Friday, August 1, 2014

Ireland starts the Women's Rugby World Cup

Determination ... PIC Irish Rugby

The Women's Rugby World Cup starts today in France, with my home team Ireland taking on America this afternoon.
I was excited to see some great stories in the newspapers this morning. This one by Gavin Cummiskey is my favourite, closes with some stirring sports-style lines. Writing about the two longest-serving players Fiona Coughlan and Lynn Cantwell he says:

"Here also begins the final campaign for the Thelma and Louise of Irish rugby (although Cantwell has postponed her retirement).

Already they have inspired a generation of female rugby players. Here represents the last stand for the first group to have achieved such hero status.

So begins a daunting task but they’ve never known it any other way.

Sevens can wait

Indeed it can. You can follow the matches here with full results updated daily.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What do you think about charity races?

Lindsey Gibbons, Grainne McManomon and Tara Dillon at Colour Dash 2014, Dublin
Sometimes a serious day out fundraising for charity can just be about having fun with your trainers on. These three women were among thousands running a brisk 5km in Dublin at the weekend for the Irish Cancer Society. Every kilometre saw them covered in coloured power-paint representing different cancers. 

The first runners home were mostly teenagers - something which warmed my cynical heart. You hear so much about kids and TV or X-box, it made for an inspiring start to the morning to see these kids sprinting for the finish. 

Sixteen year old Lauren Fowler came in joint third and wasn't even out of puff.  Hands on multi-coloured hips, she said: 'I'm here for the fun, it was a great race. Fun you know.' And only when asked, she added: 'My granddad had cancer before, he's recovered now though, he's doing good.' 

I've posted before about how many women seem to need the push of a charity fundraiser to get out and run. It's a curious phenonomen, somehow I'm sure linked to how women are pushed away from sport, made to feel it's not their space but it's OK if there is a nurturing element to it? Maybe I'm over-thinking?

Maybe it doesn't matter as long as you're running? Or walking, a few hundred people at the back walked the whole route, getting out there the best they could. You never know, this could be the first step of their healthy running journey; one family had been training with their kids using the Couch to 5km app, and are planning to run the whole thing next year.

It seemed as if more than half of the runners were female. I spotted quite a few young Dads on the sidelines with their kids while their wife or girlfriend ran the race. 

At least with this race the organisers pledged 100% of the entry fee goes to charity, everything including the paint was donated. And if that's what it takes to get people off the couch, that's what it takes? 

What about you? Do you need to fund-raise, does it make a difference to your training?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Judoka Lisa Kearney medals in Glasgow

Lisa Kearney in action Glasgow Commonwealth Games PIC Kearney's FB
Lisa Kearney, Ireland's first female Olympic judoka was in action this week again - taking home a bronze medal from the Commonwealth Games. 

Some great photos on her Facebook page and knocking around elsewhere that I thought I'd share. You have to love the determination in this one below, I wouldn't care to be lining up against her. 

Receiving her Bronze  PIC https://www.facebook.com/kearneyjudo 
If you're a judo fan, you can follow Kearney here on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/kearneyjudo

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In defence of MMA and other nasty sports

For fight fans in Ireland, this week should have been the celebration of a UFC promotion but instead there's been an unedifying spat between fans and a radio station.

http://www.thescore.ie/cathal-pendred-dana-white-ufc-1580598-Jul2014/
MMA's Cathal Pendred - clearly not female, read on to see why he's here/IMAGE: Rodrigo Romos/INPHO via Score.ie

As a former fighter, it's hard for me to accept some people just don’t understand the ecstasy of winning an organised sporting fight. For them there’s no difference between smashing a beer bottle on someone’s head and winning a title belt. It’s all violence innit?

We do need to talk about risks in sport - concussion in rugby or NFL, ‘handbags’ in GAA** or uneven match-ups in combat sports.

However, on Monday when victorious MMA fighter Cathal Pendred went on national radio at TodayFM, he was clearly expecting a fun interview. He’d won the biggest fight of his career at UFC Fight Night Dublin, and in Ireland we love sporting success. Usually.

Pendred was struggling financially before the fight, a fight he almost lost. But he found what Thai trainers call ‘Jai Suu’ or fighting heart. He battled back. Job done. Bills paid. Great story. 

The interview started with Pendred explaining his relatively unknown sport. Then presenter Ray D'Arcy talked about 'unbridled violence' and there was this: 

“You're a bright guy. How do you feel about people paying money, rich people sponsoring the sport etc, to watch you and another man fight to the point of, not injury but you’ve got a black eye and your nose looks like you fell off a bike at speed.”

There’s the germ of a serious social discussion here - so many boxers are from difficult backgrounds and fighting is their escape. Is that right? I’ve seen too many Thai fighters change their lives in the ring to say it’s not. Are they often exploited because of their lack of education? Yes. Should we talk about this? Yes, definitely.

