Christopher York   |   August 11, 2016    6:45 AM ET

Read More: uk news, UK Sport, tennis


Police are investigating the possibility a British tennis player was deliberately poisoned during last month’s Wimbledon Championships.


Gabriella Taylor, 18, was forced to withdraw midway through the girl’s quarter-finals and spent four days in intensive care “close to death”.


It was initially thought she had contracted a virus while playing overseas but was eventually diagnosed with a virus that can be transmitted through rat urine called Leptospirois









Police have launched a criminal investigation into whether or not she was deliberately poisoned, possibly by an organised betting syndicate or a rival player or coach, reports the Telegraph.

Taylor’s mother, Milena, said her daughter was staying “in a completely healthy environment” and it was “impossible” for her to have become ill.

“The bacteria the infection team found is so rare in Britain that we feel this could not have been an accident,” she told the Telegraph.

“Her bags with her drinks in were often left unattended in the players’ lounge and someone could have taken the opportunity to contaminate her drink.”

No arrests have been made, reports the Press Association.

“The allegation was received by officers on August 5 with the incident alleged to have taken place at an address in Wimbledon between July 1-10. The victim was taken ill on July 6. It is unknown where or when the poison was ingested,” a police spokesman said. 

“The victim, an 18-year-old woman, received hospital treatment and is still recovering.”

But the young player appears to be on the road to recovery.

On Wednesday she tweeted:

 

Sarah Harris1   |   August 5, 2016   10:57 AM ET

Our best and brightest sporting stars are gearing up for the Rio 2016 Olympics - but Andy Murray hasn’t quite kicked things off as we’d hoped.

The Wimbledon champion has been chosen as the flag-bearer for Team GB, an honour previously bestowed upon the likes of Steve Redgrave, Chris Hoy and Matthew Pinsent.

But during a photoshoot, Murray didn’t quite appear to have full control of the flag.

At one point it even looked like Princess Anne might even get a smack in the face from the standard.

But the royal took his fumbling in good humour and appeared to poke fun at the tennis star, bobbing out of site behind the flag and pulling faces.

The official Royal Family Twitter account also poked fun at the tennis champ:

 Poor old Andy, even his own mother had a dig at him:

Murray, who won a gold medal at London 2012 in the men’s singles, will carry the flag for Great Britain in Friday night’s opening ceremony.

According to the BBC, he said of the position: “To lead out Team GB will be an incredible honour, the biggest in sport.”

He said that he had “great memories” of the London 2012 games, adding: “The privilege of being the flag bearer is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life and will certainly be one of the highlights of my career.”

Just maybe have a little practice with the flag before Friday evening, eh Andy?

Murray will face Serbia’s Victor Troicki in his first Olympic singles match on Sunday.

He is also competing alongside his brother Jamie in the men’s doubles event.

Serena Williams Is My Hero!

Martyn Stewart   |   July 11, 2016   11:21 AM ET

Perception is everything.

First of all, don't jump on me for not using the word 'heroine' in the title. I know some will, but playing the politically correct game of appeasement by referencing Serena's gender is missing the point. An argument pitting men and women against each other in a battle for equality and respect is not what this is about.

2016-07-11-1468231914-9542814-Serena.jpg


If I have to identify your race, gender, social class, physical characteristics or public perception in order to make my intended point poignantly enough, (or for people to take notice), then the equality you seek is still way off - and the use of 'appropriate adjectives' aren't going to swing the balance.

However, perception is everything.

A hero is defined in many ways, such as 'aiding the lives of others through selfless accomplishments or overcoming adversity linked to bravery, skill or strength.' Historically, hero depictions tended to be literary works describing feats of real, or imaginary, male characters embodying all, or part, of this description. We all know that most people mentally process information in a way that suits them.

However, I'm not responsible for the decisions of those who choose to typecast men in the role of hero; nor the cognitive priming that exists within the entertainment and media portrayals which habitually exploit this trend today without conscious thought.

But, perception is everything.

I obviously have opinions on gender, race-relations, politics and social class but so do the seven billion others on the planet. The socially sensitive topics of conversation in 2016, dominated by US presidential campaigns, police brutality and EU referendums has opinions running wild on the tips of tongues worldwide; however, that's a market I don't want to trade in.

Opinions are often an abomination of misinterpreted or misguided social constructions masquerading in the minds of individuals as fact.

However, perception is everything

Sometimes, sports can give us a welcome escape. Serena Williams has just become arguably the greatest athlete in her world-renowned discipline. Not just in opinion but in facts. Yet the global recognition in comparison has been lacking parity based on this objective measure.

