Tag Archives: woman

Darren Barker proposes at Wembley Stadium

Knocked off her feet! Boxer Barker proposes via Wembley scoreboard… but did he get the answer he was looking for

By
Martin Domin

PUBLISHED:

00:57 GMT, 14 February 2013

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UPDATED:

01:32 GMT, 14 February 2013

Roses Check. Chocolates Check. Dinner at a fancy restaurant Check.

As Valentine's Day dawns, men up and down the country will be hoping they’ve finally got it right.

But they will have to go some to beat the efforts of boxer Darren Barker who proposed to his girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium.

The big question: Darren Barker proposed to girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium

The big question: Darren Barker proposed to girlfriend Gemma at Wembley Stadium

The middleweight, who was at the ground
to promote his next fight at Wembley Arena on March 9, used the giant scoreboard to ask the all-important question – and the answer was a
resounding 'Yes'.

'It was short notice; I knew someone at Wembley and they said I could do it on the scoreboard,' Barker told Sportsmail. 'I’ve wanted to do it for a while, I’ve been with Gemma for 12 years so it was overdue; she’s been long suffering but she's over the moon.

'She didn’t think I had it in me; she’s a happy woman thankfully.'

Having pulled out all the stops for his proposal, Barker expects to get off lightly today.

'She’ll get a nice card from Hallmark and that will be her lot,' he joked. 'It’s what she’ll do for me, that’s the question!'

Darren Barker

Darren Barker

Sealed with a kiss: Barker got the answer he was looking for when he proposed at Wembley

With his next fight on the horizon, Barker has put the engagement party on hold.

'We went out for a bit of lunch, she had a glass of wine but I was on the mineral water! We’ll wait until after the fight.'

Gemma later tweeted: 'I was at
Wembley Stadium earlier where Darren was having a photo shoot and doing a
bit for the press…..I said yes!

'I'm
over the moon to be engaged was so lovely and we were lucky to have
some amazing photos taken on the pitch under the sign xxx'

The 30-year-old Chelsea fan, who expects to tie the knot next year, also got his hands on the FA Cup ahead of the Blue's replay against Brentford on Sunday.

Up for the cup: Chelsea fan Barker

Up for the cup: Chelsea fan Barker

'It was good getting hold of the FA
Cup,' he said. 'Brentford had their bit of glory getting a replay at
Stamford Bridge but I think you’ll see the true professionalism come
through now.'

Chelsea have struggled this season and the FA Cup is their only realistic chance of domestic silverware.

'In some respects I would rather have
gone right out of Europe,' Barker admitted.

'The Europa League is a bit
of a nightmare with the added fixtures and travelling. It’s second best
to the Champions League and we only want the best at Chelsea. I’d
rather win the FA Cup.'

After a long lay-off with injury, Barker returned to the ring in December when he stopped Kerry Hope inside four rounds.

With just over three weeks to go until the first bell, Barker's opponent has yet to be confirmed but he revealed to Sportsmail that a deal is close.

'It looks like being Simone Rotolo who I
was supposed to fight in September when I pulled out injured so I
suppose there’s a bit of unfinished business there,' he said.

'We won’t take him lightly as he’s a good
fighter and an experienced opponent. We were looking for a top 10
opponent but everyone’s either busy or holding out for a world title
shot.

'The next fight after this will be huge, either a big domestic dust-up or a world title shot.'

And when his big moment arrives, Barker would love nothing more than to fight at Stamford Bridge.

'It would be a real honour to fight at the Bridge,' he said. 'I’ve been going there for years and years as a kid and to fight there, I’d really have to pinch myself.

'It would have to be a big world title fight to fill a stadium like that.'

Jessica Ennis interview: On pressure, her wedding plans, winning Olympic gold

EXCLUSIVE: Winning gold was the best day of my life… until I tried on my wedding dress! Olympic star Ennis chats to Sportsmail

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UPDATED:

23:23 GMT, 9 December 2012

It was not until Jessica Ennis crossed the finish line of the 800 metres to become the Olympic heptathlon champion on that unforgettable Saturday night last August that we really saw the burden of expectation.

She stretched out her arms, her palms open, as if trying to touch every corner of the stadium.

Her face, the face that had adorned so many posters and billboards around the capital for so long, folded into a slight frown as she looked to the sky as if to say: ‘I’ve done it.’

