomy of boxer Christina Cruz

This is quite simply brilliant. 

Simple but brilliant as American boxer Christina Cruz goes move for move with an inspiring piece of music from Philip Glass. (it's String Quartet No. 2: II." 1983. Perf. Kronos Quartet. Nonesuch, 2005 if you're wondering) 

Cruz has won six Golden Gloves tournaments, and competed for a place on the American boxing team for London2012. Unfortunately she didn't make the final cut for those pioneering bouts but she's still fighting and loving it. 

Have a great weekend everyone.

CHRISTINA: Taxonomy of a Boxer from Fortnight Journal on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dragon Boats on the River Liffey

Paddling at speed up the Liffey in a dragon-boat with 21 other women, all of us with our eyes closed while a helmswoman calls the beat was not something I’d ever planned on doing.

I spent last night with the Plurabelle Paddlers – a group of women who race dragon-boats around Ireland. And while sunset on the river might conjure up some relaxing images, there was no hanging about with this group.

Chairperson Fiona Tiernan told me their coach plans on videoing the next session so she can “scrutinize” their strokes. I’m not quite sure if she was joking.

Getting the boats into the water was exercise in itself – wooden and heavy, lifting them out of the sheds and down into the water meant a lot of “mind your fingers” and “no, no, you’re other left”.  

The long boats are similar to stretched kayaks with wooden seating for up to 50 rowers at a time depending on the size of the boat. And they have drums.

Yup, drums. Sadly of the two boats out last night, I was in the drum-less boat but hearing the other run thump its up way up the river as the wooden oars flashed in and out of the water in time more than made up for it.

Our boat was mainly filled with beginners but we managed to make it up and down, even went under a bridge – with rather fabulous graffiti underneath asking: “Who’s that trip trapping over my bridge?”

The closed eyes? Helps with your timing apparently, also with skinned knuckles and clashing oars. 

And as we flashed – ahem, I use that word rather loosely – past the bars on the Grand Canal Dock, I wondered did those people know what they were looking at?

We paddled in a pink boat, many of the regular crew were wearing pink fleeces or headbands and a HSE sticker decorated both boats.

Pink, pink to make the boys wink.  But it’s also the universal Breast Cancer colour. Many of these women were recovering from treatment, but you had to look closely to notice. 

There was just a quick flash of intensity to queries about someone’s health as we readied the boats, but that disappeared when it was time to get in the water. 

Sit up straight at the edge of your seat, brace your feet for the kick … Ready? Attention! Go!

The PlurabellePaddlers is the first dragon boat team in Ireland. The team was set up by Fiona Tiernan, in order to keep fit after a recurrence of breast cancer. From a membership of two and no boat in 2010, we now have 60+ active members, a wonderful coach Julie Doyle and two dragon boats.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Karate flows for Sorcha MCorry

Sorcha McCorry
Sorcha McCorry from Dublin, Ireland lives and breathes Karate - it's all in the flow she says.

Yoi! Hajime! The Japanese words echo around a basketball hall in Dublin, calling the fighters at the ONAKAI Senior National Championships.

Around the edges of the blue and yellow mats, fighters adjust their gi – the white outfit they wear for competition – and tighten their belts. Blue or red mitts are fitted on the hands and padded boots go on the feet.

Men and women dressed in navy blazers take their places at the judges’ table.

While some fighters seem quite relaxed, others switch on their headphones, listen to music and don’t talk as they shadow-box around the hall.

Most of the fighters are male, but in one corner a group of women chat as they change into their gis - the Senior ONAKAI squad.

“I got my Black Belt at 14 years of age,” says Sorcha McCorry from Skerries in Dublin. “That is quite young, but I’d been training for seven years already. It was like it flowed, it just bloomed.”

McCorry, 23, competed at the WSKF European Championships in 2008 and the World Championships in Cyprus in 2010. Fighting at kumite + 68 kgs, she has won two British Open silver medals.