I shouldn't have to say my hero is a black, female, working class, physically impressive individual, who overcame tragedy and adversity, yet divides public perception, for it to resonate or have gravitas. I didn't write this to engage any argumentative back and forth, I wrote it for Serena. In the hope, that amongst the divided public opinion she might see, objectively, what she has done.

My hero overcame obstacles impeding the path. Many didn't want that hero to succeed or reach the pinnacle, often casting them as the villain. Three times prior, they fell when the opportunity presented itself. Some laughed. Analysts correctly highlighted that the unstoppable force of time is the hero's enemy. Yet still, they were undeterred.

I can only speculate what the response would have been if the hero had faltered again. Regardless, they would have remained inspirational to me. Not everybody is aware that the hero doesn't always have to 'win' in the objective manner. Many of my heroes didn't win. When obstacles include rejection, socio-psychological inhibitions, self-doubt and marginalisation amongst other things, 'winning' takes on many forms; such as just 'being there' when the reverberating undercurrent suggests that you're not 'entitled' to.

But, perception is everything.

I would be lying if I said my personal characteristics, experiences and opinions that make me identify with Serena, aren't influential. No doubt the additional understanding from my own background adds depth to this hero depiction. However, that story is for another day. Our perceptions, as fallible men and women, can lie but numbers don't. 22 and counting. Even without my technicoloured insight of identification; today, this achievement should make Serena everybody's hero. But she isn't.

Nevertheless, Serena's objective achievement, free from my biased perspective, has positively, (and productively), energised my educational and psychological teachings for a very long time - especially today. She has fulfilled the criteria for hero in my mind. Her achievements have enriched the lives of others and she should enjoy this moment. Most heroes don't even know they are such. They're just 'normal' people doing things that are 'normal' to them. Others just perceive them to be heroic, most of the time when the hero didn't ask for it. That is where much of the burden comes for them. However, their continuation in the face of this is what provides us with hope...

But then again, perception is everything!

Louise Ridley   |   July 9, 2016    3:13 PM ET

Serena Williams has soared into the record books by winning the Wimbledon women’s singles final, equalling the record for the most grand slams ever won by one player.

Williams beat Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the final. It makes her total 22 Grand Slams, matching the record held by held by German player Steffi Graf.

This is Williams’ seventh Wimbledon title. She won the first set 7-5 and the second 6-3.

Meanwhile the men’s wheelchair doubles finals were won by a British duo for the very first time.

The pictures below capture the dramatic Williams vs Kerber match - as well as celebrities including David Attenborough and Beyonce in the audience.

Sarah Harris1   |   July 9, 2016    2:44 PM ET

Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett have become the first Brits to win the men’s wheelchair doubles title at Wimbledon.

The pair beat the top seeds, France’s Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer 4-6 6-1 7-6 (8-6), the BBC reported.

Reid will also play in the inaugural men’s wheelchair singles final on Sunday.

Wheelchair doubles has been played at the tournament in SW19 for a decade but it was only this year that a singles competition was introduced.

A number of sportspeople tweeted their admiration for the winners...

 

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon also tweeted her congratulations:

Many others on Twitter also celebrated the win and described the pair as inspirational...

Tennis fans will be hoping for another British victory on Sunday as Andy Murray faces Canadian Milos Raonic in the men’s singles final on Centre Court.

Murray beat the Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych on Friday, while Raonic saw off Switzerland’s Roger Federer in a tense match.

On Saturday the women’s finals also saw Serena Williams beat Angelique Kerber to gain a seventh women’s singles win.

The US star beat her German opponent 7-5, 6-3.

The Data Game

Nicholas Shaw   |   July 8, 2016   11:39 AM ET

Like most kids, I spent many a day dream winning trophies and representing my country on various sporting battlefields. Like most adults, I spend many an hour shouting at or cheering on the men and women who actually made those dreams a reality.

Over a long career of sporting fandom, I've noticed, it really isn't like the old days. With science, data and professionalism - sport has moved from art and instinct to a quantifiable and calculable formula. Whilst the fairy dust of talent and the dog work of grit does still grace every sport, science, rigour and above all measurement is shaping athletes and helping them to gain that competitive edge.

If you've seen the film Moneyball, or read the book, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Moneyball documented how the unfashionable, impoverished and unsuccessful Oakland Athletics baseball team managed to win 20 consecutive games with an unorthodox analytics-based approach to selecting players.