That wasn't the aim here. Pendred handled it very well, even cracking jokes when one listener recommended an MMA book to D'Arcy. There were no fireworks.

Unfortunately the online reaction hasn’t been restrained or respectful. Some keyboard warriors have played right into the manic stereotypes with derogatory (even defamatory) comments about the presenter.

I was saddened by the interview to be honest.

In Ireland rugby, GAA and soccer dominate sports pages and programmes. Golf has had a look in this week thanks to Rory McElroy, but in general it’s all about the conformity of the team.

This was a chance to celebrate an Irish victory on the national airwaves. And in a country facing rising rates of obesity and alcoholism, this was a chance to celebrate a sporting role model. A chance missed.

The only silver lining was how other media outlets jumped on the controversy (like I'm doing) and offered more air to fighters like Pendred and stablemate Conor McGregor. 

LISTEN to the interview here, it starts at about 36 mins in.

** for American readers - that's when two teams whale on each other instead of the ball! All in good fun apparently...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

American Kacy Catanzaro shows us what a female Ninja can do

There are many inspiring sports videos on this site, but you really need to watch this woman. Former gymnast Kacy Catanzaro doing her thing in TV show American Ninja Warrior will make your shoulders ache. Ok, very cheesy show-name but just wait till she gets onto the rings - incredible upper-body strength.

Enjoy! (and be warned you will want to get off-line right away!)



Kacy Catanzaro at the 2014 Dallas Finals... by e-mob

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: A History of Women's Boxing


Have you ever wondered about the women who came before you, the women who fought and pushed the boundaries of women’s fighting to make space for you? 

American Malissa Smith has, and she’s now answered many of our questions in a fascinating new book ‘A History of Women’s Boxing.’

You may know Smith from her blog “Girlboxing” which chronicles her training at the famous Gleason’s Gym in New York City. She is exactly the sort of woman to make you realise how special boxing is – a fan who boxes and brings the academic training which drove her MA thesis: “Boundaries in Motion: women’s boxing”.
This detailed and engrossing book describes exhibition bouts and demonstrations around the globe from the 1720s onwards, even adding in the clothes worn by figure like Barbara Buttrick as they fought inside and outside the ring,
Starting with English fighter Elizabeth Stokes from the Amazonian era in the 1720s, each chapter picks out the progress and the set-backs on the road to London 2012. 

I loved the chapter on Barbara Buttrick ‘The Mighty Atom of the Ring’ – the Englishwoman fought in the 1940s. Smith has found fascinating detail on the exhibition bouts and demonstrations she put on in her battle for recognition. I was privileged to hear Buttrick speak at the opening day of the women’s fights at the London Olympics 2012. 

By the time of Christy Martin in the 1990s, women were tentatively allowed inside the ropes but still nottaken seriously. Smith draws readers along the path from Toughwoman contests to the epic battle between Martin and Irishwoman Deirdre Gogarty in 1996.

Gogarty has since written her own book, but that fight was probably the first time the sports world acknowledge that women’s boxing was here to stay. I met Gogarty on a recent trip back to Ireland – she lives in America – and she still remembers every blow.

Smith describes the fight as “an exponential leap into the stratosphere for women’s boxing”.

The final chapter is dedicated to amateur boxers – the Golden Gloves contest in America and of course, the Olympics with a nod towards professional MMA fighters as a new genre. 

Smith deftly shows how the lack of official support from AIBA and other groups meant that while women fought a demo bout in the 1904 St Louis Olympics, it was 98 years before Irishwoman Katie Taylor, Indian Mary Kom and others got their chance in London.

Boxer and author Malissa Smith
Smith says the book came from “my love of the sport and the women I have come to know who perfect their craft of boxing from the wee hours of the morning before work till late at night.” Smith's passion shines through every detailed chapter - for anyone with even a passing interest in women’s fighting, this book is an essential

You can order the book here: ahistoryofwomensboxing.com/ 

Or for further information contact: 

Twitter: @ahistoryofwomen and @girlboxingnow
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ahistoryofwomensboxing
Smith's own blog is here           http://girlboxing.org




*Updated on July 16th to note Smith's MA rather than PhD as originally stated.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Newsha Tavakolian’s “To Be Twenty in Iran,” 2010. Polaris

(Not quite wordless:
New York Times article on May 30th says: "The artist Carlos Rol√≥n, better known as Dzine, has long been a boxing fan, if not a practitioner. “My father took me for boxing lessons when I was 13,” he says. “I was more scared then excited. I developed a hernia.” The injury didn’t dampen his passion, which has led him to produce “Boxed: A Visual History and the Art of Boxing,” an image-driven compendium of the sport, from the Grecian Olympiads to bare-knuckle fighting to today’s megabucks stadium battles." Link is Here)


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