Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - by the sea

Wordless Wednesday  - remembering the sunshine on this grey December day ...

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What are your sports wishes for 2016?

2016 is just around the corner and with it the thrill of the Olympics and Paralympics in Brazil. Of course women’s sport is much more than these two events but they are still the biggest showcase.

I’m not making any sports resolutions this year but I do have wishes for the New Year fairies:

  1. Changes in coverage of women’s sport to continue. In Ireland I’m thinking for example about the new section in the Irish Times every Thursday, regular interviews and reports in the Irish Examiner, or fabulous websites like run by Sharon Hutchinson and Women’s Sports Journal.
    Internationally let's have more like espnW or the BBC on women's football
  2. Women’s combat sports to become ever more popular. Women like Aisling Daly, Caradh O’ Donovan, Lisa Kearney, Ferial Ameeroedien, Katie Taylor and Catherine Costigan are becoming part of the national conversations – but we need more!
  3. Sponsors, sponsors, sponsors  - why so few women in the Top earners lists worldwide? Serena Williams is leading the way; maybe that will inspire someone sitting at a boardtable somewhere?
  4. More opportunities for women in combat sports – some of my favourite pictures this year have been of Afghani women doing MuayThai
  5. More blogs and social media dedicated to the joys women can get out of sport.
  6. This year the women’s Oxford boat race was run on the same course as the men’s, in rugby and soccer women’s matches are being played on the same day as the men’s finals, women cycled the Tour de France route (ok for charity but still); let’s see more of this.
  7. More social media campaigns like the brilliant #thisgirlcan from the UK or #supporthersport here in Ireland
On a personal level a really good friend started learning MuayThai with me over the summer, and is now a regular 3-times a week. I LOVE watching her grow in skills and confidence. It's been so great getting back into teaching and training after a whole lotta injuries. Thanks to Dave at Hammerhead Gym and Cecile for this!

And after I interviewed windsurfer Rose Barrett I finally took the plunge and started learning windsurfing. It’s been a bumpy journey with lots of breaks but so happy to have another reason to be by the sea. Who knows, I might stay up for longer than 10 minutes next year ...

What are your sports wishes for 2016?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Australian boxer Bianca Elmir on training, food and aiming for Gold

PIc via Biana Bam Bam Elmire Instagram by Phill Northwood

I posted an interview on Facebook a few days ago where Australian boxer Bianca ‘Bam Bam’ Elmir talks about stereotypes of boxing and women boxers. And by a lovely coincidence a film-maker working with Biana got in touch, and here we are with a couple of blog-posts to come from our chat. 

Bianca is gunning to bring home Australia’s first gold medal from the AIBA women’s amateur boxing world championships at 54kgs. 

She won the International Boxing Tournament Balkan gold last month, and holds the Oceania bantamweight title, and before that fought in MuayThai and kickboxing having started with soccer. Phew!


So how much training exactly does it take to have a realistic shot at that gold?

Bianca’s training goes over six days, including walking everywhere. She jokes: “Running or walking is therapy and a heaps better way to get around than a metal car."

She said: “I do my strength and conditioning training with one coach Bryan Roberts from Full Throttle – it’s mostly plyometrics and supersets. Then I do my technical training five days a week with Garry Hamilton; my crazy British Trainer from Middlesbrough. I also do kickboxing training one day a week to bring me back to my roots with Gaz Rees at Chopper Muay Thai. One of my favourite training projects is mountain running. I love it!”


Food, food, glorious food 


Having moved divisions from flyweight to bantamweight and now fighting at 60kgs, food is a BIG deal for Bianca. She jokes the main thing she’s learned on this journey has been not to obsess about calories, saving that for training. 

She warns: “Food is too tied up with your self- image and with your self- esteem. It can be a dark and lonely road if you let food and diet obsession take over. It’s hard enough as it is to shut out all of the sensationalised information about food and diet.” 

And does she feel extra pressure compared to the guys at her gym?  “Being a woman you’re pressured to focus so heavily on your looks! But at the end of the day it’s important to have a well-balanced diet. I eat bread and I drink milk and I’m all good! 

“I try keep myself up to date with nutrition and training by listening to podcasts. I try not eat too much and when I do, I try not do my head in about it; although I sometimes do,” she said. 

PICS: Bianca Bam Bam Elmir Instagram

Impact of the London Olympics on women's boxing 


She’s been fighting in one form or another since 2009, but like so many of us was delighted to see amateur boxing at the London Olympics. 

“Promotion of women’s boxing in Australia has improved so much as compared to say five years ago, when I first started. You can see this overseas too after boxing was included in London. I know the final 60kg division had more interest than any other sport so it’s definitely come a long way. There’s also a lot more opportunities for women to compete here,” she said. 

How did Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey affect Australian boxing? 


And of course just last month Melbourne, Australia was home to one of the most hyped women’s fights in recent times: the MMA bout between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. 

Bianca said: “I think Rousey has played the gender card well to her advantage. I think she’s a good business woman. She knows how to turn it on for the media and play into the stereotype of either 'tough girl fighter' or 'woman getting interviewed with an evening frock' which I’ve seen.” 

But she reckons there are other ways to do, adding: “I personally think there are many more shades of grey for female athletes. I don't think she has managed to capture all the nuances we can bring, but I respect that she turned the tide and got female fighting on the map.”