Sports and athlete data is improving performance and proving to be a competitive advantage. It's keeping athletes healthier for longer, contributing to numerous innovations in equipment, environments and safety, and it's become a vital part of media content, distribution and fan engagement. Desk side chats about the weekend's rugby just wouldn't be the same without the break down in meters carried, tackles made, which makes my punditry look far more informed than I deserve.

This season I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at rugby team, London Irish's grounds in Reading. Speaking with the team there gave a real insight into how data in sport is evolving. The data collected is a mix of qualitative self-assessment from the players, considering sleep, muscle soreness, stress levels and a general wellness score. This is combined with objective data taken directly from each player's GPS unit, in-game and training performance. The objective analytic data is combined with the subjective self-assessments to create what is known as an RPE figure - a rate of perceived exertion. If the players are running more and their RPE is going down, the training is going well and they're getting fitter. A reverse score can suggest long-term fatigue or overtraining.

But the impact doesn't stop at the sport itself, it's also opening up new revenue streams and growing the sports betting industry at a rapid rate. As data makes its way into the profit and loss columns of sports business balance sheets attitudes to data protection and management are becoming more grown up too.

Earlier this year the International Tennis Federation (ITF), signed a $70 million deal with data company Sportradar to give exclusive access to real-time scores and statistics. For the ITF, theft or loss of that data would represent a huge risk to one of their most significant revenue streams, and thus the future of Tennis' governing body.

When it comes to performance data, the tracking of this for competitive advantage raises the thorny issue of cheating. If data really is the difference between victory and defeat, then knowing your enemy could be incredibly valuable. The secrecy we see already in Formula One around the designs of cars and the information gathered from the sensors about design performance and driver behaviour could become the standard.

If somehow gleaning data on your opposition could help you plan a strategy to overcome them, protecting that becomes vital. However where we're more likely to see impact is in contracts. If you're trying to sell a player, or if a sports person is trying to negotiate a new contract, information on their performance, propensity to injury and even predictions on future performance will affect their value and how those negotiations play out.

Like any other business, the data within the sports industry could be exposed to hacking risks. Last year Tour de France cyclist Chris Frome was subject to a data hack. Personal performance data of a ride that was central to his victory in the Tour that year was stolen and began to appear on social networks in an effort to discredit him, suggesting he had been doping to achieve that level of performance. But it's not only archive data that is vulnerable.

Most athletes wear some kind of wearable technology and research from the Symantec Threat Intelligence team has found that these devices have multiple security risks. With a cheaply built Bluetooth scanners our intelligence team was able to sit at the end of a park run race and 'sniff up' the data from wearables worn by amateur runners. The over the air communications between wearables / GPS units and smartphone apps or servers processing and storing information can often be a weak point. This connection can provide access to logins and security credentials and also allow for hackers to force commands through to the server for execution - exposing the potential for a major security breach.

With more and more sensitive athlete data gathered and revenue streams at risk, sporting organisations could be exposed to the kind of hacks we're seeing across all manner of different companies. However in sport there's a tension between the desire to expose this information in the name of fan engagement and entertainment, and a desire to keep things secretive. In the future timing and access will be everything and I for one can't wait to see how it plays out.

The Data Game

Nicholas Shaw   |   July 7, 2016   11:32 AM ET

Like most kids, I spent many a day dream winning trophies and representing my country on various sporting battlefields. Like most adults, I spend many an hour shouting at or cheering on the men and women who actually made those dreams a reality.

Over a long career of sporting fandom, I've noticed, it really isn't like the old days. With science, data and professionalism - sport has moved from art and instinct to a quantifiable and calculable formula. Whilst the fairy dust of talent and the dog work of grit does still grace every sport, science, rigour and above all measurement is shaping athletes and helping them to gain that competitive edge.

If you've seen the film Moneyball, or read the book, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Moneyball documented how the unfashionable, impoverished and unsuccessful Oakland Athletics baseball team managed to win 20 consecutive games with an unorthodox analytics-based approach to selecting players.

Sports and athlete data is improving performance and proving to be a competitive advantage. It's keeping athletes healthier for longer, contributing to numerous innovations in equipment, environments and safety, and it's become a vital part of media content, distribution and fan engagement. Desk side chats about the weekend's rugby just wouldn't be the same without the break down in meters carried, tackles made, which makes my punditry look far more informed than I deserve.

This season I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at rugby team, London Irish's grounds in Reading. Speaking with the team there gave a real insight into how data in sport is evolving. The data collected is a mix of qualitative self-assessment from the players, considering sleep, muscle soreness, stress levels and a general wellness score. This is combined with objective data taken directly from each player's GPS unit, in-game and training performance. The objective analytic data is combined with the subjective self-assessments to create what is known as an RPE figure - a rate of perceived exertion. If the players are running more and their RPE is going down, the training is going well and they're getting fitter. A reverse score can suggest long-term fatigue or overtraining.

