Sportswomen highlights all of the major issues in women's sport each week
Sky Sports presenter Jane Dougall gives us the lowdown on the weekly show, Sunday mornings at 10am on Sky Living HD
Ever since England lost to France and then France lost to Columbia (shock result!) everyone in the Sportswomen team has been getting their fingers and toes out to count the points needed for qualification through to the last sixteen of the World Cup in Canada. I think everyone expected France to top the group and England to come second (well, perhaps hoped that England would come first!). Now there are so many different outcomes all dependent upon England's result against Columbia. It's their final group match and if England lose, they will almost definitely be knocked out. Our reporter Geraint Hughes is with the England squad at their training camp in Montreal and he, along with England captain Steph Houghton, talked us through the different scenarios.
Staying with the World Cup in Canada and, out of the 24 nations represented, only eight have a female head coach. One of the reasons that's been sighted is the shortage of women taking their coaching badges. We spent time at a UEFA A1 coaching course in Ireland and spoke to two women taking part about the reasons why some are put off. As a possible solution, there's been talk of a version of the "Rooney Rule" being introduced in England, to give more women an opportunity to be interviewed for positions.
FIFA are very aware of the shortage and have already implemented scholarships for female coaching, plus they've introduced a quota for next year's Under-17 Women's World Cup, which insists every squad must have at least one female coach.
From a lack of women in football to a lack of men in netball! Obviously it's a female dominated sport but some countries do have men's teams, including Australia. That's why Dan Ryan, current assistant coach at ANZ team Adelaide Thunderbirds, is coming to Manchester to replace Tracey Neville as Manchester Thunder head coach. He's not been daunted by being one of the few men coaching in the sport, in fact the only thing Dan is worried about when he moves is coping with the change in temperature!
Now, have you ever heard the expression, "I drank my own weight in champagne"? Not many of us will get the opportunity to do that but jockey Laura Wilson will! She won the Queen Mother's Cup at York races on board Apterix and her prize was... ...her own weight in champagne! The officials put her on the scales and then balanced it up with boxes of champagne. She was given five boxes in the end plus a few extra bottles - we at Sportswomen are very jealous!
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We've been counting down to this day for months. Ever since England finished their qualifying campaign with ten wins out of ten ... ever since the women's team made history by playing at Wembley for the first time .. ever since England won the Cyprus Cup in March ... it's all been in preparation for this day. Well, at last, the England women's squad have flown to Canada for the start of their FIFA world cup campaign. I met the players and staff at the airport as they were checking in and a few of them told me they were nervous but very grateful to have one of those seats on the plane.
The squad have a friendly against hosts Canada on Friday and then their first match of the tournament is against 3rd ranked France. That is the arguably the toughest game of their group but several of the players and manager Mark Sampson said it would be a good marker to judge where they stood in the tournament by playing such a good team first.
Our camera was the only one at Heathrow Airport to see the squad off and wish them well but don't worry, throughout the campaign, we'll be following the progress of the team with our reporter Geraint Hughes who's flying out to join them next week.
The other sports news we were so excited to bring you was the record breaking achievements of Dina Asher-Smith who has become the fastest British woman in history. The 100 metre sprinter set a record of 11.02 seconds at the World Challenge Meeting in the Netherlands, beating Montell Douglas's 11.05 record which had held for seven years. Unbelievably, Asher-Smith says she believes she can go faster .... we wait with baited breath!
Next week is Women's Sport Week and we're promoting it all week on Sky Sports News and Sportswomen. The idea behind it is to raise awareness of women's sport at both elite and grass roots levels across the country. We've got lots planned so keep in touch and tell us what you are planning on social media using the hashtag #WSW2015. The week kicks off one of the biggest summer's for women's sport on Sky Sports with the Ashes being broadcast live, plus the Netball world cup and the Solheim Cup. Take a look at our website for all the details. See you next week!
You know the saying "the best laid schemes of mice and men"? Well, that was our programme today. As we came into the office early this morning our top story for Sportswomen was due to be about the changes that the Ladies European Tour are making to revolutionise the women's game. However ....... an hour before we went to air, one of the biggest names in British sport made an important announcement. Jessica Ennis-Hill decided that she would be competing in her first heptathlon in two years since London 2012. The breaking news meant we had to completely re-write the top of the programme and there was an urgent request to graphics to change the whole of the picture wall.
It was a pretty close thing but we started the programme with the developing story that Jess Ennis-Hill will travel to Gotzis in Austria for a major Heptathlon next week. It had been touch and go for a while as Ennis-Hill has been suffering with an Achilles niggle and it's been less than a year since she gave birth. However, she said in a statement that she was feeling good and her Achilles were fine. We look forward to watching Jess Ennis-Hill compete against fellow Briton Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
So, back to our original top story and as I mentioned, the Ladies European Tour have decided to change the women's game dramatically. They will start their tournaments on a Sunday and finish on a Wednesday in the hope that this help attract more attention to the sport out-with the men's tour. We sent our reporter to Turkey where the LET is at the moment to speak to players and officials about how the re-scheduling will work.
