Tag Archives: warrior

Carl Froch v Mikkel Kessler agreed for summer in England

This is one for the ages! Froch lands mega summer fight with rival Kessler in the UK

By
Riath Al-samarrai

PUBLISHED:

12:28 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:18 GMT, 15 January 2013

Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler have agreed terms for a blockbuster summer rematch in the UK.

The date and venue have not yet been confirmed but the super middleweights are expected to clash on May 25 in London.

Froch suffered his first professional defeat and lost his WBC world title in their previous bout in April 2010, a contentious unanimous decision after a thriller in Denmark.

Scroll down for video

Home advantage: Carl Froch will get his chance to exact revenge over Mikkel Kessler in the UK this summer after losing to the Dane in 2010

Home advantage: Carl Froch will get his chance to exact revenge over Mikkel Kessler in the UK this summer after losing to the Dane in 2010

But after a run of fights against the best in the division, he has since picked up and defended the IBF belt, which will be staked in the rematch against the WBA (regular) champion.

‘This is the fight that I want more than anything in the world,’ said Froch.

‘I put Mikkel up there as one of the great warriors in boxing and I am so excited about this fight and the chance to set the record straight against him.’

‘I promised Carl we would meet again and here we are, getting ready to leave it all in the ring for a second time,’ said five-time world champion Kessler, who like Froch has only lost two fights.

Ready to rumble: Froch will be looking to celebrate what would be the biggest win of his career this summer with the support of girlfriend Rachael Cordingley

Ready to rumble: Froch will be looking to celebrate what would be the biggest win of his career this summer with the support of girlfriend Rachael Cordingley

‘I have the utmost of respect for Carl, I
feel we are very much alike. He is a great champion, a true warrior
that has fought the best opponents all over the world in some of the
most hostile places, just like me.

'Our first fight, especially the last round, showed what we are all about and I was to do it again.

‘Since that first fight, I have become even stronger. I am fresh, I am healthy and I am ready to defeat him once again. I dont care where we fight, I said anytime, anywhere. I plan to make my loyal Viking fans, as well as everybody else in Denmark, very proud once again. I am ready for war.’

Packing a punch: Froch was impressive in his comfortable victory over Yusaf Mack in his last ring outing

Packing a punch: Froch was impressive in his comfortable victory over Yusaf Mack in his last ring outing

Froch’s promoter Eddie Hearn added:
‘This is one for the ages. My hat goes off to both men for putting
everything on the line here in what can only be an epic battle. Too many
super fights fall by the wayside so to make Froch v Kessler II is a
dream come true.

‘Froch v Kessler I was a barnburner but I really feel Carl is a different fighter now, especially in the UK. These are the kinds of fights and nights that can cement the legacy of Carl Froch and no one deserves it more.

'We know what to expect from both men and either way it's going to be brutal.’

VIDEO Eddie Hearn is looking forward to the summer rematch

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Fran Halsall vows to bounce back in Rio – Laura Williamson

I'll make waves in Rio, vows Halsall after flopping at home Olympics

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UPDATED:

22:09 GMT, 30 December 2012

Fran Halsall has made an important New Year’s resolution. The British swimmer never again wants to feel the way she did in the summer of 2012 after finishing the Olympic Games without a medal.

She has written it all down, just in case she ever needs a reminder, because Halsall is determined she will never feel like that again; so low she did not attend the post-Games parade because she ‘didn’t think she should enjoy it’.

While 2012 was an unforgettable year of sport for so many, there are those for whom 2013 and beyond promises far better things.

Gutted: Fran Halsall struggled to perform at the London Olympics

Gutted: Fran Halsall struggled to perform at the London Olympics

More from Laura Williamson…

Laura Williamson: Farewell to Plucky Brit syndrome, and good riddance
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Laura Williamson: Wake up Gary, or Match of the Day's old boys' club may close for good
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Laura Williamson: Booth and Co aim to end golf's old school traditions
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Laura Williamson: I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars
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Laura Williamson: Dangerous message that strong isn't sexy for women
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Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
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Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
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A silver medal in the 50-metre freestyle at the World Short Course Championships in Istanbul earlier this month ‘was never going to make up for the Olympics’, but it has helped Halsall get her spark back. She has a new coach — James Gibson, who guided France’s Florent Manaudou to Olympic gold in the men’s 50m freestyle in London. But, most importantly of all, her confidence has returned.

‘Knowing I’m still a fast swimmer feels really good,’ she says. ‘I gave myself a little pat on the back, if you like. I’m really happy.

‘It took me a couple of months to get over the Olympics. There was a lot of upset and blame; of thinking I’m not good enough. I couldn’t deal with the fact I wasn’t good enough and it wasn’t a very nice feeling.

‘But I took ownership of it and I swam fast again. That was all me. It’s not an Olympic medal but I had to differentiate between Fran the swimmer and the person. You can’t live your life like that.’

Halsall was tipped to star in the pool at London 2012 but did not win a medal in any of her five events. She was not the only one to disappoint, of course: Britain’s swimming team came away with only a silver and two bronze medals at their home Games and have lost 4million of funding as a result.

British Swimming conducted a review into what went wrong in London, which largely blamed the leadership of coaches and the timing of the national trials, which were held 13 weeks before the Games in March.

Bouncing back: Halsall has vowed to return to form for Rio in four years

Bouncing back: Halsall has vowed to return to form for Rio in four years

Head coach Dennis Pursley and performance director Michael Scott also quit, prompting Rebecca Adlington to call the situation ‘an absolute mess’.

Halsall, though, has conducted her ‘own review’ and has a much simpler explanation: she over-trained. Working under Ben Titley, who has since moved to Canada, at Loughborough University, she says she was an ‘Olympic keeno’.

Halsall picked up a shoulder injury in mid-May, which kept her out of the pool for ‘a few weeks’.

‘Trials weren’t the problem,’ adds Halsall. ‘I have always swum faster in the summer: this was the first year I didn’t. You have to swim fast for the trials, wherever you put them.

Back on track: Halsall in Turkey

Back on track: Halsall in Turkey

‘The issue for me was I did too much. I was an Olympic keeno. I probably overdid it and ended up picking up an injury. I tried to do more than I had ever done before.

‘I didn’t want to talk about my shoulder problem (before the Games). It’s an excuse and I didn’t want that. My focus was on swimming as fast as I could and I didn’t want to have that distraction. I still fought for every 10th of a second in every race.’