But the impact doesn't stop at the sport itself, it's also opening up new revenue streams and growing the sports betting industry at a rapid rate. As data makes its way into the profit and loss columns of sports business balance sheets attitudes to data protection and management are becoming more grown up too.

Earlier this year the International Tennis Federation (ITF), signed a $70 million deal with data company Sportradar to give exclusive access to real-time scores and statistics. For the ITF, theft or loss of that data would represent a huge risk to one of their most significant revenue streams, and thus the future of Tennis' governing body.

When it comes to performance data, the tracking of this for competitive advantage raises the thorny issue of cheating. If data really is the difference between victory and defeat, then knowing your enemy could be incredibly valuable. The secrecy we see already in Formula One around the designs of cars and the information gathered from the sensors about design performance and driver behaviour could become the standard.

If somehow gleaning data on your opposition could help you plan a strategy to overcome them, protecting that becomes vital. However where we're more likely to see impact is in contracts. If you're trying to sell a player, or if a sports person is trying to negotiate a new contract, information on their performance, propensity to injury and even predictions on future performance will affect their value and how those negotiations play out.

Like any other business, the data within the sports industry could be exposed to hacking risks. Last year Tour de France cyclist Chris Frome was subject to a data hack. Personal performance data of a ride that was central to his victory in the Tour that year was stolen and began to appear on social networks in an effort to discredit him, suggesting he had been doping to achieve that level of performance. But it's not only archive data that is vulnerable.

Most athletes wear some kind of wearable technology and research from the Symantec Threat Intelligence team has found that these devices have multiple security risks. With a cheaply built Bluetooth scanners our intelligence team was able to sit at the end of a park run race and 'sniff up' the data from wearables worn by amateur runners. The over the air communications between wearables / GPS units and smartphone apps or servers processing and storing information can often be a weak point. This connection can provide access to logins and security credentials and also allow for hackers to force commands through to the server for execution - exposing the potential for a major security breach.

With more and more sensitive athlete data gathered and revenue streams at risk, sporting organisations could be exposed to the kind of hacks we're seeing across all manner of different companies. However in sport there's a tension between the desire to expose this information in the name of fan engagement and entertainment, and a desire to keep things secretive. In the future timing and access will be everything and I for one can't wait to see how it plays out.

Give Bojo a Second Shot - Wimbledon Season Is an Opportunity for Boris Johnson to Play Tennis and Have Another Revelation

Ania Poullain-Majchrzak   |   July 6, 2016    2:04 PM ET

According to his sister Rachel Johnson and her article in the Daily Mail, Boris Johnson decided about his stand on Brexit over a tennis game. Rachel drove to see her brother on the 20th of February. It was a day before he gave his statement to the media saying that he will vote to leave the EU in the coming referendum. Miss Johnson claims that the revelation about his stand on Brexit had occurred during the game of tennis they had that afternoon.

One would assume that it was a rather opportunistic decision as opposed to an actual decision based on belief but the good news is that according to George W Bush 'America is the land of the second chance - and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.' Well, if the US can subscribe to such a philosophy then why can't the UK?

I'm very fond of Mr Bush's reflection and would argue that not only in America but anywhere in the world in most disciplines of life you get a second shot chance. Take food, even if you went wrong with a starter, you still have the main course to settle matters (and the dessert - that must be the third chance!). Or religion - the worlds leading orthodoxies offer up another opportunity if you waste your life, through the possibilities of reincarnation and heaven etc.

As we can see from the above it gets even better the second time round, therefore, why not open the metaphorical prison gates for Boris Johnson, and let him have another shot? Seeing as the political turmoil coincides with the Wimbledon season perhaps he could take advantage of that and travel back to the moment when he got the whole avalanche started and indulge in another game of tennis.

When it comes to choosing his tennis partner, I dare suggest that it would be only fair that this time he plays with a writer from a publication polar in opinion to the Daily Mail, so as to help foster the right environment for more moderate political decision making. As I'm very pleased and excited to have found out that the most important political decisions can be made while practicing my favourite sport, I would be very pleased to invite Mr Boris Johnson to a casual game of tennis.