We've done quite a bit of filming in the past with Olympic Taekwondo champion Jade Jones, so we were watching closely when she got through to the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Russia this week. It was 9-9 between Jones and Iranian Kimia Zenoorin when Jones made contact but the electronic scoring system froze. In the meantime, Zenoorin also made contact but when the system came back to life only Zenoorin's point registered. The Iranian won the match 10-9. Jones would have secured her place in next summer's Olympics had she won gold at the tournament. She admitted she felt frustrated her points didn't register.
Staying with Taekwondo, there was better news for Bianca Walkden who became only the second Briton ever to win gold at the worlds. She took the plus 73 kilograms category. Rachelle Booth won bronze in the minus 62 kg category.
Just finally, it's Women's Sport Week from the 1st of June to the 7th and Sportswomen is getting involved. Let us know what you're doing to highlight it by taking part in sport or even taking your kids along to an event. Tweet us @skysportsnewshq using the hashtag #Sportswomen.
What do Netball and TOWIE have in common? No, I don't watch it either but one of the stars, Ferne McCann is a big netball fan and plays for her local team. She wanted to get involved in the lead-up to the Superleague Grand Final and spent the day with Surrey Storm player-coach Tamsin Greenway. Tamsin took Ferne through her paces in the gym in front of our Sportswomen cameras and told us how Storm are getting on in training before they face Hertfordshire Mavericks in the Grand Final this weekend. It might be interesting if the two do a swap and Tamsin appears on "The Only Way Is Essex" next season!
There's a few Olympic athletes back in competition after a break. First up is Jessica Ennis-Hill. Her first competition is in July after having her baby Reggie last year. Ennis-Hill said she needs to be realistic about her chances, especially because Britain's European indoor champion, Katarina Johnson-Thompson is snapping at her heels. The 22 year old is progressing well and has a few personal bests that are better than Ennis-Hills.
Another Olympic gold medallist who's returned after a break is Katherine Grainger. After two years in retirement the four time Olympian decided to come back to the sport to aim for a fifth Olympics. At the weekend Grainger took part in the British Rowing team trials in her first competition since London 2012. She came second in the single sculls to Victoria Thornley, who's 12 years her junior. Grainger admitted she didn't get the best start but felt she was still on course for Rio.
And staying on our road to Rio, Charlotte Dujardin has become the first rider to hold Olympic, World, European and World Cup titles simultaneously. She retained her World Cup title in Las Vegas after scoring more than 94 percent for her freestyle routine on Valegro. She might just be one to watch for 2016 too!
The women's cricket world is scheduled to be held in England for 2017 and the ECB wants there to be a substantial number of female umpires for the tournament. At the moment just seven percent of cricket officials in England and Wales are women, that's out of 7,800. But the low figure is something the ECB wants to address and they've launched a project to encourage more women and girls to become active umpires.
Just finally we at Sportswomen want to wish Paula Radcliffe the best of luck for this weekend. The world record holder is preparing for her last ever London marathon. She's won the event three times, the last was in 2005. Now, ten years later, she'll pound the streets of London for the last time and hopefully get a huge reception from her home crowd.
Eighty-eight years ago groups of men gathered on the banks of the Thames to jeer at the women rowing. It was the first ever women's Oxford Cambridge boat race and many saw it as inappropriate and unladylike. However, over the years it became a tradition that the women would race at Henley on a 2000 metre course and the men would race on a much longer 7000 metre part of the river at Tideway.
Fast forward to 2015, add some sponsorship and, for the first time, the women's race will be held on the same day and on the same course as the men's. It will also be televised, bringing a huge amount of attention and recognition to the women's sport. We spoke to both Oxford and Cambridge Presidents on Sportswomen as they count down to race day on the 11th. Eighty eight years on it's unlikely groups will gather to jeer, but it will be a momentous occasion for those watching.
England women have their last home match this week before the World Cup in June. They take on China who are ranked 16th in the world, but they do it at Manchester City's new Academy Stadium. That means it really is a home match for Manchester City and England striker Toni Duggan. We spoke to her live on the programme and she told us it's going to be an amazing event for the North West. It's also going to be one of the last opportunities for England players to impress Mark Sampson because no seat on that plane to Canada is guaranteed!
There was an historic day for women in racing this week, as a female jockey rode the winner for a female trainer at the Irish Grand National for the first time in the race's history. Katie Walsh became only the third female jockey to win the Irish Grand National. Walsh guided 20-to-one novice "Thunder And Roses" to victory for trainer Sandra Hughes at Fairyhouse, finishing ahead of AP McCoy, who was riding the race for the final time, and her own brother, Ruby Walsh. Nina Carberry was the last woman to win the race in 2011, while the first female to win was Ann Ferris in 1984.
And finally we have to mention Alison Miller who won 82% of our Sportswomen of the Month Vote for March. The Irish winger was a stand-out performer in the Women's Six Nations campaign, finishing as the tournament's leading try-scorer after helping Ireland win the title.
