Friday, October 30, 2015

Age no limit for women in boxing and running

Pauline Curley Dublin Marathon Christina McMahon Alicia Slick Ashely WBC New York
Top: Pauline Curley INPHO         Bottom: WBC Superbantamweight via Alicia's Twitter
What a week for older women in sport; the fastest Irishwoman at the Dublin marathon was 46, and last night two women in their 40s battled for a WBC world title. This week's video is dedicated to them.

Some inspiration for anyone feeling the pinch from a cold winter, if they can do why can't you?

Pauline Curley crossed the marathon finsh line at 2.49:29 not long behind the women's winner from Ukraine Natalyia Lehonkova at 2.31. I'm hoping to talk to her on this blog soon, and bring you some tips.

Jamaican Alicia "Slick" Ashley entered the record books taking the WBC Super-bantamweight world title in New York aged 48 last night. Her opponenet from Monaghan here in Ireland was Christina McMahon (40) whose last outing was winning the WBC Interim belt at bantamweight against a much younger Zambian opponent.

I'm a big fan of Christina's but the night definitely belonged to Alicia. This video below was shot earlier at the famous Gleason's Gym in New York.  She's talking about moving from dancing to boxing, and why she still has the passion. 

Best part for me was when she leans her leg up against the top of the ring-pole, saying: "I tend to be a boxer, not a brawler in the ring, that's why they call me Slick".

(Photos and video from last night's fight on @Girlboxingnow Twitter. )

Alicia "slick" Ashley from haimy assefa on Vimeo.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Catherine Costigan on what to eat for MMA

catherine costigan MMA alphafemale invicta BAMMA

As a 21-year old manager in one of Ireland’s largest surpermarket chains, Catherine Costigan should have been overawed. Looking back now, she says martial arts kept her confidence up.

That same confidence is evident as she talks about the training and nutrition which keeps her MMA career with Invicta and BAMMA Ireland going strong.

The Irish fighter is also a personal trainer under the rather cool banner of “Alpha Female Fitness”. How could you say no?

She said: “I have a lot of women who train with me, it’s not just about fighting. I do a lot of explosive work, we work with programmes like Tabata and all that cool stuff. It’s really different, much more exciting than just a regular gym. There’s been a real evolution in women’s fitness, it’s much more hands-on now.”

Catherine obviously lifts weights, and recommends this for anyone no matter what your sport.

She said: ‘It doesn’t have to be something huge, healthy muscle is good. Running on its own is grand but I don’t think it gives you the best physique you could possibly have as a woman.”

catherine costigan MMA alphafemale invicta BAMMA
All pics via Catherine Costigan Twitter @alphafemalewar
 Eating for MMA  

Diet is a big thing for Catherine, diet meaning healthy, clean eating. High protein, low-carbs is her mantra.
When we first spoke she was in that dead week after a fight when sugar seems like a great idea. For an Atomweight fighter (c. 48kgs or 105lbs) every calorie counts.

She said: “I’m not feeling well, I’ve a cold and feel achy. That’s me back on the broccoli, off the chocolate. Fighters can get quite sick before or after cutting weight, our immune systems are so balanced.
“You only get a certain amount of time to enjoy normal food!”

In the final weeks before a fight, she starts the day with bananas and a protein drink, then lunch is chicken breast and broccoli.  Low-carbs, a lot of water and egg whites at night with greens like spinach to load up on nutrients.

“You do have to eat, it’s not enough to take protein drinks. You can taking them obviously but you need good food going into you to keep your metabolism going for training,” she said.

When it gets down to the final grams, she goes for salt baths over saunas, saying these work better for women.

Vogue Williams Instagram Catherine Costigan MMA
TV presenter Vogue Williams gets into the cage with Catherine PIC Instagram @VogueWilliams
Irish viewers will get a chance to see how her training stacks up soon with a major TV programme on women’s martial arts. Presenter Vogue Williams (who you might know from winning one of Bear Gryll’s intense adventures) even got into the Cage.

Catherine said: “She came to me, and did everything we do in MAA. She said it was amazing but she couldn’t understand how we think about everything that can possibly happen in a fight, she said it was incredible.

“Then she kept asking do you get hit in the “fionnuala”? I finally worked out what she meant so I said I’d gotten kneed in the “fionnuala” a few times, but I have a “fionnuala”-guard! She was really funny, she was asking how I train or fight with my period. I just do it really.