Halsall, though, is already a veteran of two Olympic Games, despite being only 22 years old.

She is determined not to make the same mistakes third time around.

‘I’m not too old just yet,’ she says. ‘I’m looking forward to Rio in four years’ time.’

Fran Halsall uses Multipower Sportsfood: www.multipower.co.uk

What they said

It's little wonder David Weir described the New Year Honours list as ‘a bit strange’ after Sarah Storey became a Dame but Weir, who also won four Paralympic gold medals in London, was given a CBE.

‘Sometimes it seems that Paralympians have to win lots and lots of medals to get a damehood or a knighthood,’ Weir told the Daily Telegraph.

Here's what I've been doing this week

Chugged around the country for the feast of festive football. Clubs might whinge about fixture congestion, but I love the tradition of it all. It works in other sports, too: just look at the record 82,000 people at Twickenham for Saracens’ win against Harlequins on Saturday.

Watched Superstars and revelled in the sheer naffness and rain-sodden Britishness of it all. I can cope with only having shooter Peter Wilson on my television screen every four years, but I enjoyed Mo Farah’s attempts at kayaking, the Brownlee brothers’ rivalry and being proved wrong by Helen Glover’s prowess on the track. And there was I thinking rowers are not always the most co-ordinated of athletes on dry land.

Back on our screens: Olympians took part in the BBC show Superstars

Back on our screens: Olympians took part in the BBC show Superstars

According to Fulham’s programme for their 1-1 draw with Southampton, I ‘swooned’ when I wrote about Dimitar Berbatov’s ‘style and swagger’ in his side’s 2-1 victory against Newcastle this month. That made me laugh, but not as much as the striker’s handwritten ‘Keep Calm and Pass Me the Ball’ T-shirt, which suggested Berbatov is not averse to ‘swooning’ about himself, either.

Performance of the week

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert continues to predict that ‘Aston Villa will be fine’ despite his side suffering a 15-0 deficit over the festive period. That’s some crystal ball he got for Christmas.

Laura Williamson: Farewell to Plucky Brit syndrome, and good riddance

Farewell to the 'Plucky Brit' syndrome… and good riddance

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UPDATED:

23:22 GMT, 23 December 2012

With all the hoo-hah over the Olympic and Paralympic sports that missed out on funding for the next four years, one very significant detail seems to have been overlooked.

As UK Sport announced a record 347million investment in British sport last week, they also revealed an ambitious target to beat 2012’s haul of 65 Olympic medals and 120 Paralympic medals in Rio de Janeiro.

We have just experienced the most incredible year of British sport and now we want to get even better That should surely be celebrated.

Golden year: UK Sport a investing record amount into sporting excellence in Britain in 2013

Golden year: UK Sport a investing record amount into sporting excellence in Britain in 2013

More from Laura Williamson…

Laura Williamson: Pity 2012 feelgood factor has faded so quickly
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Laura Williamson: Wake up Gary, or Match of the Day's old boys' club may close for good
09/12/12

Laura Williamson: Booth and Co aim to end golf's old school traditions
02/12/12

Laura Williamson: I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars
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Laura Williamson: Dangerous message that strong isn't sexy for women
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Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
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Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
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Laura Williamson: Wit is the only way to counter football's vile chants
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So too should UK Sport’s ‘no compromise’ approach to funding the British Olympic and Paralympic team. The organisation will only support genuine medal prospects, meaning some Olympians and Paralympians have been cast out in the cold.

The basketball, handball and wrestling squads, for example, which will not receive a penny unless they can show they’ve bucked their ideas up at their annual review.

Harsh Yes, certainly. But fair Definitely. This is sport we are talking about here. It isn’t reality television. It is brutal and it hurts like hell if you lose. That is why it’s such a delicious feeling to win.

And British sport is about winning these days, after all.

We’re being fanciful if we think we still exist in a sporting utopia in which every contest ends with the schmaltzy climax of a Disney film and the nice guys always get the gold. Elite level sport is not a pastime, it’s a profession. It’s about British Cycling’s much-applauded ‘marginal gains’ and a pragmatic, analytical pursuit of success.

In the past it has too often seemed our athletes have achieved success in spite of the system, but now it is because of it.

I feel for the people who missed out. I know how hard the women’s indoor volleyball team have worked and seen the strides the men’s basketball team have made.

I was upset when I realised I had broken the news to a goalball athlete on Twitter that the men’s team would not be receiving any future funding.

There was a long conversation with the father of a table tennis player who felt badly let down and confused as to the next step, having spent the last decade looking for bargain budget flights to far-flung corners of Europe so his son could try to win peanuts in prize money.

These athletes have every right to feel slighted and disappointed; to wonder about the next step in their careers. But they should not be surprised.

Benefits: British Cycling's approach to success has been a shining example to other sports

Benefits: British Cycling's approach to success has been a shining example to other sports

Their governing bodies have let them down if they thought it would be any other way.

Many of them experienced London 2012 purely because we were the host nation and their chances of making it to Rio are remote, to put it kindly.

We were utterly abysmal at most team
disciplines at London 2012, don’t forget. Why should UK Sport divert
cash from the sports that did deliver to allow people to spend another
four years chasing an impossible dream

It is far better to cut our losses and
concentrate on helping the next generation to build an Olympic
legacy, hence the 493m of money that Sport England will invest in
grassroots sport over the next four years.

Olympic table tennis, for instance,
had all of its elite level funding cut on Tuesday, yet its governing
body still claimed the ‘future for English table tennis is assured’
after a sport played regularly by almost 100,000 people received a 20
per cent increase in support for building participation.

Be inspired: Luol Deng is the stand-out star in a Team GB basketball team soundly beaten at the Games

Be inspired: Luol Deng is the stand-out star in a Team GB basketball team soundly beaten at the Games

This is not about class, as some have tried to make out. Cutting basketball’s elite level funding for the next four years will make little difference to the inner city kids who are basketball’s primary target audience. There is still potentially 6.75m of funding to come from Sport England for their benefit, including 1.54m to support young, emerging talent.

I realise these future stars need to see a pathway to success and have role models to follow, but I fail to see how watching a British basketball team getting regularly hammered would have more influence than a teenager seeing Luol Deng do his thing for the Chicago Bulls.