The England squad have travelled home after winning the Cyprus Cup and Sportswomen spent some quality time with the woman who scored the goal in the final, Lianne Sanderson. The Arsenal striker had a few days off at home before going back to train with her club. She talked us through her goal against Canada and told us she felt confident that manager Mark Sampson was getting England back to winning ways in time for the World Cup this summer.
Staying with football, we looked ahead to the Champions League quarter finals at the weekend. Two British teams are still in the competition, Bristol Academy take on three time European Champions FFC Frankfurt and Glasgow City face Paris Saint Germain. It's an incredible feat for both clubs to be at this stage in the competition. The first reason is that neither club is attached to a men's team. The second reason is that Glasgow City are the first Scottish team in the quarter finals of the Women's Champions League and for Bristol Academy, this is the furthest the team has ever been in the competition. The way the draw works, the two teams won't meet in the semi-finals so we're hoping for an all British final!
Do you remember Stephanie Roche, the Irish footballer nominated for the FIFA Puskas award? Well, she's just proved that her goal wasn't a fluke. She scored a screaming volley for the Republic of Ireland in a 2-1 win over Costa Rica in the Istria Cup last week. And her reputation is spreading .... Roche now plays in America and has been invited to meet President Obama at the White House to help him celebrate St Patrick's Day! I spoke to her just before she got on the flight to Washington DC and Roche said it was surreal but that she'd try to get a selfie with Obama! Watch out for that on twitter!
Looking at sailing and leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race to Brazil should be underway by now if the weather has calmed down. Cyclone Pam, which is driving across the South Pacific, devastating islands and killing dozens of people has begun to edge its way towards New Zealand. That has implications for the Volvo Ocean Race which has moored in Auckland. The decision was taken to delay this stage for a few days for health and safety reasons. We've been following the progress of the all-female crew of Team SCA who have set the standard for the fifth leg after winning the Auckland in-port race. Their skipper Samantha Davies told Sportswomen that the organisers made the right decision to delay the start of this leg.
I'll leave you with some great Netball news. Fans will be able to watch exclusive live coverage of the 2015 World Cup on Sky Sports this summer. Sky Sports will show all the key matches including live coverage of England games, the semi- final and the final.
You can get more on all our stories at our website or follow us on twitter using the hashtag #Sportswomen.
England are through to the final of a competition! Yes I know that sounds strange this week after the debacle of the cricket world cup and after the failure of the England football team in Brazil last year ... but an English team is through to the final of a competition. It's the England women football squad and they face Canada in the final of the Cyprus Cup. They've done so well in this competition winning two matches and drawing their third. Scotland women are in the cup too, but in a different group. They've lost two matches and won one. If you have a minute, try and watch Eni Aluko's goal during England's one all draw against the Netherlands on Monday. It's pretty special.
All week we've been excited about Sky Sports broadcasting a record being broken. On Saturday the Copper Box held the largest domestic crowd at a netball match with more than six thousand fans watching Surrey Storm beat Hertfordshire Mavericks. I was there and it was an incredible atmosphere with a real mixture of people. Yes, it was mostly young girls who'd come to watch their heroes or netball teams all travelling together to take notes from the elite of the sport; but there were also Dads, boyfriends and even new male fans who just wanted to watch a fast-paced match. Surrey Storm won 55-42 but, even if you were a Mavericks fan you would have had a good night out. You could meet some of the team and get autographs, there were mini netball nets to practice with and lots of merchandise!
On Sportswomen we broadcast an interview with double Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton .... not about cycling but about her new career ... as a jockey! They say you can take the athlete out of the competition but you can't take the competition out of the athlete. Pendleton is re-training and aiming to get her amateur licence and ride in the Amateurs Gold Cup, the Foxhunter Chase in 2016.
Team GB did really well at the Euro indoor championships with six women out of nine winning a medal. Katarina Johnson-Thompson's took gold in the pentathlon, just 0.92 seconds and 13 points short of the world record. Sprinter Peri Shakes Drayton is still injured so we had her in our studio talking about the success of the squad. For more on all our stories visit our website or follow us on twitter using the hashtag #sportswomen.
The Australian Open has been really exciting to watch this week. The men's game has thrown up a few surprises and Venus Williams got through to her first grand slam quarter final since 2010. But it's her sister and her opponent Eugenie Bouchard who have been making the headlines in women's sport. They were both asked to "twirl" for the camera by an Australian broadcaster after their match. When they were interviewed afterwards Bouchard said she hadn't been offended and Williams said: "I wouldn't ask Rafa [Nadal] or Roger [Federer] to twirl. Whether it's sexist or not, I don't know. I can't answer that." Despite neither athlete saying they were angry, the request has sparked a massive debate which we reflected in Sportswomen and made it the subject of our on-line poll.
At the same tournament, British number one Heather Watson lost in the first round, despite coming straight from winning the Hobart International. At the time she had needed treatment because she said she felt "very light-headed and low on energy." But it was what she said later which seemed to strike a chord with other athletes. Watson said the reason she lost so badly was because of "girl things". Her comments have opened a discussion about the effects periods can have on the performance of professional female sports stars.