Although it might seem too late to unscrew the whole crisis caused by the Brexit referendum, at the present situation, Mr Johnson doesn't have anything to loose and he might be ready for some drastic moves that will only emphasise his eccentric branding. Further to this, looking at the demand of the general public, the likelihood of a new poll is very high (even Rich Richard Branson is having coffee with Mother Theresa May about it). It is a perfect opportunity for Boris to go back on his words and re-campaign. There is still a chance for him to gain the legacy he desires by campaigning for the situation where everybody in the country, including himself, will be all smiles.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing a clip of Mr Johnson playing against David Cameron at the International Paralympic Day in Trafalgar Square on YouTube and I would dare to presume that he looks like a considerate but entertaining tennis partner.

Rosy Cherrington   |   June 30, 2016    9:57 AM ET

This year's official Wimbledon dress by Nike is causing a bit of a stir among female players, with some even refusing to wear it.

Due to the floaty fabric and loose shape, its design has been likened to a "baby doll nightie" and is distracting tennis stars by flying up during play.

Players have resorted to tying headbands around the dress to keep it down, wearing tops over it and leggings underneath.

British player Katie Swan was seen visibly struggling with her dress, tucking it into her shorts to stop it from flying up during her match on Tuesday 29 June and commentators suggested that the distraction was to blame for her loss.

German player Sabine Lisicki refused to wear the £75 dress, while American star Serena Williams, who is sponsored by Nike, had an alternative design custom made for her.

Rebecca Peterson of Sweden told the NY Times that despite the dress being "simple", the dress was "flying everywhere".

"When I was serving, it was coming up, and I felt like the dress was just everywhere," she said.

After qualifying rounds, Nike asked players to send in their dresses to have the slits on each side sewn up.

A Nike spokesman said at the time: "The product has not been recalled and we often customise products and make alterations for athletes as they compete.

"We work closely with our athletes to provide them with product that helps them perform and feel their best on the court."

But not every female player disliked the controversial dress.

Eugenie Bouchard defended the design to the NY Times, saying: "For me, I love it. It's nice and short so you can move around and be free with your movements.

"Yeah, I don't know. It's funny that people paid a lot of attention to it, but I really think it's really nice."

Wimbledon - One of the Greatest Showcases of Digital Transformation

David Stokes   |   June 28, 2016    4:44 PM ET

Considered by many as the quintessential British event of the year, no other sporting or cultural occasion embodies the pragmatic personality of what it is to be British more so than The Championships, Wimbledon do.

However, as with the British, there is far more to Wimbledon than just a rich heritage and a long and illustrious history. Regarded by many globally as the pre-eminent and most prestigious of tennis tournaments, Wimbledon has now reached a point where it actually transcends sporting and cultural boundaries. However, in order to remain at the very top Wimbledon has had to move with the times and take significant steps to maintain this pre-eminence.

As we all have become more digital, more connected, and more social since the turn of the century, the expectations of what Wimbledon means to visitors, fans and global audiences as a brand and throughout The Championships has also dramatically changed.

More than the on court advances, it is the technology and innovation underpinning the tournament that keeps Wimbledon ahead - and there are new additions each year in support of the All England Lawn Tennis Club's (AELTC) on-going pursuit of greatness.

Consider this: each year over the course of the fortnight, 3.2 million data points are captured, from 19 courts, with an accuracy target of 100% and a sub-second response time - that's a serious amount of data. Highly trained tennis analysts (county level players or above) capture the data and then IBM Systems transform this data in near real time to provide insights to commentators and media. In a matter of seconds this information is available on TV, social channels and millions of digital devices around the world to deliver a fan experience that supports the club's digital vision of cementing digital as the gateway to their brand.

The digital era has put greater demands on everything from politicians to household brands, and Wimbledon has been no different. The difference being, while many recoil in the face of technological advances, The All England Club has embraced it wholeheartedly. This year alone, the wimbledon.com website is expected to be updated over 100,000 times each day (requiring enormous amounts of hosted, scalable cloud capacity), making it the destination for a global community of millions of die-hard fans.

New to the 2016 Championships this year, IBM will be demonstrating a Cognitive Command Centre. It will use IBM Watson and hybrid cloud technologies to ingest feeds across multiple social media channels and automatically understand, reason and learn the most relevant and emerging topics of conversation related to Wimbledon, as well as other major sporting events, providing those insights to the digital editorial team.

By identifying common topics of interest, IBM can help the All England Lawn Tennis Club identify opportunities to better serve relevant articles, posts and images to fans.

For example, the Cognitive Command Centre could identify emerging conversations about a Swiss soccer game at the same time as Roger Federer was playing. Using these insights, Wimbledon will be able to make rapid content decisions to engage and inform sports fans during a summer filled with several major sporting events.