Neither do I automatically buy the claims about all the ‘sacrifices’ people made to reach London 2012, either. They could have been working from nine until five in a dead-end job they hated instead of pursuing their dream of being a full-time athlete.

The ‘Plucky Brit’ – eternally hopeless but emotionally heart-warming – has, thankfully, been consigned to history.

The UK Sport formula works. Elite level British sport is no longer about making up the numbers and celebrating getting to finals. We want to be on top of the podium now, thank you very much. It may be a brutal approach but it is also brilliant.

Transition: Gary Neville showed Laura behind the scenes at Monday Night Football

Transition: Gary Neville showed Laura behind the scenes at Monday Night Football

…AND THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK

Spent the day behind the scenes at Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. Interested to see Gary Neville agonise over whether to call Reading 'naive' during their 5-2 defeat by Arsenal. He thought it reflected badly on the manager, Brian McDermott, which was not his intention, deciding to highlight Nicky Shorey's 'poor' game instead.

Small steps

At UK Sport's funding announcement on Tuesday there were three female executives alongside Sports Minister Hugh Robertson. On the same day, UK Athletics announced Jenni Banks as their new wheelchair racing coach, reporting to Paralympics head coach Paula Dunn. Small steps…

Taking the mic
Sitting behind the dug-out during Tottenham’s dull draw against Stoke I noticed fourth official Stuart Attwell taking off his microphone when speaking to the managers. Did he not want the man in the middle to hear

Performance of the week

Double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin and her horse Valegro ended a remarkable 2012 with dressage victory at the World Cup freestyle event at London’s Olympia. They scored 87.975 per cent, which is rather good.

SPOTY 2012: Andy Murray should have won, not Bradley Wiggins

If it's really about sport, Murray should have prevailed over Wiggins

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UPDATED:

09:57 GMT, 17 December 2012

You could easily have made a case for half a dozen different winners. And that’s just among those who didn’t make the top 12.

It is inevitable, then, that last night’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year victory for Bradley Wiggins will not represent the end of the debate.

Ah, how glorious it is to argue over which of Britain’s multi-talented, honour-laden, phenomenally successful sporting ambassadors should be named first among equals in a public poll.

At last: Andy Murray won the US Open to end years 76 years of hurt

At last: Andy Murray won the US Open to end years 76 years of hurt

Murray's mint

Martin Samuel also felt the Scot should have won last night

Anyone who knows athletics understands how impossible it should have been for Mo Farah to do the distance double. Or how about Jess Ennis, THE face of London 2012, having missed Beijing through injury

Chris Hoy, Britain’s greatest ever Olympian. The Paralympians who changed attitudes about disability in Britain — and beyond. All held a claim on the crown.

But, if it’s really about the sport, the prize should have gone to Andy Murray. Put bluntly, he didn’t just succeed when it mattered — he also triumphed with the weight of history on his shoulders.

Winner: Bradley Wiggins was crowned Sports Personality of the Year

Winner: Bradley Wiggins was crowned Sports Personality of the Year

That is not something you could say about even Wiggins, as remarkable achievement it was being the first British winner of the Tour de France.

While that historic victory will stand for the ages, it is not as if Wiggo has had to deal with years and years of endless questioning over when one of ‘our boys’ might finally end the wait for a Continent-conquering road warrior to emerge.

As much as we all celebrated the win by a fantastic athlete and all-round geezer, if he had finished runner-up or even ninth, the nation would have shrugged and moved on.

Recognised: Murray came third and was presented the trophy by Lennox Lewis

Recognised: Murray came third and was presented the trophy by Lennox Lewis

Murray Every time he has ‘squandered’ a Grand Slam opportunity, the wailing and gnashing of teeth has been heard around the world. Oh, how could that serial Scottish loser possibly let Britain down again He alone had lived with the ghost of Fred Perry, British angst, 1936 and all that.

And he’d failed in four Slam finals. No one had ever lost their first five. No other nominee can understand what it’s like to have lived under that kind of expectation for more than just a couple of weeks during one glorious sporting summer.

Let the debate continue, then. Enjoy it. We may never get the chance to argue like this again.

Match of the Day is an old boys" club – Laura Williamson

Wake up Gary, or Match of the Day's old boys' club may close for good

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 9 December 2012

The BBC website features a page called ‘How to watch Match of the Day’. Increasingly, however, the answer is quite simple.

Record it and fast-forward past the ‘analysis’ between games or risk water intoxication (or a nasty hangover) by putting the kettle on or topping up your wine glass every time the Three Wise Men come on to your screen in their smart-casual, open-necked shirts.

On Saturday night, for example, Alan Hansen delivered the following gems during the 15 minutes we were not watching match action or plugs for Sports Personality of the Year.

Old boys club: (from left-right) Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson

Old boys club: (from left-right) Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson

More from Laura Williamson…

Laura Williamson: Booth and Co aim to end golf's old school traditions
02/12/12

Laura Williamson: I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars
25/11/12

Laura Williamson: Dangerous message that strong isn't sexy for women
18/11/12

Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
11/11/12

Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
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Laura Williamson: Wit is the only way to counter football's vile chants
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Laura Williamson: After Twenty20 World Cup we must now start taking women's cricket seriously
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Laura Williamson: Don't use women's sport just to plug a gap, please Auntie…
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Sunderland ‘have got to stop leaking bad goals early’, three defeats in a row for West Brom is ‘enough’ and, my personal favourite, QPR ‘have got to get victories’. Funny that, as they are bottom of the table having just set a record for the longest winless Premier League start.

Hansen, though, delivers these insightful nuggets with the explicit authority of a father talking down to his eight-year-old son. ‘How are babies made, dad’ ‘They just are.’ End of conversation.

On the rare occasions host Gary Lineker deigns to probe his pal a little further, Hansen frowns and squirms in his seat, visibly affronted. There was a similar, almost embarrassed, reaction from Lineker after reporter Damian Johnson asked Martin O’Neill about self-doubt after Sunderland had slipped into the bottom three.

Ah, those pesky journalists asking former footballers questions. How dare they

Match of the Day too often seems like the comfy old boys’ club we should be honoured to visit for 80 minutes every Saturday night. Relaxed and matey is fine, but it is not conducive to forthright opinions or illuminating punditry.

Dan Walker, who will present next week’s show in Lineker’s absence, may help here. The programme has also tried, to its credit, to shake things up by including current players such as Vincent Kompany and Phil Neville in recent weeks.