Not long to go before the start of the Women's six nations but despite that, Gary Street, the England head coach has stepped down. We spoke to team members about his shock departure and what it'll mean for England in the tournament with their first match against Wales looming on the 8th of February.
With so much talk about FIFA and presidential candidates in the news, it was interesting to hear former Tottenham winger, David Ginola saying that the men's and women's football World Cups should be staged together. The tournaments are currently hosted by different countries in different years but the presidential hopeful, (who's bid is sponsored by a bookmakers) has said "We're talking about equality because we want women to be treated as well as the men." It comes in the week that the female footballers who began legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association over the use of artificial pitches at the Women's World Cup have dropped their case. The eighty-four players involved argued that plastic pitches were discriminatory when the men's tournament is played on natural grass. The lawyer representing the players said the case had highlighted continuing gender inequality in sport.
Don't forget, if you missed Sportswomen this week, you can watch it On Demand.
It was one of the more dramatic ends to a season. The Netball Superleague had seen Manchester Thunder battle to get to the grand final and face unbeaten Surrey Storm. The score was level on 48-48 but with just four seconds to go, Manchester Thunder's Helen Housby had a shot on goal, took it and scored. The place erupted. Thunder's coach, Tracey Neville could hardly contain herself, running down to the court to join her jubilant team, already jumping up and down, then lifting Housby up on their shoulders. Thunder had won it with a fairytale-like ending. So .... how on earth can the 2015 season compete?!
Well, on Sportswomen, former Surrey Storm player Natalie Seaton talked us through what she expects 2015 to bring us. Lots of new players have joined the league from other countries, including South African International Maryka Holtzhausen who's signed for Loughborough Lightening. They finished at the bottom of the table with no wins last season, so this new edition may help them hugely, along with the appointment of new coach Karen Atkinson. The first match of the season is a repeat of the grand final Manchester Thunder v Surrey Storm and it's on Sky Sports on Monday night.
I had the pleasure of going to Lords this week to interview both the England women's captain and vice-captain. England women travel to New Zealand next month for three Twenty20's and five One Day Internationals. Charlotte Edwards was announcing the 15-player squad and told me it's as strong as possible with everyone fully fit. Both spin bowler Rebecca Grundy and all-rounder Laura Marsh are back from injury. If England are successful in New Zealand it would push them up to 2nd in the ICC Women's Championships ... just behind first place Australia, in time for the ashes. England have their first ODI on the 11th of February.
Paula Radcliffe still holds the women's marathon world record but she's been recovering from a foot injury and has taken a bit of a back step from competing recently. She was live on our programme telling us that she will race in the London marathon in April but that it will be her last competitive marathon. We wish her all the best of course.
For more on that interview and for all the latest news and results, Sportswomen is available On Demand.
I watched Corrie last night for the first time in about 5 years. Not because I want to know the hot gossip in Weatherfield, but because Sport England were launching their new ad campaign "This Girl Can" during the episode. Its aim is to get more women exercising, especially women who are put off because they feel people are judging them while they work out.
The ad started with a defiant snap of a girl's bikini bottoms, then continued with women running, doing Zumba, spin classes, playing netball, football or swimming. Women of different shapes and sizes, some had cellulite, some were young, some were older, their make-up was smudgedand they were sweaty ... but they were laughing, getting into it, pushing themselves, having a great time and ultimately saying, "yes I might wobble but I don't care, so neither should you."
Two of the "real" women from the advert were guests on Sportswomen this week. Both Sam Mollaghan who's 44 and has three kids and 22 year old Grace Monksfield who's a student, were spotted exercising by Sport England and randomly picked to star in the ad. Watched by approximately 6 million people, they admitted they'd had to "dig deep" to pluck up the courage to take part. When Sam is running up a hill the words "I jiggle therefore I am" appear over her. It's brave, but somehow you're not thinking that when you're watching it. Instead you're thinking "isn't she fantastic."
The idea is that every woman should be able to look at the advert and relate to it. When I started back playing hockey after a break of eight years I was petrified, thinking people would be rolling their eyes at how unfit I was. In fact watching the ad reminded me of our team. We're not national league or anything but we love the sport and we're such a mixture of women. One of my team mates had her 50th last year and, despite being almost twenty years older than me, she's fitter.
Looking at the figures, it's clear something has to be done to change the mind-set of British women. Two million fewer women are playing sport compared to men in this country. But the point is, many of them say they want to be more active. Ten million pounds has been invested in this campaign and to answer those who think it would perhaps be better spent on facilities, Jenny Price the CEO of Sport England says: "We could build the best gym, the best sports club, the greatest running track in the world, but if you don't think you belong, it's not going to help you." She's right. You can build it but if their head isn't in the right place, they won't come.
This has been an incredibly significant week for women's golf. Just twelve months ago Charlie Hull, the teenager from Kettering, was named Rookie of the Year. This week she finished the season top of the European Tour order of Merit. It's an incredible feat for a woman of her age. At 18, she's the youngest golfer ever to do this, in fact the last British golfer to do it was Laura Davies in 2006. We spoke to Hull about her win and she was predictably blasé about it, saying she had had a great season but there was more to be done!