“It will be really good for MMA when it airs, getting someone like Vogue behind us is fantastic.”

Follow Catherine Costigan on Twitter and  Catherine ....... 

Friday, October 23, 2015

A novel about women's soccer "When Girls Became Lions"

women football soccer novel when girls became lions
The novel (left) Valerie Gin (top right) and Jo Kadlecek (bottom right)
When did you last read a sports-book where a woman was the main character? When did you last read a novel where the female character did heaps of sport? Biographies I could list a few, but fiction? 

There’s one on my shelves, just one – Heartbeat by Sharon Creech (read it!).  Americans Valerie J. Gin and Jo Kadlecek were equally frustrated and decided to do something about it.  Not just shout, but write a novel. 

Set in the world of girls’s soccer (sorry purists I know it’s “football” but coming from a family where Gaelic Football, rugby and soccer were all played I plump for the clearest description), the novel has a message running underneath the fun and games. It’s called “WHEN GIRLS BECAME LIONS”.

Jo and I met in that lovely Twitter way a few months ago, but she lives in Queensland, Australia now so we spoke by email.

Q: Start with the basics, why do you love soccer so much? 


Val and I grew up in different parts of the U.S. playing several sports: Val played volleyball, basketball, softball and skied. I participated in little league softball, soccer, tennis, track. 

In high school, because of Title IX, like Val I joined the basketball and volleyball teams.  Val went on to play college volleyball and basketball.

When I got to college, I joined the club women’s soccer team and LOVED everything about: being outside, the smell of freshly cut grass, the creative way the game is played, the decisions each player has to make as the ball moves around, and of course, the physical demands it required.

I’m not surprised soccer is the “world’s favorite game”: your size, economic status or language skills don’t matter. You just need a ball and a pitch! I love the easy accessibility it offers to any one who wants to play!

(Title lX is an American law passed in 1972 that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding; including sports)
women football soccer novel when girls became lions

Q: In your novel the 1983 team is coached by a man, and the modern team by a woman. Does this reflect the changes you see today? 


Honestly I know of many programs today where both men and women serve effectively as head coaches.
But the primary reason we chose to create these two characters was to show that both women and men helped foster these new opportunities for women athletes—and still do.  Sure, some men don’t support women sports but many do. We wanted WHEN GIRLS BECAME LIONS to convey that reality.

Besides, we both have had important men in our lives who believed in us as athletes and coaches, just as we’ve had many women role models who coach as well.

Q: You live in Australia now, home of the Matildas and come from America, what support do you see now for women in soccer?

Obviously, in the U.S. the success of the World Cup reinforced the game’s popularity for girls and women players as well as fans. The Matildas were equally inspiring and heroic, I think, during the World Cup but my sense (and I’ve only lived down under 7 months) is that women’s professional soccer here has a long way to go before it attains the equal status and pay it deserves.

Still, I’m told the game is wildly popular for young women but it’s not easy in a country that’s dominated by male sports—as Australia is. 

I do think the family support has become much stronger in both countries from my own time as a player because the health and character benefits of team sports and athletic exercise have been reinforced so much that athletics are more acceptable, encouraged even.

SO it’s an exciting time for female athletes and we’re hoping our novel conveys a small portion of that that while also inspiring more sports novels for women! 

Order WHEN GIRLS BECAME LIONS online here w special deals for teams.  


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Olympic Rings

Wordless Wednesday:

(Lots of talk about the Olympics in Ireland this week as boxing coach Billy Walsh looks set to move to America. Cue: consternation about Rio2016. I spotted these rings in Budapest)

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.           And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, October 19, 2015

Irish MMA fighter joins FSE

Aoife Murphy MMA Fresh Start Entertainment FSE Jay

Monday mornings can be depressing sometimes but this morning I woke up to a Twitter-feed popping with exciting news for Irish MMA fighter Aoife Murphy.

You may have seen an interview Aoife did a this blog in September when we discussed the challenges of finding fights in Ireland, and how much she just loves to fight.

So she's just in the past few hours gone public with this news: 
She's pretty excited as you can imagine. Jay General is well-known in the women's MMA scene as he manages Invicta Fc's bantamweight world champion Tonya Evinger and British fighter Molly Mccann. Three of the women on the last Invicata card were from his stable.

Jay told me: "I believe the female lightweight division is under developed and wide open. So I was online watching fight video of some potential clients and came across a tweet from Aoife about her being a lightweight fighter.