It is a very difficult ask, however, for an active footballer to be anything other than diplomatic — particularly when three ex-pros are fawning over your every word.

The programme misses Lee Dixon, while Mark Lawrenson is infinitely better on the radio. Alan Shearer was perfectly fine on Saturday, although he got himself in a twist trying to explain how Chelsea are playing more to Fernando Torres’s strengths.

Effort: Vincent Kompany (right) appeared on the show - but there was only so much he could say

Effort: Vincent Kompany (right) appeared on the show – but there was only so much he could say

Missed: Lee Dixon (right) added something to the show when he was there

Missed: Lee Dixon (right) added something to the show when he was there

But at least Shearer had a go; at least he was enthusiastic and animated. Hansen was also right to highlight Jack Wilshere’s display for Arsenal against West Brom but he simply talked us through what happened and not how or why.

What did Arsene Wenger’s side do differently to their 2-0 defeat by Swansea City And what about Santi Cazorla’s blatant dive to win Arsenal’s first penalty

Little evolution: Lineker (centre) with Hansen and Lawrenson in 2001 and below in 2006

Little evolution: Lineker (centre) with Hansen and Lawrenson in 2001 and below in 2006

Familiar faces: Lawrenson, Lineker and Hansen

Familiar faces: Lawrenson, Lineker and Hansen

Oh, they all had a good laugh about that one, while singularly failing to discuss or expand on one of the main talking points. Are foreign players more culpable than home-grown ones How do we stamp it out Alan, did you ever dive to win a penalty

This is the main problem with the modern Match of the Day. There were highlights of six matches delivered from the shiny new set in Salford on Saturday, not one definitive game.

But then Match of the Day is not definitive any more. That happens on a Monday night on Sky with Gary Neville and his interactive white board. MotD is now occupying a beige middle ground of irrelevancy.

Is it a light entertainment show or a sports programme

It needs to make up its mind before a much-loved television institution is fast-forwarded out of existence.

Blast from the past: Lineker took over hosting duties of the show in 1999

Blast from the past: Lineker took over hosting duties of the show in 1999

What they said

Harry Redknapp teed up his first meeting with QPR chairman Tony Fernandes by announcing: ‘I’ve said it a million times that they’re nice people. I’m not saying that because I need the job. If I thought they were tossers I would say so.’

I wonder if January transfer targets will be on the agenda

Not tossers: Harry Redknapp defended his new bosses

Not tossers: Harry Redknapp defended his new bosses

…And this is what I've been doing this week

In Athens with Arsenal on Monday, Arsene Wenger was noticeably disdainful of any suggestion his club are experiencing a crisis. The admirable belief in his principles is nothing new, but the scornful tone felt different and unnecessary from a manager who has achieved as much as Wenger.

Arsenal are not a club in meltdown — they are still fighting in all competitions, after all — but they are certainly not one in ‘fantastic shape’, whatever the Frenchman may say.

Balance: Arsenal are not falling to pieces, but nor are they in fantastic shape

Balance: Arsenal are not falling to pieces, but nor are they in fantastic shape

Meeting new UK Athletics coaches Rana Reider and Terrence Mahon at Loughborough University, both of whom are American. We Brits have a tendency to self-deprecate, but the way the pair talked up our funding system, personnel and facilities suggested we are doing something right. It also means, of course, there are no excuses for athletes who fail to deliver.

Impressed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s easy, eloquent manner at the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards on Thursday. The Arsenal midfielder picked up the Best International Newcomer award and quipped: ‘Thank you, it’s nice to win something.’

Laura Williamson tries taekwondo

I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars

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UPDATED:

22:09 GMT, 25 November 2012

Sarah Stevenson, the first British athlete to win an Olympic medal in taekwondo, is trying to teach me how to kick.

This is no mean feat, considering I am about as flexible as the tin man from The Wizard of Oz, but she offers a kind appraisal of my efforts with my right leg.

My left leg, however, is ‘crap’. She doesn’t mince her words, Stevenson, though they are delivered with a smile.

Scroll down to watch a video of Laura in training

Full stretch: Laura Williamson tries out taekwondo with Sarah Stevenson at the UK centre in Manchester

Full stretch: Laura Williamson tries out taekwondo with Sarah Stevenson at the UK centre in Manchester

More from Laura Williamson…

Laura Williamson: Dangerous message that strong isn't sexy for women
18/11/12

Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
11/11/12

Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
06/11/12

Laura Williamson: Wit is the only way to counter football's vile chants
04/11/12

Laura Williamson: After Twenty20 World Cup we must now start taking women's cricket seriously
07/10/12

Laura Williamson: Don't use women's sport just to plug a gap, please Auntie…
23/09/12

Laura Williamson: Thanks to our Ellie, 'normal' has been redefined
16/09/12

Laura Williamson: It was just great, and thank you for putting sport first
09/09/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

‘You can be the best kicker in the
world,’ she adds, more encouragingly, ‘but if you haven’t got the bottle
in this sport there’s no point doing it.

‘I’ve
seen lots of champions in the gym. They’re amazing with their kicking
but they can’t fight. You’ve got do what needs to be done in the ring.’

This, I quickly realise, is part of the ‘hardcore attitude’ that got Stevenson to the Olympics despite a 12-month ordeal nobody should ever have to endure. After becoming world champion in May 2011 she lost her father Roy to a brain tumour in July and then her mother, Diana, to cancer in October.

It almost seems insignificant in comparison, but Stevenson then had surgery to repair cruciate ligament damage in February this year – and yet still made it onto the mat at London 2012. The 29-year-old from Doncaster lost in the first round, but just getting there represented a quite remarkable achievement.

It is this kind of extraordinary ‘bottle’ GB Taekwondo want as they aim to recruit the next wave of Sarah Stevensons in the run up to the Rio Olympics in 2016. Keen to build on the success of the London Games, where Jade Jones won gold in the -57kg category and Lutalo Muhammad – who came through the Talent 2012 scheme – a bronze at -87kg, they are looking for males and females aged between 16 and 26 who have enjoyed national success in a kick-based martial art to transfer to Olympic taekwondo. The only criteria I fit is being female, before you ask.

‘I’d want to see a decent amount of technique,’ said Stevenson, ‘but if they’ve got a good attitude with some all right kicking skills, you can’t teach that.