That was how we started the programme but a little later on, we included a report I shot last week. Now most times when I go out filming with a cameraman, we're by the side of a football pitch, a swimming pool, an athletics track or in a gym, but this week was very different, as we found ourselves in a science laboratory! We wanted to get behind the scenes of the England Netball squad as they prepared to face Malawi. Rachel Dunn who has more than 60 caps for her country also works as a genetic technologist for the NHS. We spoke to her about balancing her training with a rather intense job. She says it's a little bit like "Stars in your Eyes". She changes in the toilets at work and goes in dressed as a genetic technologist but then leaves in her England kit to go to training.
Well we can safely say that the weather has turned! But as we're all shivering here in Blightly, England cricket captain Charlotte Edwards is enjoying temperatures of almost 30 degrees in Perth, Australia. Edwards has moved "down under" for three months to play for club Western Fury in the Women's National Cricket League. She says the journey has been an important life experience for her as she prepares for next year's Ashes.
A little bit of disappointing news, Olympic gold medallist Lizzy Yarnold will miss the second World Cup race of the Skeleton season due to dizziness. She experienced symptoms in Lake Placid where she won gold at the opening race of the calendar. She released a statement saying "I felt dizzy at the end of the first run in Lake Placid but felt okay before the second run and knew that I could go for it, but in our sport where we are travelling at such high speeds, these things happen and we have to look after ourselves."
Today's programme was a reminder of why we do live television! An hour before we went to air we discovered that England Netball's opponents for the weekend had changed. That meant making some really last minute alterations to the programme and it was a bit tight for a while but all went smoothly on air and the viewers would have been none the wiser! England will face Wales now instead of Malawi on Sunday and the match will be live on Sky Sports 4.
That breaking news at the beginning of the programme got us off to a great start and it felt like the rest of the show flew by after that. We had reaction from England woman's football manager Mark Sampson to the revelation of their group for next year's World Cup in Canada. England now know they'll face Mexico, Colombia and France, who are ranked fourth in the world. To warm up England have friendlies against the world's top team America and they'll also host France before they meet them in the tournament.
Golfer Charley Hull has had an amazing year with seven top ten finishes and a win at the Lalla Meryem Cup, so it's no surprise that she's leading the European Order of Merit as she goes into the season finale Dubai masters. If she finishes top then she'll become the youngest player ever to lead the European Order of Merit and the first Brit to do so since Laura Davies in 2006. I spoke to her on the 'phone in her hotel room as she prepared for the last competition of the year.
We also chatted with Charlotte Dujardin who is the first and only British woman to hold all individual dressage titles at the same time. She won the Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Award a few weeks ago but couldn't collect it because she was in Australia! She has just returned and is preparing to take part in Olympia with her horse and partner Valegro. There were some lovely shots of her riding around London with the Met Police horses who she'll be participating with. Some of the officers from the Mounted section were a little in awe of the World Equestrian Champion and took some selfies with her!
I spent some time with one of our Sky Academy Scholars, Jessica Judd last week. She's building up to the junior European cross country championships in Bulgaria, but she has a very unusual way to motivate herself .... she's only 19 but her favourite music is 80's rock! In fact, thanks to her Dad, she listens to Bruce Springsteen "Born To Run" before she races. Her Dad used to play it around the house as she was growing up and now she can't get enough of it. She admits it's cheesy, but if it works ..... bring it on!
This week saw a momentous occasion for women's football. England played at Wembley for the first time ever and they did it against one of the best teams in the world. The result was incidental, in fact it wasn't even the headline of the story. They lost three -nil but England women did it in front of a record-breaking crowd of 45 thousand and they did it at Wembley.
Outside the national stadium it was pouring with rain, otherwise the full 55 thousand who had bought tickets would probably have come. But parents with their children swathed in the flag of St George, made their way up to the ground. For many it was a welcome friendly atmosphere and a chance to get a ticket for Wembley. I spoke to one girls football team who'd travelled from the West Midlands because, as their coach Jeff put it, "I want the girls to be inspired by those women."
We invited England midfielder Jordan Nobbs into the studio for Sportswomen. She had been so wired at kick off that immediately she dispossessed a German and took a shot on goal, forcing keeper Almuth Schult to tip the ball on to the bar. It might have been a different result if England had scored 10 seconds in.
We had post match reaction from manager Mark Sampson and many of the players. All said it had been a lesson to learn from before next year's world cup, all said they had felt incredible walking down that tunnel.
Staying with England, we spent some time with the hockey team as they packed before travelling to Argentina. The top eight countries in the world are competing in Mendoza in the Women's Champions Trophy. England's first game is on Saturday against Australia and it's particularly interesting because the last time the two sides met was in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games final. Australia took the gold so England will be looking for revenge. They also play Germany (I know, what are the odds?!) and they play the hosts Argentina. You can follow all the action live on Sky Sports. England against Australia on Saturday is live on Sky Sports 3 at seven thirty. On Sunday, it's Germany, then Argentina on December the second.