Stay calm and carry on boxing 

And her final tips for staying sane when your daily grind involves getting hit in the face?

“My friends and the group around me have given me so much support. You need that when things get hard; they keep me grounded and focused. I also make sure I am always laughing.”

Keep up Bianca's fights at Bianca Elmir on Instagram  

And I'll be speaking to Jemma from Lolapolooza Films soon about the documentary she's making on Bianca.

UPDATED: Post updated Saturday Dec 19th to correct factual errors  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: tomorrow's wrestling stars?

Wordless Wednesday  - could these Dublin girls at Hercules wrestling Club be the superstars of the future?
                                         Pics thanks to Ce photography 

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

How to perfect your rowing technique on and off the water

One of the sights I love most at home in Cork is the rowers gliding up and down the Lee. They seem to be there at all hours, even when there’s serious frost on the river banks. 

The closest I’ve come to that is tackling the rowing machine in the gym and if you’ve done that too you’ll know it’s a pretty gruelling workout. 

So when I was sent a breakdown of the perfect rowing programme, I knew it would be tough but it’s beyond ... Designed by SAS, an advanced analytics company working with British Rowing, it's based on actual rowing patterns followed by elite rowers. 

One of the UK's top rowers is Jess Leyden who's hoping for a place on Team GB's women's quadruple sculls side. She told Sky Sports (at the launch these pics are from): 

"This year we've tried out new things, some of which worked well and some didn't, so all we can do is keep building towards it (Rio).  The gains we're making are so much larger than a team that maybe have been together a while, so once those building blocks are in place we're going to get to a point where we can tackle those finer bits”. 

And added this which made me smile, so true of many sports. She said: “There's no hiding in our racing. It's not how much over the line you are and it can come down to a bow ball, which has happened to me before!"

So what do you think of this routine? 

Click HERE to find a PDF with the perfect rowing programme. The second page is even more useful with diagrams and tips for the rowing machine down the gym. So even if you can’t go to Rio, you can still learn from the best! Just remember to take  heed of your own ability and limitations; this is a suggested programme only.

Jess Leyden was speaking on behalf of SAS – the leader in analytics software and services. SAS is the Official Analytics Partner of British Rowing and the GB Rowing Team at


Friday, December 11, 2015

Do we need Title IX sports laws in Europe?

Lala (right) gets ready to pass the ball during a practice in Rocinha.Lianne Milton for NPR

When I first heard about American legislation called Title IX , I didn’t immediately understand the links with sport. It says that any education agency receiving money from the government must spend the same amount on male and female activities. 

The big winner out of this was women’s sport in schools and universities who’ve hugely gained in funding since 1972. I read a story in yesterday's Irish Times about how many Irish women have benefited from athletics scholarships in the States, no doubt connected to this law. 

I spoke to the American author of soccer-book ‘When girls become Lions’ to find out more. Jo Kadlecek thinks more should be made of the shock impact of the legislation. 

She said: ‘Today’s young women players in the U.S. have so many more opportunities because of Title IX and I think it’s helpful when they know it wasn’t always this way. 

I’d hope that could motivate them to play all the harder and with more confidence, knowing they have a history of champions that helped insure they have this chance. Then they don’t take all the fancy equipment, the great fields, and staffs for granted! 

I suppose it can instill a deeper gratitude that can make the effort more meaningful.’ 

Jo lives in Brisbane, Australia now. And even though Australia is known the world over for its love (obsession?!) of sports, she’s seeing some gaps. 

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

Still not sure? 

Listen to this short NPR radio doco on the differences between women's football/soccer in Brazil and America to become aware of some gaping holes that law has been busy filling.

Look around at your sport situation, do you need a Title IX?


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: MuayThai in Bangkok for the King of Thailand's birthday

Wordless Wednesday -  MuayThai event for His Majesty, the King of Thailand's birthday at the weekend, courtesty EB-TV, Bangkok.

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Women's fighting is having a moment

mma muaythai womens boxing vogue williams

Women in sport have been having quite the moment in the sun. I know we try to stay positive here and focused on what can be done but I really am starting to feel something is changing.

Firstly there was the global reaction to Holly Holm beating Ronda Rousey  - don't worry I'm not going into all of that again. I will just say that it was incredile to see that fight covered in papers and sections of the papers -  not to mention in TIME magazine  - that you would NEVER have found women's fighting before. Congrats to Holly but hats off to Ronda for making the world take women's MMA or #wmma seriously.

And if you can access RTE's player, this episode of Wild Girls meets some of Ireland's best fighters including women I've spoken to here like MMA's Catherine Costigan , Ferial 'Felix' Ameeroedien from MuayThai and Christina McMahon, WBC champ.

It's a great show, and hopefully will bring lots of girls into the gyms.  I also loved the conversation between Catherine and presenter Vogue Williams about periods, you really have to see it!

(I know a lot of you are reading from outside Ireland but if you download a programme like HOLA you can watch from overseas).

Lots more interviews and fun tips coming up after my break. I was away the last two weeks with work, but only managed to get one week's worth of posts up. Apologies for that but hopefully you've been catching up on old posts?

But I did manage to write a Christmas shopping list for you - the best women in sports books around! It's up on here.