‘I never really saw any (girls) with that fighting spirit, like I thought I had, until little Jade Jones came along.

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‘Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do this sport. We need to get more girls and we need more depth.

‘Imagine if the girls had the depth as well as the talent we’ve already got We would be smashing it, wouldn’t we’

Stevenson and Jones are used to training with the boys. They believe it has contributed to their success, but it can be demoralising winning only occasionally in sparring sessions, while the timing is different to fighting a girl.

They accept there are stigmas attached to taekwondo that could be off-putting for female athletes – ‘little Jade Jones’ rolls her eyes at the fact people always expect her to be ‘this big, hulk-looking type person’ – but extol the impact it has had on their confidence and self-belief.

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson as part of taekwondo's drive for Rio

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson as part of taekwondo's drive for Rio

Potential: Laura worked with London Olympian Stevenson

‘You do change,’ says Stevenson. ‘You’re not this girl, you’re an athlete. You don’t think about being a girl. You think: “Come on. We’re having a fight.”

‘If you’re going to sign up then you’ve got to know that this is not easy. This is the hardest thing you’re ever going to do.

‘But hopefully it’s going to help other girls to get involved and to be that other person they want to be, rather than sitting at home in pink putting make up on.’

Stevenson pauses and smiles again.

‘You can do that at a weekend,’ she adds.

If you are involved in martial arts and want to find out more about Fighting Chance:Battle4Brazil go to www.uksport.gov.uk/talent.

WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK…

Visiting Barcelona for the IAAF Athlete of the Year awards, won by Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix. Bolt’s ‘double double’ – becoming the first man to win the Olympic 100-metre and 200m titles at consecutive Olympics – was incredible, but David Rudisha would have got my vote. The Kenyan’s world record-breaking 800m run in London was an extraordinary sporting performance in a stellar year for athletics.

Listening to Arsene Wenger talk about the ‘completely emotional’ world of football on Tuesday.

Winners: Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix were named athletes of the year

Winners: Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix were named athletes of the year

Now they speak of (Roberto) Di Matteo (getting sacked),’ said the Arsenal boss, with incredulity in his voice. ‘He’s just won the Champions League and the FA Cup!’ Some 16 hours later, Di Matteo was out of a job.

Emotional Football this week been more like someone eating their body weight in chocolate and sobbing uncontrollably over a series of rom-coms: completely irrational.

Noting QPR’s decision to announce Mark Hughes’ dismissal via Twitter on Friday. There’s more than a hint of irony there, given the Welshman’s obvious – and understandable – unease with Joey Barton and Tony Fernandes’ propensity to express their opinions in 140 characters.

THEY SAID WHAT

A chap called AJ McArthur is the commissioner of the – wait for it – Bikini Basketball Association, an eight-team league of players (wearing sports bras and tight shorts) with ‘looks, personality and playing ability’, which is slated to start in America next spring.

‘The main point,’ said McArthur, ‘is that this is a sport everyone loves.’ No, I definitely don’t think that’s the main point of this particular endeavour.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

The England women’s rugby union team came back from 13-3 down to defeat the world champions, New Zealand, 16-13 on Friday. England are now unbeaten in four matches against the Black Ferns. Roll on the next clash on Tuesday.

London 2012 Olympics: Sportsmail"s verdict on Women"s first entry into the Boxing ring

'Warrior Girls' win right to respect in the ring on Olympics debut

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UPDATED:

23:55 GMT, 5 August 2012

As the female boxers took Olympic ring for the first time Sportsmail sent two reporters to the ExCeL. Boxing reporter Jeff Powell and Laura Williamson gave their contrasting perspectives on the sport.

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

It's not exactly my cup of tea, though I do back boxing's suffragettes

/08/05/article-2184099-1465A23C000005DC-293_634x426.jpg” width=”634″ height=”426″ alt=”On the front foot: Great Britain's Natasha Jonas goes on the attack against Quanitta Underwood” class=”blkBorder” />

On the front foot: Great Britain's Natasha Jonas goes on the attack against Quanitta Underwood

The suffragettes of the modern Games ignored all that and kept on campaigning.

Their Sabbath day of emancipation
came at the ExCeL arena in London's Docklands. Posterity demands that we
record who threw the first punch for Olympic equality.

Unfortunately the opening blows from a
Russian, the inaugural winner, and a North Korean were landed in unison
and no easier to separate than the first two finishers in the women's
triathlon.

We will do here what they should have done with that gold medal in Hyde Park – award the honour jointly.

History duly served, curiosity gave
way to objective assessment, along with earsplitting enthusiasm for two
very different members of the fairer sex. Mary Kom is a mother of two
from a poor village who has become a folk heroine in India, where she
has a street named after her.

Knock down: Jonas sends Underwood down to the canvas

Knock down: Jonas sends Underwood down to the canvas

The winner of five world amateur
titles, she entered the ring to a huge roar from the Asian community and
gave us an all-action impersonation of Manny Pacquiao on the way to
beating a rugged Pole. The first British woman to break the glass
ceiling – or should that be the glass jaw – is a Liverpool sweetheart.

Natasha Jonas, a 28-yearold lightweight, kept the British medal hunt going by outpointing America's Quanitta Underwood.

The result was hard-earned and fair
enough but the margin – 21-13 – so preposterously wide as to raise
further eyebrows about the judging here.

But there was no questioning the
significance of the moment. Jonas said: 'It's brilliant to be part of
history and it's been a long time coming but my main focus has to be on
the boxing.'

So it does with Ireland's highly
rated Katie Taylor coming up very fast this afternoon. So here we are,
doffing a serious cap to young women wearing head guards.

Making their mark: Jonas and Underwood fight for the first time in the Olympics

Making their mark: Jonas and Underwood fight for the first time in the Olympics

Did I ever in my earlier journalistic
life expect to be reporting in the sports section on women getting
beaten up No. But 30 years ago there were no lady reporters in our
press boxes at sports ground.

Is women's boxing to my taste Not
entirely but I defend absolutely their right to engage in whatever sport
they fancy. How good is it Rob McCracken, GB's boxing coach and
trainer of world super-middleweight champion Carl Froch, says: 'If you
stand 40 or 50 yards back from the ring you could mistake quite a few of
them for male boxers.'

I suppose they will take that as a
compliment. Concessions are made to the female of the jabbing species.
They box four two-minute rounds, the men three three-minute rounds.