"So I reached out to her because I ws surprised when I saw she fights at 155lbs. I thought she was a lighter weight fighter. I really enjoyed our conversation and felt she was a determined athlete with a ton  of heart and a desire to be champ.

"These are charcterisics all of my clients posess and I felt Aoife would be a great fit for FSE. I honestly believe she will be a champion at 155 and it's an honour being able to work with her."

Of course she's not the first Irish woman to hit the international cage, joining the likes of Aisling Daly and Catherine Costigan.

Some Aoife Murphy factoids:

  1. Yes, her name is spectacularly Irish, It's pronounced " e-f-i" as in her Twitter handle 
  2. She's from Dublin, fighting out of C-Mac Gym, and stands 6ft tall so has the reach from hell as far as opponents are concerned. 
  3. You can have your hair cut by Aoife in her day-job where she works with her mother and sisters. 
  4. She has big-love for her mother, saying: "Without her I couldn't live and train the way I do or give all this focus to fighting, I'm very grateful to work with her, she's an enormous support and inspiration to me."
  5. She prefers to cut weight by diet, seeing it as safer and more professional than some of the traditional last-minute saunas thanks to her Dublin trainer Dean O' Sullivan
Is she ready for the international stage? Definitely, she told me:

"I'd prefer to be more active and to be able to fight on the big shows in Dublin and Belfast but at the same time the opportunity to travel and fight international opponents is one of the best parts of this sport. It's a bigger challenge as a fighter and a privilege to be asked to perform for someone else's home crowd and to help make their show exciting." 

And how committed is she to getting experience for MMA: 

"Well, beggars can't be choosers, I'm crying out for fights so I stay open to different disciplines so I can be active. 

"MMA is my main focus and the sport I enjoy best but if K1 is all I can get I'll do that, if there's nothing on the horizon and I have the itch to compete I'll look for a BJJ comp. I'm happy once I'm active and being challenged," Aoife said. 

Aoife Murphy on Twitter           Her Dublin women-friendly gym C-Mac      FSE on Twitter

(Post updated Tuesday Oct 20th w extra quotes)


Friday, October 16, 2015

Women in sport blogging their passions

Re Wikstrom womens cycling photography sport
PIC: Photographer Re Wiksrom via her Tumblr

It's been four months since I did a round-up of some great women sports bloggers or social media fans, not quite sure how that happened. Tsk Tsk

But Jo Kadlecek gave me a gentle nudge yesterday, so here we go: some of the female sports bloggers and sites I've found over the summer (eh, and autumn). Another post on documentaries is brewing and on Jo's book for next week of course ...

Jackie Bradbury lives in Texas and teaches Presas Arnis which I learned after some Twitter exchanges is another name for Escrima from the Philippines.  Her blog is fulled with her years of learning, and teaching videos. I've never studied this art, but I can see how incredibly useful the site would be especially for new-ish students. I follow her on Twitter also. 

Ok, so Britishwoman Alex is a sports phographer not just a blogger. But I love what she does - images of veteran athletes. And I mean seriously veteran; the first photo of hers that I saw was an 80+ year old woman tearing down a running track. If you  need inspiration, or you're feeling like 30, 40,  or maybe 50 is the limit for sports then you need to meet the women on her blog.

Recent blog-post:  Masters First in Beijing

Andrea Harkins lives in Florida, another sunshine state and has been in love with martial arts since 1989. We found each other on Twitter also, and her inspirational thoughts will definitely get you down to the gym. If you're looking for more role models, she's writing a book at the moment with interviews of women doing martial arts. 
Recent blog-post: The making of a champion

This is a brand-new internationally-based blog started by Melanie Gale and Stephen Rivers beacuse they felt women's MMA or #wmma needed more support. What  better reason to start blogging? They have two more people on their team already, and seem to have bigger plans based on a 'tell us what you want' post sent out this week. Also lovely to see men taking a leading role in promoting women's sport, we forget about them sometimes ...

Recent blog-post:  The Darker Side of MMA

Click on "blogging" below to find links to more round-ups.  