Finally, the week was a special one for another reason. The Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards were held at Sky Studios celebrating women in sport and their achievements. Charlotte Dujardin picked up the top award as she was crowned Sportswoman of the Year. Gymnast Claudia Fragapane said winning the Young Sportswoman of the Year award was the "icing on the cake" after a hugely successful year. And the World Cup winning Rugby squad were voted Team of the Year by the public. Katy McLean, Maggie Alphonsi, Emily Scarratt and Sarah Hunter collected the trophy on behalf of the team.
Late last week the whole Sportswomen team de-camped to Lords cricket ground for the day ... not to watch cricket, but for the first "Women in Sport" conference. Sports Minister Helen Grant, was the opening speaker and, throughout the day, high profile women in sport gave talks and took part in pannels. We heard from tennis coach and mother of Andy, Judy Murray who arrived on the back of a motorbike! (She was rushing away afterwards for "Strictly come Dancing", the programme she's currently starring in.) Judy spoke about the confidence some women lack when it comes to pushing yourself forward. Also speaking was former Wimbledon Champion, Marion Bartoli who thought Judy was a great example of how involved parents need to be when it comes to encouraging children to take part in sport at the critical age of 10 - 15.
And it was this point which came up again and again at the conference. Girls have such a high drop out rate from sport during their teenage years. Research conducted by Sport England found that 20% more boys than girls take part in sport at the age of 16. Because of this we invited Sport England CEO, Jennie Price onto the programme. She told us about the campaign they've launched called "This Girl Can" which is attempting to change the attitudes of girls who don't want to play sport. The problems she talked about we've already explored on Sportswomen: lack of self-confidence; not wanting to get sweaty or muscley and worried about what boys will think about them. Look out for Sport England's campaign on billboards and on your tv's soon.
Also on the programme we spoke to England fullback Mike Brown who's preparing for the Autumn Internationals. He says the secret to his explosive speed is his sprint coach Margot Wells, she's Allan Well's wife (yes, the Scot who won gold in the 100 metres at the 1980 Olympics). Margot has trained people to go faster for more than 30 years, she's an amazing women and looking at the way Mike Brown has progressed, she's obviously incredibly talented.
Rowing champion Helen Glover took some time out of training to tell us some of her favouite moments in sport and why she likes rap! Both Helen and her partner Heather Stanning are in contention for the Team of the Year Vote for this year's Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards. They're among the England cricket team, Rugby team and four by 100 metre relay team. You can vote at skysports.com/sportswomenteamvote. Voting closes at midday on November the 11th.
This week was pretty exciting for the Sportswomen team because we were invited to 10 Downing Street to interview the Prime Minister. We wanted to ask David Cameron about his vision for women in sport in Britain. The executive producer, Anna Edwards and myself met outside the massive gates at the end of the street, I almost didn't recognise her out of her jeans and in a dress! We had to take all of our equipment though security, which is similar to a scanner at the airport, and then the police ushered us towards that famous patch of pavement that you always see on the television. We were met by the press officer and taken through that big black door.
On the inside, number 10 is massive, it's like a tardis. We had to leave our 'phones at the entrance, otherwise I'd have taken pictures to show you. We were led into a room which we were told used to be Winston Churchill's bedroom and that's where we set up to interview the Prime Minister. When he came in, we went straight into it. I asked David Cameron about a cross-party report published by The Culture, Media and Sport committee in July which outlined the challenges facing women's sport. It highlighted a drop in participation rates especially amongst teenage girls. The Prime Minister told us he believes funding for primary school P.E is key to the future growth of women's sport. If you want to hear more, the full interview is on our website.
The shortlists for the Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards are out! There are six contenders for the main award and they are: Lizzie Yarnold who won Skeleton Olympic Gold in Sochi. Also shortlisted is Charlotte Dujardin who dominated the dressage world this year winning two individual gold medals and a team silver at last month's World Equestrian Games in France. Swimmer Fran Halsall who won Commonwealth Games gold in the 50 metre butterfly and 50 metre freestyle. She added three golds at the European Championships in Berlin. Squash and Laura Massaro came through a dramatic World Championships final to become England's first female world champion in the sport for 15 years. Jo Pavey became the oldest woman to win gold at the European Championships when she won the ten thousand metres. That came, ten days after the mother of two won Commonwealth Games bronze in the five thousand metres. Cycling and Joanna Rowsell became a two-time world champion at the UCI world track championships in Colombia. She followed this up with Gold in Glasgow in the Individual pursuit. The Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards ceremony will be live on Sky Sports on the November 19th.
We started the programme with some breaking news this week. World tennis number one, Serena Williams and her sister Venus had been referred to as the "Williams brothers" by the Russian Tennis Federation President while he was on a tv chat show.
There was obviously great outrage from the tennis world, which we felt we had to reflect, so the order of the programme was quickly altered. Those comments led to Shamil Tarpischev being banned for a year and fined fifteen and a half thousand pounds by the World Tennis Association. Serena Williams told us what he had said was "sexist, racist and bullying" and she said she welcomed the fast action by the WTA.