Introducing cognitive solutions to Wimbledon promises to deliver tremendous benefits for the AELTC in terms of insights, learnings and, ultimately, fan engagement and will enable the AELTC to firmly cement digital as the gateway to the Wimbledon brand, whilst at the same time enriching the overall fan experience too.

Innovation and reinvention are the keys to maintaining prominence and relevance in the world today and this is no different, whether you're a country of 60+ million people, a household brand, or the world's most loved tennis tournament. As the public's expectations and needs change, so too must our ability to reinvent ourselves and meet these new challenges head on. Wimbledon's continued success in the face of changing times is something not just the AELTC, but Britain as a nation, should be proud of - roll on the 27th of June...Play!

Rachel Moss   |   June 27, 2016    4:12 PM ET

Serena Williams is ranked world number one in women's tennis with 21 Grand Slam singles titles, 15 Grand Slam doubles titles and four Olympic gold medals under her belt.

You'd be forgiven for assuming she lives and breathes tennis. But the 34-year-old says her game is better than ever now that she's learned there's "more to life than a sport".

In 2010 Williams experienced a series of health scares after she suffered from a haematoma (a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues) and pulmonary embolism (a blockage in the pulmonary artery).

Speculation arose as to whether she would retire from sport.

"I had blot clots bilaterally in my lungs and anyone knows that's not good," she explains in an interview for Makers UK.

"I didn't think about tennis at all. At that point I thought 'okay, I want to live.'"

Williams says it was the first time in her life she wasn't waking up and thinking about training.

"There's so much more to life than a sport. There's family and there's God and there's a bigger picture," she says.

In March 2011 she stepped back onto the tennis court and just two years later, she reclaimed her title as the number one female tennis player in the world.

"When I came back after all that I felt different," she says.

"I felt like I'd been given a second chance and I just felt like if I don't win, you know what, I'm alive.

"I started playing better because I wasn't so uptight - you play loose and free like you have nothing to lose."

This epic comeback is just one of the reasons why Williams was named Sports Illustrated's "Sportsperson of the Year" in December 2015.

She's the first woman to receive the accolade since 1999.

"I feel like I'm being recognised for all of the hard work that I've done," she says.

"I feel like it was not only a win for me, but for all women in general."

The award was monumental, but as a black woman in sport, Williams has been breaking down barriers around race and gender her entire career.

"When Venus and I came on the scene it was something different. You don't see black people in the locker room," she says.

"I didn't know we would influence a whole nation and culture and the world to start playing."

The path to success hasn't always been easy, but Williams believes when women support one another, anything is possible.

"When you're breaking down barriers, there's gonna be moments where you're not going to be comfortable," she says.

"It takes a team, it takes a village, especially as women, to stand together and do things together."

Tamsin Kelly   |   June 6, 2016    4:55 PM ET


Women in sport are still underpaid and undervalued, essentially treated as second class citizens compared to their male counterparts. Take this example; in March men’s and women’s cricket teams from across the world flew to India for the men’s and women’s Twenty20 World Cup. The International Cricket Council funded all the men’s teams to fly business class, but only paid for the women’s teams to fly in cramped economy. Somewhat ironically, 24 hours later the England and Wales Cricket Board were tweeting “Happy #InternationalWomensDay from the England men’s and women’s teams #PledgeforParity.”


The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio represent a significant stage in the fight for true parity in sport: 47.7% of the athletes are women, a new record. But instead of cheering on talented athletes like heptathlete Jessica Ennis Hill and boxer Nicola Adams, attention has remained frustratingly mired in sexism. In the first days we had the focus on the length of broadcaster Helen Skelton’s skirt (no mention of fellow presenter Mark Foster’s thigh-high shorts) and whether a woman’s sporting success can be attributed to her marriage after The Chicago Tribune’s woeful tweet to its 650k followers: “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.” Because clearly the most important thing to report when an athlete wins a medal is her husband’s profession, not her name or even the event she won a medal in.


A recent study from Cambridge University Press, entitled Aesthetics or Athletics?, uncovered the gender divide in the way sport is reported by the media and talked about by fans, using “multi-billion word databases of written and spoken English language from a huge range of media sources In sports reporting” including news article, social media and forums. They found men are three times more likely to be mentioned than women in sports media and “language around women in sport focuses disproportionately on the appearance, clothes and personal lives of women, highlighting a greater emphasis on aesthetics over athletics...


“Notable terms that cropped up as common word associations or combinations for women, but not men, in sport include ‘aged’, ‘older’, ‘pregnant’ and ‘married’ or ‘un-married’. The top word combinations for men in sport, by contrast, are more likely to be adjectives like ‘fastest’, ‘strong’, ‘big’, ‘real’ and ‘great’ – all words regularly heard to describe male Olympians such as Usain Bolt.”