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: women's boxing

Wordless Wednesday  - today's pics via photographer Brittany Carmichael  New York Magazine 

womens boxing Brittany Carmichael New York Magazine
Keisher McLeod-Wells, a.k.a. Fire

womens boxing Brittany Carmichael New York Magazine
Ronica Jeffrey

womens boxing Brittany Carmichael New York Magazine Referee

Pro-Am Boxing Tournament Referee

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.    And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, October 12, 2015

Catherine Costigan on MMA, surgery and ignoring age limits

Catherine Costigan MMA Limerick Ireland Invicta BAMMA
PIC Catherine Costgan MMA for Invicta
Energy, passion, enthusiasm and a huge grin – this is what I took away from meeting Catherine Costigan a few weeks ago. And when we spoke on the phone, she had so much more to say I had to keep asking her to slow down so my scribbling could keep up. 

From Limerick in the west of Ireland, Catherine was one of the first female MMA fighters in the country. She’s fights at Atomweight (c. 48kgs or 105lbs) with Invicata mainly and also BAMMA in Ireland:  nine fights behind her. Pretty light but no pushover. 

Now in her late 30s, she had neck-fusion surgery about three years ago. These are two things which would normally rule someone out of an intense combat-sport. 

She says: “When the doctor saw the scan (of my neck) he said hmm, maybe you should retire because your disc has crushed into your spinal cord. That’s what all the pain was. 

“Now I have a titanium plate there, I’m always telling people if you have neck issues go to the right hospital. I went through four surgeons before I decided on Dr Pynton at the Mater in Dublin. One guy said why do you want to do such a barbaric sport? 

“I was like ‘you’re out’.”

The medic’s name sits proudly on her fight banner, and he still checks in on her. There’s never an end to injuries but once that chronic pain lifted, so did her career. 

Catherine Costigan MMA Limerick Ireland Invicta BAMMA
Catherine Costigan MMA
And as for her age in a sport where most women are in their twenties if not younger, Catherine says age is not an issue. Although she does say she’s sponsored by Dr Dave’s Best Supplements. 

She says: “You see older guys fighting, even dominating divisions. It doesn’t necessarily mean your age is going to hold you back in MMA. This is different to being pro-rugby player, you can still fight if you’re taking care of yourself. 

“I don’t have an end in mind, having said that I don’t want to be still fighting in ten years’ time. I do want my 10th fight to be special. At the end of the day as long as my supporters are still willing to pay a ticket to see me, than my time is still deserving of that cage.” 

Coming off some unsatisfactory fights including a defeat at BAMMA Ireland, Catherine is planning some No-gi Ju Jitsu tournaments (that’s ju jitsu without the white gi, and slightly different rules). 

“It would be good to focus on my groundwork. You just show up at these tournaments, no-one knows who you are. You show up and you have a bit of fun,” she says. 

Follow Catherine Costigan on Twitter and  Catherine .......     

More to come from this interview

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ilonka Elmont and her MuayThai charity in Suriname

You’ll see many exciting ring-entrances in fighting sports today but one of my favourites has always been Ilonka Elmont’s. 

Originally from Suriname in South America, she moved to Holland as a young girl and represented both in her fighting career. Competing across MuayThai and kickboxing at 50 to 52kgs ‘the Killer Queen” picked up seven world titles. I was fighting in Thailand around then, and always looked to her for inspiration. 

Now retired, Ilonka (41) is running a sports foundation in Suriname for kids. We chatted via email about why she’s doing this. 

Q: Why did you decide to focus on sport for your Foundation?

I decided to focus on sport because I strongly believe sport has the power to change the world.  Sport speaks a language that everybody understands, and unites people in a way that little else does.

Sport also has the ability to inspire…

So this is what my Foundation stands for. It’s one of the basics in  every project that we develop or implement.

Q: What did you learn from Muay Thai that you’re bringing to these children?

Muay Thai is an individual sport and uses a different set of dynamics that govern success than with team sports. Every competitive opportunity or fight was my chance to beat my personal best.

So because I wanted to be better and very successful, I learnt to reflect, I learnt to set goals, to focus and to rely on myself. I learnt not to give up on my goals and dreams. I had passion for this and for getting better and better in my own personal journey.

And so through the years I experienced my own success formula which I later on chose to share with others.
I have learnt and I believe that sport can teach values and can help you to develop life skills for example confidence, leadership, courage, persistence,  sacrifice, teamwork, setting goals and dealing with winning and losing and many more.

These are elements that can make you successful in life. So these elements can make children successful in life.

Q: Tell us about your Ilonka Elmont Foundation?

PIC via Ilonka Elmont Foundation Facebook

The Ilonka Elmont Foundation is a young and learning organization. In just five years we became the biggest in organizing sport days (participation and integration) for children with disabilities in this region South America and the Caribbean) 

We work with children with disabilities, but also underprivileged children.