Although that it is just a minute
shorter in total, it is a darn sight easier. Nor, to my personal relief,
are any of these girls likely to venture into the ruthless, brutal,
life-threatening world of the professionals.

Hartlepool's Savannah Marshall, the
world middleweight amateur champion who opens her campaign today, states
categorically she will be back for more Olympics.

Girl power may not rule the ring but
if and when they deliver medals later this week they will join Jessica
Ennis et al among the toasts of the town. And why not, when women go to
war for our country

Watching the action: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson and Jeff Powell at the women's boxing

Watching the action: Sportsmail's Laura Williamson and Jeff Powell at the women's boxing

Challenging to watch, but I admire all these women stand for

/08/05/article-2184099-14658AB5000005DC-574_634x424.jpg” width=”634″ height=”424″ alt=”Out for the count: Jonas sees Underwood go to the floor” class=”blkBorder” />

Out for the count: Jonas sees Underwood go to the floor

They've probably encountered far
worse than being patronised or mocked; perhaps even being stopped from
doing the sport they love. But 36 of them, including three Britons, have
made it to the Olympic stage. This is something to be celebrated.

'We're both there in the ring, both
being warrior women and trying to do our best,' said British lightweight
Natasha Jonas, who beat American Quanitta Underwood in her first-round
fight yesterday.

'Warrior women.' I like that. But
it's one thing to hear and speak about women's boxing and the
overwhelmingly positive, empowering message the sport sends out. It's
quite another to watch it.

To see a woman getting punched in the
face, her nose buckling under the pressure of another woman's glove, is
a challenging image. It's very new and still rare and that's a
difficult combination to get your head around.

I wasn't sure how I would feel when I
saw it. As a sporting spectacle, seeing 'Magnificent Mary', five-time
world champion Mary Kom, fighting for India at flyweight was right up
there.

Her twin sons celebrated their fifth
birthday as their mother, a police officer, won convincingly. There were
female India supporters brandishing flags like they were cheering on MS
Dhoni at a Twenty20 international.

She's done it! Natasha Jonas celebrates her win

She's done it! Natasha Jonas celebrates her win

How brilliant is that I also liked
the fact there are no skirts and no frills to distinguish the women from
the men. 'If you're sitting far enough away you can't even tell they're
girls,' said someone.

This is a good thing: of course it's
slower and not as powerful, but these women don't need to get bogged
down in bikinis like some sort of half-time entertainment act. But I'm
skirting around (no pun intended) the crux of the issue again here.

How does it feel to see a woman
getting hit I didn't find it as shocking as watching a judoka – of
either sex – get flipped on to their back, but it took me a few rounds
to start to marvel at the power and speed of the punches.

My attention was instantly drawn to
the athlete on the receiving end, which is not how it should be. It did
feel different to watching a man get hit.

It's because I'm not used to it: boys
get into fights at school and girls rip each other to shreds with
words, generally. I felt tangled. I fiercely admire what these women
stand for and I desperately want to say I enjoyed watching them, just as
I would enjoy a tennis or football match.

But I couldn't help but feel like a
voyeur rather than a spectator. Women's boxing challenges the
preconceptions of the likes of my Australian friend, but I found it
challenging as well – far more than I thought I would.

But I'm going to stick with it. New
and different isn't necessarily a bad thing. And anyway, I need to learn
how to give Mr Enlightened a swift right hook next time.

Dale Steyn exclusive: South Africa are coming for you, England

Dale Steyn exclusive: Watch out England, South Africa are coming for you

|

UPDATED:

23:38 GMT, 18 July 2012

The South Africa paceman is the world’s No 1 bowler and a series victory over England would propel his side to the top of the Test rankings. He introduces his team-mates…

Graeme Smith

It’s just amazing that our leader is about to play his 100th Test match. Wow! What an achievement that is. Graeme has captained every game that I’ve played for South Africa and has been a fantastic leader and a great player for the team.

He has always led from the front with the bat. He never has to force people to listen to him.

Be prepared: South Africa captain Graeme Smith at The Oval

Be prepared: South Africa captain Graeme Smith at The Oval

Alviro Petersen

I have known Alviro for many years, ever since I started playing for the Titans when I was about 20. One of his biggest assets is how mentally strong he is.

Everything is in order in his game and he’s a very organised person off the pitch too.
I remember going to his flat years ago and everything was so neat and tidy. He brings that to his game.

Hashim Amla

The silent warrior. He is a very quiet man but just a great batsman for us with a very good head on his shoulders and a real thinking cricketer who has a lot of experience now.

He’s played some county cricket so knows the scene and conditions here well and that should stand him in good stead for this series.

Nuggety: Hashim Amla hit 275 runs on tour in England in 2008

Nuggety: Hashim Amla hit 275 runs on tour in England in 2008

Jacques Kallis

He’s the ultimate professional with the the most incredible career behind him.

Does everything — bat, bowl, catch, and if he wanted to he could probably captain!

He’s got new hair, too! Jacques steps in when you really need him and has a golden arm with the ball, delivering it with more pace than you realise. But more than anything he’s just a great batter.

Jacques Rudolph

Jacques has played a lot of cricket here with Yorkshire but has now come back to play for South Africa again and has been welcomed back to the fold.

He proved that he deserved his recall and then got a hundred against New Zealand. He’s always been a very good player in the 10 years that I’ve known him.

All-rounder: AB de Villiers will keep wicket in the first Test after Mark Boucher's horrific eye injury

All-rounder: AB de Villiers will keep wicket in the first Test after Mark Boucher's horrific eye injury

AB de Villiers

Perhaps the best of the lot. He’s a great batsman, could bowl if you wanted him to and has ridiculously good wicketkeeping skills too.

Would probably be playing for South Africa at rugby or tennis if he wasn’t doing so at cricket, he’s just the complete all-round sportsman.

Another guy I’ve known since I was a teenager, we all grew up together.

JP Duminy

A very good left-handed batsman, which is nice to have, and also bowls some off-spin which is a bonus for us.

Whenever there are guys in the team who can bowl some overs and give me a break I’m pleased!

He has always had to fight for a place in the side but got some good runs in Australia and has his opportunity now after the injury to Mark Boucher.

A long hop: JP Duminy lengthens the Proteas' batting order

A long hop: JP Duminy lengthens the Proteas' batting order

Morne Morkel

An awkward customer. His pace and bounce mean it’s really ugly to face him.