Women in sport are still struggling to extricate themselves from the Victorian values of ‘femininity’; all that softness and meekness and swooning. Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic Games in 1896, described women’s sport as “the most unaesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate”. 


Until 1960 women were not were not allowed to compete in races longer than 200m, because they were deemed to lack the physical stamina. Sepp Blatter, the controversial FIFA president, famously wanted women to “play in more feminine clothes...for example, have tighter shorts.” The Marylebone Cricket Club, based at Lord’s, only lifted its ban on female members in 1998. While Muirfield Golf Club voted in May this year to continue its ban on women members. By doing so, it lost the opportunity to host prestigious Open Championships.


Men hold the majority of tops jobs in sport’s governing bodies and so make most of the decisions. In 2012 UK Sport and Sport England requested all publicly-funded sports’ National Governing Bodies to aim for 25% of their board members to be women by 2017. The Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation told a Culture, Media and Sports Committee report into Women and Sport in 2014 “that the lack of representation of women on the UK’s sports boards meant that sports were missing out on the benefits that diverse leadership teams could bring, and made it less likely that sporting bodies fully understood how best to approach women’s sport in all aspects of their business including participation, sponsorship and media profile.”


According to the WSFF, only 7% of sports media coverage is devoted to women’s sport and just 0.4% of commercial investment goes to women only sport (over 60% goes to men’s and team sports get the rest). However, over 60% of sports fans say they would like to see more women’s sport on the TV.


The huge disparity in funding and sponsorship possibilities between male and female sport means that women have fewer opportunities to play sport with good coaches and facilities and are paid considerably less than men. In football there was £22m in prize money for the last men’s football World Cup, but only £630,000 for the women’s tournament.


This has a double knock-on effect: players are not professional, so have less chance to hone their skills; and the lack of financial rewards mean that many leading players are forced to retire prematurely. And so the self-perpetuating cycle of women’s sport being given less attention than men’s, and seen as less ‘deserving’, continues. 

Steph Houghton, captain of Manchester City and England women’s team, earns £65,000 a year. She’s the highest paid England women’s footballer. Wayne Rooney earns £300,000 A WEEK.

In 2015 when the England women’s team were returning from the World Cup having galvanised the nation, the Football Association tweeted  the message “Our #Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title – heroes” - and swiftly deleted it once people pointed out the patronising tone.

In July Serena Williams’ response to a journalist who asked about her being “one of the greatest female athletes of all time”, that she preferred  “one of the greatest athletes of all time”, won praise and admiration. But Novak Djokovic, the men’s number one, earned twice as much as Serena, the women’s number one, last year.

Until there is a shift in the way women in sport are reported on to attract new audiences and supported by their governing bodies, gender inequality will continue. And that’s a shame.

SEE ALSO:

Team GB Women Athletes On How To Inspire The Next Generation Of Girls

Where To Find Exercise Buddies

How To Fit Exercise Into A Busy Lifestyle

 

Why Having A Fitness Friend Is Important

Tamsin Kelly   |   June 6, 2016    4:41 PM ET

Imagine this scene. Your friend arrives at your front door in running gear, raring to go and you say "Aw, sorry, I don't really feel like it." It's never going to happen, is it?

When you're lazing on the sofa TV surfing, you might say that to yourself. But can you imagine giving your friend that sort of excuse? And this is precisely why exercising with a friend can be a very good idea - more motivation, no feeble excuses and of course, once you're out together, you'll remember it's fun to catch up while being active together.

The key thing is to pick your fit friend wisely, points out Kathryn Freeland, celebrity personal trainer and founder of Absolute Fitness. "You need a friend who's reliable, who's a similar level of fitness and who wants to do an activity you'll enjoy at a time that will work for you," she says. "Beware, of making lots of plans, going, "Yay, it's going to be great" - and then nothing happens."

So getting fit with a friend gives you a moral obligation to turn up. Plus, you're going to push yourself that bit harder when you're with someone else, even it's jogging to the next lamp post instead of copping out and walking. A recent UK study of women's exercise behaviour found that 64% of women who train with their friends were more likely to push their workouts to the limit than those who exercised on their own.

"I love exercising with my friends," says runner and blogger Bethan Taylor. "Heading out for a run or to do some circuits in the park is a fab - and free - way to catch up and spend quality time with your mates. If you're with your friends you're more likely to try that little bit harder as you can motivate each other when things start to feel tough, with the massive advantage of knowing which type of encouragement works best because you know each other so well.