On a lighter note, our guest in the studio was Olympic gold medallist Anna Watkins. She came rushing into our building like a breath of fresh air. Anna has that glow about her... mainly because she's five months pregnant with her second child! That small detail means she won't be trying to defend her title at Rio 2016. However, her partner from London 2012 Katherine Grainger, who had hung up her oars, has decided that retirement is not for her. After a two year break, Katherine is back on the water and she will attempt to get to the next Olympics. I spent the day filming her train and speaking to her about her reasons for going back to rowing. When Rio comes around Katherine will be 40 years old but she's in such good shape that all the physios say that's not a problem.
It's been a great year for Lizzie Armitstead, claiming the World Cup and Commonwealth titles. But the Olympic silver medallist told our programme that cycling's world governing body need to do more for female road cyclists. She says she wants the introduction of a minimum wage and the UCI to put pressure on professional men's teams to include women's squads.
Sticking with cycling we also caught up with the lovely Laura Trott. She's always so bubbly and smiley, a joy to interview. She told us that, despite being a double Olympic gold medallist, she's sometimes quite lazy! However nobody at Sportswomen believes her!
Just to remind you, The Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards are less than a month away. This Sunday the shortlists will be revealed in five of the seven award categories. You can keep across the latest on Sky Sports News HQ and online. The awards will be live on Sky Sports 1 on November 19.
This week our Executive Producer Anna Edwards was off cycling 500 miles for charity so Deputy Producer Cheryl Hockey was at the helm and it was a really busy one for her!
It had been an incredibly exciting end to the Women's Super League over the weekend. On Sunday morning Chelsea were top of the table by two points with Birmingham City second, then Liverpool in third place. However, by the end of the day Chelsea had lost their match, Birmingham City drew theirs, but Liverpool won, giving them the title on goal difference! We spoke to Liverpool Ladies manager Matt Beard about those phenominal few hours on Sunday ... he held the trophie proudly the whole time.
Most athletes will tell you that a big part of their job is travelling all over the world for competitions, which can get you down. So, when world squash champion Laura Massaro is at home in Chorley, she makes sure she's surrounded by her home conforts! Her husband is her coach and her Mum works in the cafe of the sports club where Laura trains. She spoke to us about winning the world title and her hopes for the future.
Over the course of last week I spent a lot of time with 22 year old Monique Newton. During her young life Monique has already survived cancer, gone through depression and even attempted suicide. But she decided to turn her life around with the help of the Priory hospital and with sport. Monique is now the three-time world champion powerlifter. It's not a sport you would associate with her... she's 5ft4 and seven and half stone! Despite that, Monique can lift three times her body weight! At the gym where she trains, she can lift more than some of the muscley men, it's amazing to watch.
Nominations for this year's Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards have now closed. THe judging panel will now meet to draw up a short list from the nominees. You can keep across the latest at our website and on Sky Sports News HQ. The awards will be live on Sky Sports on November 19th.
The programme comes around so quickly each week! We start planning and booking guests on Wednesday; then we try to film and edit our reports on Thursday and Friday; we have the weekend off (which meant watching the Ryder Cup on this occasion!) and before you know it, it's Monday and then it's show day again.
As it happens we were very fortunate with our forward planning. Our guest was netball legend Tracey Neville who has 81 caps for England, led Manchester Thunder to victory in the Super League Grand final last season and I think her two brothers had something to do with Manchester United Football Club?! Anyway, we had some breaking news during the programme concerning netball so Tracey was able to offer her insight.
England captain Pamela Cookey, who we had on the programme two weeks ago, has left Team Bath and signed for Surrey Storm. Their first match in the new season is against Manchester Thunder, so Tracey will see for herself how much of a contribution Pamela will make to Surrey.
On the programme we also broadcast a feature with boxer Nicola Adams. We've seen her talk about boxing so often, but this interview was different. The world's first female boxing Olympic champion told us about her best friend in sport, what she'd do if she wasn't a boxer and that she's addicted to computer games... perhaps why Nicola's reactions are so fast!
One of the best stories of the day was the first female to be appointed to the RFU's national panel of referees. We filmed Claire Hodnett refereeing Leicester Lions against Luctonians. It was incredibly impressive watching her keep 30 men in order, although Claire is a solicitor by day, so she'll be used to that! It was obvious how well respected she is within the game, hopefully we'll be seeing her at Premiership matches in the next few years.
We also covered all the latest news and results in women's sports, to find out more go to our website. You can also nominate your Sportswomen of the Year on the website. There are seven categories and you have until midday on October 14th to nominate.
There was a different feel to Sportswomen this week, mostly because we're saying goodbye to one of our producers Michael Weightman (yes we do have men working on the programme!). He's moving to another department but this was his last Sportswomen and we'll miss his male input. He helped organise interviews with two big stars for the programme today. Firstly, dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin. Since the London Olympics she has simply got better and better. She now holds all three world records in dressage, but she spoke to Sportswomen about what she does when she's not riding her horse, Valegro.