All of these tall guys get this bounce from nowhere and no batsmen enjoy the ball coming at their ribs or under their armpits.

And when he drags you forward he still hits the splice, so he’s always bowling those nasty lengths. He really is such an important bowler for us.

Hitting the heights: Vernon Philander

Hitting the heights: Vernon Philander

Vernon Philander

Vernon is unbelievably skilful in the way he can bring the ball in to the batsman and then take it away.
He can swing the ball but he’s probably more of a seamer and batsmen never know when to leave him because he’s so adept at nipping it back and getting lbws.

His career has just taken off since he first played Test cricket last year. Vernon has been around a while but has only just got his chance and has grabbed it with both hands.

Imran Tahir

He has taken over from Paul Harris but is a completely different spin bowler, with a more attacking style.

He
has so many variations: leggies, googlies, flippers, top spinners or
whatever. Morne, Vernon and I are mature enough to hold up an end now
when necessary to allow Imran to attack from the other end.

And me….

I
feel good, fit and as strong as I can be. I started bowling a little
bit quicker in the nets on Tuesday than I have been doing so far on this
tour.

At Taunton and Canterbury I was just
trying to get some miles in my legs and sort out my lines and lengths
but now I feel ready to step it up a level.

It’s now time for me to concentrate on that little bit of extra pace…

Pace demon: Dale Steyn is chomping at the bit to get amongst England's batsmen

Pace demon: Dale Steyn is chomping at the bit to get amongst England's batsmen

And how about the opposition

I have watched Jimmy Anderson playing a lot for England over the years on TV and he’s a fantastic bowler with the Duke ball.

We’re pretty similar bowlers but I’m probably a little bit quicker and more aggressive in my body language.

At the end of the day we’re both trying to get away shape with the ball so in that regard we’re similar bowlers.

He would be the guy in the England team I would look at to say ‘what works for him might work for me’, whereas Stuart Broad is more like Morne in height and what they are trying to achieve.

Similar bowlers: James Anderson bowls during a net session at The Oval

Similar bowlers: James Anderson bowls during a net session at The Oval

Will my battle with Jimmy be the key to the series Not necessarily, because you can sometimes see someone bowling outstandingly well and ending up on the losing side. I don’t really care if I get one or 20 wickets in this series provided I do what the team needs from me to win Test matches.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to take a lot of wickets here but there is something that is more important than the individual and that is the team.

We don’t think we’re going out there to dominate, but we’re confident in our preparations and the batsmen look ready while the bowlers look hungry.

Let’s go.

Arsenal"s Thomas Vermaelen becomes Shaolin warrior

Shaolin soccer! Vermaelen takes up Chinese art as Arsenal prepare for far East tour

|

UPDATED:

10:22 GMT, 18 July 2012

Just when you thought you had seen everything in pre-season, Arsenal look to have taken it a step further.

In an effort to combat a leaky defence that conceded 49 goals in the Premier League last season, the club seem to have dabbled in the arts of Shaolin – with Thomas Vermaelen leading the way.

Scroll down for video

Arsenal's new third kit Thomas Vermaelen poses as a Chinese warrior

Arsenal's new third kit Thomas Vermaelen poses as a Chinese warrior

The defender, fully clothed in the attire, looked a natural learning the discipline which is enough to make any striker worried about facing the centre-back next season.

But fans concerned that becoming a Chinese warrior is taking defensive duties a bit too far can relax as the art is only a tribute to Arsenal’s fans in the Far East.

Chinese supporters greeted the Gunners team on a pre-season tour last year by unveiling a banner with the Belgian dressed as a warrior.

In focus: Vermaelen was dressed as a warrior to pay tribute to fans in China

In focus: Vermaelen was dressed as a warrior to pay tribute to fans in China

In focus: Vermaelen was dressed as a warrior to pay tribute to fans in China

Under the tutelage of Shaolin Kung Fu master Shifu Shi Yan Kun, Vermaelen is (with the assistance of some creative editing) captured completing a range of traditional moves that are intended to reflect his style of play on the pitch.

Vermaelen, who liked the supporters' artwork of him so much he asked to take the banner home with him, said: ‘The welcome we had on tour last year was just amazing.

‘Those banners of us all as ancient warriors – and the work that must have gone into making them – summed up the dedication of the fans we met all over.

‘Making this video, and learning some of the moves from Shifu Shi Yan Kun was just a small way to try and thank them for that, and to get supporters ready for our return next week.’

Arsenal will return to China when they face Manchester City on June 27 inside Beijing’s Bird’s nest Stadium.

Wimbledon 2012: Martin Samuel – Andy Murray lost to a master of the universe

Murray lost to a master of the universe, the tennis equivalent of Pele or Ali…

|

UPDATED:

21:53 GMT, 8 July 2012

He did not lose because he choked. He did not lose because he moaned. He did not surrender to injury, or mislay his focus under the incredible weight of history bearing down.

Andy Murray, the first Briton to contest a men’s singles final at Wimbledon since 1938, was beaten due to a factor entirely beyond his control. He was defeated by a piece of paper. It is an official document, this sheet, nondescript and formulaic and issued by a local registry office or the General Register Office of Scotland.

Yet it places the birth date of Andrew Barron Murray – the middle translates from Old English as ‘young warrior’ – smack dab at the heart of what most acknowledge as the pinnacle of achievement in his chosen sport.

Sealed with a kiss: Federer is a master of his art

Sealed with a kiss: Federer is a master of his art

There is no misty-eyed golden era to remember in tennis. The golden years are now. It is Murray’s misfortune to have as contemporaries men who would have bestrode any other time like Colossus. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic.

There have been great players before them, great contests, too. Has tennis ever been more glamorous than it was three decades ago No, but it has never been as good as now. And along comes Murray, the greatest British player of the post-war years, and blocking his path is a superhuman triumvirate.

It does not matter if Nadal is knocked out early, Federer removes Djokovic, or vice versa.

As long as one of the three remain in a tournament, the challenge for Murray is mountainous.

So it proved on Sunday. He did not even lose because he was not good enough. He almost certainly is good enough. He just isn’t good enough now.