A sporting challenge among friends can help you to push each other and stretch your limits. Why not enter a charity 5k race together or go to a local parkrun together? Bethan says: "If you want to have extra fun at a race grab a friend - you'll pace each other, gently encourage each other when things get tough and act as a personal cheer squad."

You'll also find that sharing personal fitness goals with a friend brings you closer - and keeps you going. Interestingly, more than 40% of participants drop a fitness course shortly after it begins if they attend on their own. But if they work out with a friend, the dropout rate decreases to 6%. When you achieve a personal best on your own, of course, it feels fantastic. But when you've got a 'personal cheer squad' friend, as Bethan calls it, who know how hard you've worked to conquer your inner sofa slug, it feels even better. And when you have an off day, the understanding from a friend can make things better and silence your personal 'I can't do it' demons.

When you're doing it with a friend, exercise is also a lot more fun - which again, means you're more likely to stick at it and make fitness a regular and enjoyable habit. Laughing and chatting distract you and when you've got the support of a friend, you're more likely to up the ante and try something new. Can you really see yourself doing sit ups or bench presses in the park by yourself without feeling silly? Dangling from a jungle gym in the park without a friend egging you on?

You should also think about exercising with your partner. Studies have shown that couples who exercise together regularly are happier in their relationship: working out together strengthens the relationship and enhances sexual attraction. You don't have to get sweaty in the gym together. What about a weekend cycle ride, or joining a fun new class, like learning to salsa. Having a laugh, learning something new together and getting fit together. What's not to like?

Bipolar Management (Tricky Business)

Oli Jones   |   April 19, 2016    8:20 AM ET

Bipolar really is manageable - six weeks of sleep deprivation (Almost slipped but back on track).

Almost a year ago to the day, my recovery from Bipolar disorder was about to start. I was prescribed lithium which started to work almost immediately and since then, bar the odd few days, my mood and my life has been the most stable for 13 years.

However the last six weeks have provided me with a real test and have proved as a stark reminder of how my condition must continue to be managed and probably will have to be for the rest of my days.

Around six weeks ago, my sleep really started to suffer. Prior to this I had been sleeping really well getting on average 6-8 hours per night and there was no sign of any change. However, something clearly switched in my brain and body and I started to get less and less sleep. After a few weeks, some nights I was not sleeping at all, however I didn't feel that my mood was changing. A lack of sleep for me can often indicate an upturn in mood and can signify a shift to mania. I am aware of this, but as I stated, initially I didn't feel any shift in mood.

The lack of sleep persisted and suddenly I found myself with bundles of energy, my mind was racing and believe me, this is fun, but left untreated is very dangerous.

I had to cut right down on the amount of exercise that I was doing (which frustrated me highly) as contrary to popular belief, intense exercise could have stimulated my body and mind even more and therefore exasperating the problem. I also had to increase the amount of medication to help me sleep.

Along with the frustration of not being able to do what I wanted to do, other elements of my life started to deteriorate. My diet became erratic and my sleeping patterns where all over the place. Fortunately everybody at my place of work, Brooklands Sports Club, are aware of my Bi Polar and the majority of people understood that I had to take a back seat for a few weeks, often taking a few days off to manage my deteriorating sleep patterns. I had great support as always but some people just did not understand. Is oli ill? Is he going to be off work for months? If he's feeling slightly high, why is he taking time off? These are valid questions, because that is what has happened in the past.

The support has been outstanding as ever but still the nagging doubts arise from certain key people. It is very difficult for people living without mental illness to understand it, try as they might. Am I expecting people to understand it and feel sorry for me? No. Absolutely not.
There have been, as ever, lots of messages of support via text, email and phone calls which are amazing to receive and really do help.

As this episode of hardly sleeping continued, people around me and I, myself, became more and more frustrated resulting in me regretting some of my actions and being rueful of some of the things I've said. I like to think of myself as a fairly thoughtful and caring person but I have not covered myself in glory with my behaviour over the last couple of weeks and for that I am sorry. I am no angel.

Then, last week, my sleep improved. I had a quick trip over to Cleethorpes for some fresh sea air and a change of scenery and I sit here today feeling much more like myself.

I have not had to take months off work, I have not had the inevitable depression that follows a high and in the last few days, I have been running and been to the gym, played tennis and feel great. Last night I got 7 hours sleep which feels magic.

I feel a huge sense of achievement as I feel that this is the first time I have had to really manage my condition, adapting my lifestyle to reflect where my mood is. Did everybody agree with how I managed it? No. Could I have done it better? Of course. We can all do everything better. I live and learn.