And secondly, paraswimmer Ellie Simmonds who we keep forgetting is just nineteen years old because she's done so much in her swimming career. Since those two gold medals in Beijing which propelled her into the spotlight at the age of only thirteen she's become a four-time Paralympic Champion and currently has ten world records to her name. I spoke to her just after the European Championships in Eindhoven and she showed me the three golds and two silvers that she won over there. After Arsenal head coach Shelley Kerr left the club to manage men's team Stirling University in the Lowland League, Spanish coach Pedro Martinez Losa took over. But that left Emma Hayes at Chelsea as the only female manager in the top tier of English women's football. We spoke to England football assistant coach Marieanne Spacey about the FA's approach to attracting more women into coaching. At level one, almost 10 percent of the three hundred and four thousand coaches qualified are women but at level two, that percentage drops to 5.9%. We also looked at coaching at a grass roots level and spoke to several female coaches at a juniors match in Weston Super Mare.
So often on our programme we speak to athletes who have to balance training with their job but this week we spent time with two teenagers who have 82 international caps between them but still have to manage their school work with cricket duty. Elena Tice and Lucy O'Reilly are still at secondary school and play cricket for Ireland, but they're not the youngest in the squad, that title falls to Gaby Lewis who's just thirteen years old.
One of the wealthiest female athletes in the world retired this week. China's Li Na has had three operations on her knee and decided her body couldn't take any more. She was the first Asian-born tennis player to win a Tennis Grand Slam singles title at the French Open in 2011. She earned almost eleven million pounds from endorsements in 2014 alone. Only Maria Sharapova banked more.
And British golden girl Paula Radcliffe returned to racing this week for the first time since April 2012. Unbeknownst to Paula, she had been running with a stress fracture in her left foot for years. She's recovered from surgery and hopes to compete in next year's London Marathon. If you want to watch the latest episode of Sportswomen you can download the podcast at www.skysports.com/podcast or via itunes. And you can keep across all the latest women's sports stories at www.skysports.com/sportswomen. Don't forget, you can also use the website to vote for your Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year.
I was very excited about the programme this morning as we had two incredibly accomplished guests on Sportswomen. Rugby World cup winner Maggie Alphonsi and England Netball captain Pamela Cookey were in our studio. Maggie had just announced her retirement from international rugby but was telling us about her plans for a new challenge in another sport. Pamela on the other hand, was still recovering from a torn achilles tendon and had missed out on captaining her country at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Despite her disappointments she's such a bubbly and upbeat person and we can't wait to see her back on Sky Sports playing for Team Bath in the Netball Superleague next year.
We started the day having to re-organise the order of the programme. A few stories had broken and we had to prepare to report them and also brief the guests so they were able to comment. One of the main talking points today was the vote in Scotland - no, not the one on independence - the one on golf. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club has recommended that their 2400 male contingent should vote to accept women as members for the first time in its 260 year existence. They'll discover the outcome on Thursday (the same day as the referendum!).
The other big sports story we discussed was the Bogota Humana women's cycling kit. It doesn't seem that interesting... until you see it! The team appear to look naked from the waist down and it has caused an outrage on social media.
We had not one but two world champions on our programme. Last year's Sportswomen of the year Christine Ohuruogu spoke to us about her sporting heroes and rivals on the day that the online public nomination process opened for this year's SundayTimes and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards. The categories include: Sportswoman of the Year, Young Sportswoman of the Year, Disability Sports Person of the Year, Team of the Year, Community Award, Lifetime Achievement Award and the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration. You can nominate here. Nominations close at midday on October 14th and the ceremony will be live on Sky Sports on November 19th.
The whole Sportswomen team were up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday to prepare for the return of the programme. I start my day with a coffee, check my scripts and read the papers before heading into make-up to get ready. I go over last minute updates with my Producer before starting rehearsals.
This week's programme was the first in the new series and it was our debut in the brand new studios at Sky Sports News HQ, so there was a lot to look forward to. Our studio guest this week was Heather Knight (pictured above), the England women's cricket vice-captain. We've spoken to Heather on the programme in the past so we already knew she would be a natural in front of the camera. Heather came to us fresh off the back of England's 3-0 Twenty20 whitewash over South Africa at the weekend so we had loads to talk about. She was quite badly injured last year when she tore her hamstring, which meant bowling at medium pace wasn't an option. She told me how she totally changed her bowling style - showing what a dedicated athlete she is.
One of the top news stories this week was Serena Williams beating Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets in New York to win the US Open. The win elevated her to the same status as Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 Grand Slam titles. Sportswomen caught up with Serena who gave us some very revealing answers for a fun new feature.
Sportswomen also had a rare live interview with one of the most powerful women in world football, Moya Dodd. She is a FIFA executive committee member and told us what she thought of Sepp Blatter's comments last month when he said football was "very macho".
We also looked back at a great summer of success for women in sport Then there was the result of the Sportswoman of the Month vote and all the latest news. It looks set to be an exciting series ahead on Sportswomen. Tune in live every Tuesday on Sky Sports News HD at 11.30am or join us every week on Sky Living at 10am, and get involved involved @SkySportsNewsHQ #Sportswomen.