Murray has learned to be philosophical about his poor timing. He says competing with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic has made him a better player. Rather this than play in an era of weak competition. Yet how frustrating must it be, on days like this

The 2012 final was regarded as Murray’s greatest chance of winning Wimbledon and, as he remarked drily after it had all ended in tears, in his way was a man whose victory restored him to the status of No 1 in the world and gave him his seventh Wimbledon men’s title.

False dawn: Many expected Murray to beat Federer

False dawn: Many expected Murray to beat Federer

False dawn: Many expected Murray to beat Federer

TWITTER VERDICT

‘Hats off to Murray for a great fight. But we saw why Fed is the #GOAT (Greatest of all time)’ – 14-time major golf champion Tiger Woods.

‘@andy_murray did himself, his family and his nation proud today. Played like a champ. His time will come for sure!’ — Ryder Cup golfer Rory McIlroy.

‘:( so gutted for Andy. I don’t know about you guys but I’m crying’ – fellow British tennis player Laura Robson.

‘Tut – who on earth would cry at a sporting ceremony! Well done Andy Murray – did us proud before during and indeed after’ – four-time Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent, no stranger to tears.

‘Federer, all hail,7th Wimbledon championship. Andy Murray,you are a champion in my eyes, one day mate it will be you. #riseandriseagain’ – actor Russell Crowe.

‘As it turns out, with that speech Andy Murray today has won more than any Wimbledon title is worth. He has won the hearts of the Country’ – broadcaster Eamonn Holmes.

‘Hard luck to Andy Murray. He’ll get there eventually and it’ll be all the sweeter when he does’ – Olympic cyclist and fellow Scot Sir Chris Hoy.

‘Well done @andy_murray no disgrace losing to the best that ever played tennis….great final to have been present at’ – Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.

Some lucky break that was. Some pushover.

‘We’re talking about one of the greatest athletes of all time here,’ said Murray. ‘We’ve got to put it in context. If that’s my best chance, well…’

He tailed off. We knew what he was thinking. How long How long must he wait for Federer’s star to wane And what will be left for him then

Wasn’t fatherhood supposed to sap Federer’s strength, divert his attention He had twins, for heaven’s sake. There they sat on the ledge of the players’ box, watching their dad parade his trophy. Twins are nature’s way of stopping you thinking straight, except Federer’s thought patterns just got stronger as the match wore on.

His shot selection, his tactical decisions, his phenomenal ability to cope with the big points, the big moments, all improved with time.

Murray was at his best at the start, Federer by the end. After the roof had closed due to another downpour, he was simply stunning.

Murray could not live with him, as Djokovic couldn’t in the semi-final. As an athlete he deserves comparison with the masters of the universe: Muhammad Ali or Pele. We will tell our grandchildren that we saw him; maybe Murray will, too. Once he can stop crying. His tears will endear him to many, alienate him further from some. The crowd on Centre Court lapped them up, and quite a few joined him.

The moment he told Sue Barker, ‘I’m getting closer,’ with a crack in his voice it was obvious what would follow.

Murray failed to control his
emotions, as few in his position would. It seems almost torturous to
interview the loser so soon after defeat, particularly a loser dragging
76 years of shattered dreams in his wake.

Murray
acknowledged his opponent, his family, his team, his friends and the
supporters who had cheered themselves hoarse in his cause.

Double trouble: Federer's family watch on as he is presented with the trophy for a seventh time

Double trouble: Federer's family watch on as he is presented with the trophy for a seventh time

He seemed to want it for them, as much as for himself, and they did not judge him harshly. They had seen, first-hand, the calibre of the man that won. They knew that, even if there were shortcomings in his game, and opportunities lost, Murray could not have given more.

His detractors will say crying showed weakness. That these were tears of self-pity and a sign of a competitor who does not have the will for the fight.

And they will forget what it required for Federer to take Murray down in the critical third set: the 26 points that were played in the sixth game, the six break points before Federer triumphed, the 20 minutes that passed on this one game. Murray’s serve: 15-0, 30-0, 40-0, 40-15, 40-30, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, game Federer.

The last advantage only came about because Murray slipped at the net and was lobbed, the ball landing directly on the baseline.

It was an exceptional game, by far the longest of the match, but summed up the resolve of the two men. The first eight games of the opening set took 48 minutes to complete and almost an hour had passed when Murray took the set, 6-4. To suggest that Murray has lost four Grand Slam finals because he chokes is almost beyond idiocy.

He did not choke against Federer: he lost to one of sport’s few living legends.

If Murray had a fault it was that in the second set particularly he failed to capitalise on moments of vulnerability in Federer’s game.

Yet with most other players another
chance comes along. Federer is an exception. He allowed Murray a glimpse
of possibility and then the door quietly shut.

The master: Federer present his trophy to the adoring crowd outside Centre Court

The master: Federer present his trophy to the adoring crowd outside Centre Court

The master: Federer present his trophy to the adoring crowd outside Centre Court

Then a key turned in the lock and the result was inevitable.

The well-worn line about being able to cope with the despair, but not the hope, has never felt more appropriate as the great men of tennis formed an orderly queue to reassure Murray that he would win a Grand Slam, one day.

He has said previously that this is the hardest comment to take. They all seem sure, yet what proof is there Suppose this is as good as it gets What if he is the best player never to win a big one His coach Ivan Lendl also lost his first four, and went on to win eight, but history offers no guarantee.

‘Murray is giving himself so many looks at big titles,’ Federer said. ‘I really do believe deep down he will win Grand Slams, not just one. This is genuine. He works extremely hard and he is as professional as one can be. He got another step closer to a Grand Slam title today, that is for sure.’

How so Well, he won a set. That hasn’t happened before. Murray has been to three previous Grand Slam finals and lost in straight sets every time. Sunday’s events still place him 9-1 down when it matters, but nobody who saw this performance will say there is no hope for the future.

Maybe it is Murray that will take most convincing, as he sat in his chair at the end, staring straight ahead, lost in thought seemingly oblivious to the goodwill around him. These defeats hit him hard.

His last Grand Slam final defeat, to Djokovic at the Australian Open, was the most difficult to get over, and the emotion attached to Wimbledon will surely outstrip that emptiness.

Murray knows what was at stake here; he knows it would have been the biggest moment for British sport since the World Cup final in 1966. Instead, he merely erased Bunny Austin, the last British Wimbledon finalist in 1938, from the record books.

In that respect, it truly is a golden year for British tennis, although, as Murray joined Centre Court in drying his eyes, it barely felt that way.