Q: The Foundation’s latest project is the Special Heroes, what’s that about?

Special Heroes Suriname is a (sport)simulation program for children in special primary and secondary education. This program allows children with disabilities to experience how much fun sports and exercise can be and offers them meaningful leisure activities through sport, arts and culture.
The methodology is simple, during the school year, these children learn about art, culture and sport. This simulates interest and if so, we hope that, after school, they join a sport club or an art institution.

In the context of social inclusion we believe Special Heroes Suriname can be the bridge in which children with disabilities will find their way into a total package of structural leisure participation. Our program theme is “everyone can be a hero". 

These children will learn to push boundaries together, each in his own speed and way. Thus a Special Hero.

Q: How can fight fans help you out here?

All our programs are sustainable but to continue these programs we are dependent on funds. 

So if there are sponsors of any size willing and interested, please visit our website Ilonka Elmont Foundation and give…

Make a difference! 

See real girl sport on Facebook for highlight reel of Ilonka's fights and entrance-dance. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Budapest

Wordless Wednesday

Budapest Margaret island running track Hungary

Budapest Margaret island running track Hungary

Budapest Margaret island running track Hungary

Budapest Margaret island running track Hungary

Budapest Margaret island bike cycling track Hungary

(Just a few words:
I took these in Budapest last week - a free running track on an island in the middle of the Danube. It comes complete with distance markers, water and an incredible view. Perfect for running ... and for those of a slower bent it's parallel to a walking track, with cycle lanes as well.)

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.    And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, October 5, 2015

Anne-Flore Marxer surfing a tidal bore

You know how there are some sports you've never mastered but you really wish you could? Surfing is like that for me. 

Instead I watch with envy as people like Anne-Flore Marxer switch between surfing and snow-boarding without any apparent effort. She sent out this great video and pics from a trip she made to surf a tidal bore, ie a wave that breaks overland under rare conditions.  You really have to watch it, I'm so jealous.

She said: "The last full moon was red and beautiful, it was powerful and we were all moved by it.. and so were the waters of the planet.. creating a magnificent tidal bore for us to surf !

"Tidal bores happen on big coefficient when the level of the water is low.. it's an amazing phenomenon which creates a wave you can surf in land when the tide comes in.. i had heard of it and i went to surf it.. as it happens mainly once a year many people travel to surf it." 

Anne-Flore's message with the video finished up with: "it was an amazing experience that gave me a smile for hours !! i was sharing the stand up paddle of Francois Liets, a big wave surfer for about 11 minutes ride...better than words i highly recommend to watch the video of it.. as it might give you a smile too :)"

Looks like three women out there, not a bad ratio I guess for a crazy outing. If you like this video, lots more on her social media accounts, esp Anne Flore Marxer on Twitter.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Review and giveaway of "Six Nations, Two Stories"

Niamh Briggs and Paul O' Connell with their 2015 6Nations Trophies at Thomond. PIC Inpho via

Irish rugby has been having a moment across the men’s and women’s codes with trophies popping up everywhere. The buzz of the 2015 6Nations wins have been captured in a new book which flips between interviews with the amateur women players and the professional men’s team, and it’s a cracker of a read.

Written by journalists Kate Rowan and Peter O’ Reilly,  "Six Nations, Two Stories" is an insightful look at the differences between the older, financially lucrative men’s game and the upstart women’s game. And the one stand-out similarity: passion.

So what did I learn?

  • Nora Stapleton on ‘alickadoos’: the men’s sport is built on an old-boys and old- school tradition. She says women’s rugby is different. “It is your community, your club, your friends and it is where you want to hang out.” 

  • Coach Tom Tierney on ‘training age’: women come to the sport at different ages and from different sports so there isn’t that uniformity of experience you have in the men’s game. 

  • Niamh Briggs on team spirit: she gets her own chapter in the book but stresses how much other players contribute, and names who else should be in there. 

  • Luke Fitzgerald on resilience: Boom! one week you’re in the team, next Monday morning you’ve had a crap game and Boom! You’re back to the start. 

You can read an extract on where Kate Tyrell talks about overcoming an eating disorder with help from her team-mates and sport.

Want to read more? Tell me in 150 words or less why you support or play women’s rugby to win a paperback copy.

You can leave a comment here below, or on real girl sport Facebook or just plain old email me:
realgirlsport (at) gmail (dot) com

Lines open (so to speak) until Saturday October 10th.