Hit the road ... 

She says travelling abroad is one of the best parts of competing. “It is brilliant, nationally you would never get the exposure. In Belgium for example they will teach you (as you fight) and you teach them. That’s how you get better,” she says.

Between five weekly training sessions, seminars, competitions overseas and events like this one in Tallaght, she says there isn’t a lot of free time. 

The Health and Society student says karate is like a second job, but adds martial artists don’t get the same leeway as a student playing Gaelic games.

“The Irish system doesn’t allow for such a split in someone’s life, karate just isn’t seen as important. It can be demoralizing,” she says.

But having travelled to Japan three times already, she says the cultural aspect of the sport is so fulfilling she couldn’t imagine being without it.

McCorry says: “You feel part of an international community. From what I’ve seen, there is a genuine respect. We use Japanese in the dojo here, it’s a really traditional sport.”

There are a few downsides. McCorry has had three operations on a dislocated shoulder that just won’t heal.

But she says the injuries teach you about your body and how to work around the pain.“Karate is 90 per cent psychological and 10 per cent physical. It’s like a vocation,” she says.

No time for parties then.

This piece first appeared in Irish Fighter of June 2012, part of a series on women in Karate in Ireland - more to come ...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

800m runner Siobhan Eviston wins at Watford

pic: ShaneO'Neill/Fennells
Irish 800m champion Siobhan Eviston had a busy week - winning an 800m race at the British Milers' Club Nike Grand Prix yesterday and setting a PB for the 400m of 55.86 at the Dublin Championships earlier in the week.

I caught up with her for NearFm just before the English race ...

Siobhan Eviston 800m runner NearFM by SportsLocalLiveNearFM

Friday, June 8, 2012

Great Britain's water polo team in action

One of the best things about the Olympics is learning about sports you only have a vague knowledge of ... like water-polo.

This video is from The Guardian: "Barry Glendenning heads to the Manchester Aquatics Centre to watch the British women's water polo team in training. He finds out from centre forward Angie Winstanley-Smith what their hopes are ahead of London 2012, exactly how scary their Hungarian coach is and just what goes on under the water."
The video was shot by Richard Sprenger


Monday, June 4, 2012

First woman on International Kickboxer cover

It's all happening for women's boxing - and looks like the love is spreading. You might have read interviews here with Australian MuayThai fighter Caley Reece - a favourite fighter on this blog. 

I heard from Reece this week that the next edition of Aussie magazine International Kickboxer features her on the front cover. First time ever that this mag - best-selling martial arts magazine in Australia and New Zealand - has put a woman on the front. 

I started my journalism career with this magazine, my first-ever published story was an interview with pioneering promoter Lucy Tui. So I'm doubly excited to see a woman finally on the cover.  


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Olympic 400m relay crunch time

More potential Olympic qualifiers taking place this weekend for Irish athletes. 

The one I'll be keeping an eye on is in Poland - 400m runner Joanna Cuddihy is racing with Clare Bergin, Marian Heffernan, Michelle Carey, Jessie Barr, Catriona Cuddihy and Sanura O’Reilly as part of the Irish 400m relay team. At the moment they are 12th in the world with the top 16 qualifying for London 2012.

When I talked to Cuddihy a few weeks ago, she said: "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." 

The women are looking for a second solid time to add to their time for Korea and make sure they qualify. 

Cuddihy herself already made the A-standard in the 400m race when she ran 51.45 on May 3rd 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fast Girls

If you are one of the women taking part in the Flora Mini-marathon or the Tri-burgh in Mayo, maybe you can get some extra inspiration from these women.

'Fast Girls' is the fictional tale of a group of British sprinters looking to qualify for a World Championships. You can probably tell by looking at their gait but these actresses suffered for their art.

Dominique Tipper - Sarah - told the Guardian: "We all said 'fine' straight away, but we had no idea what was coming." Six-days a week training with the British team will do that.

Enjoy the trailer and have a great weekend!