Relief: Jessica Ennis's magic moment as she wins heptathlon gold and became a British legend

Relief: Jessica Ennis's magic moment as she wins heptathlon gold and became a British legend

It was not the frenzied release of
another Sheffield star, Lord Coe, after the 1500m in Moscow in 1980 but
it was relief, all right. Ennis had done it. She was the Olympic
champion.

‘It was quite a lot to do,’ she says in her modest, understated way. ‘I think the over-riding feeling was definitely relief. I couldn’t quite believe it had all gone the way I hoped and wished.

‘Everyone’s been talking about it for years. It’s been the longest build-up to anything I’ve ever experienced. Then I realised I was really tired — mentally, more than physically, really.’

Adored: Ennis's triumph inspired the public who cheered her on during the events

Adored: Ennis's triumph inspired the public who cheered her on during the events

As we sit at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and giggle giddily about engagement rings, the focused, determined athlete who crossed the line in London seems a world away from the 26-year-old woman blushing about reading Fifty Shades of Grey on her post-Games holiday.

Ennis got through half of the second book in the trilogy and then got too embarrassed because they are ‘really quite raunchy’.

‘When I got back my mum asked to read them and she’s read all three,’ she adds, giggling again, ‘but I was embarrassed. I kept folding it over so no-one could see what I was reading.’

She is also enjoying planning her ‘medium-sized’ spring wedding to Andy Hill, a construction site manager she met at school, and is ‘loving all the girlie stuff’.

Winner (again): Ennis poses with both the SJA Sportswoman Of The Year award (left) and the Pat Besford award for outstanding sporting achievement

Winner (again): Ennis poses with both the SJA Sportswoman Of The Year award (left) and the Pat Besford award for outstanding sporting achievement

‘The dress bit was the best day of my life because you never try dresses on like that, do you’ she says. ‘It’s very special.’

Ennis’s knack of remaining rooted in the everyday feels completely at odds with her extraordinary achievements on the track, yet her girl-next-door demeanour may just explain how she has managed to reach those heights.

How else could she have made sure the pressure in the build-up to London did not overwhelm her

She can laugh about it now, but Ennis admits she found it ‘weird’ when other members of the British team asked to have their picture taken with her in the Athletes’ Village.

She had never been to an Olympics before, yet people, particularly children, would often ask her what it was like to win a gold medal, an honour she felt the British public had already hung around her neck.

‘I think they did, really,’ she says, ‘because I’d had a good few years, so that added on a bit more pressure.

Style: Ennis dressed up

Style: Ennis dressd up

Down to earth: Ennis says she found it 'weird' when other athletes asked for a picture with her

Award: Ennis proudly holds her MBE, with fiancee Andy Hill

Award: Ennis proudly holds her MBE, with fiancee Andy Hill

‘People would come up to me asking, “What was it like when you won the Olympics” This is before London! I think that’s what people automatically thought before I’d even got there. Just to add a little bit more pressure.

‘I kept saying, “I haven’t actually been to an Olympics or won an Olympic medal. So I’ll hopefully let you know in a few weeks”. Then it was weird going into the village. Some of the British athletes from other sports were asking for pictures with me and things like that. I felt we were one team, we were all the same, but they wanted pictures and that was really weird.’

Just to add to the butterflies, there were the two silver medals Ennis won at the 2011 World Championships and the world indoors last March. They were two ‘seeds of doubt’ to remind Ennis that things can go wrong, especially in a gruelling two-day multi-event discipline.

At the time she masked her disappointment by saying it would help her preparation for London but, looking back, she has realised it did. There was no way she wanted to experience the ‘worst feeling’ of coming second at her home Games.

‘Not that I needed any more motivation because it was already there,’ she says, ‘and not that I was really settled and thought I was going to win everything. I never thought that. But I think it kind of showed me how easily things can go wrong.

Icon: Ennis with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe (left) and Ricky Gervais (right) at the Graham Norton show

Icon: Ennis with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe (left) and Ricky Gervais (right) at the Graham Norton show

‘It plants that kind of seed in your
mind of things kind of falling apart. It’s quite difficult. You don’t
want that negative thought to be there all the time.

‘It wasn’t a nice position to be in and I think that was the main thing I took from it: it was just the worst feeling to come second at that time and that moment I was in — and I did not want to experience that again.

‘I definitely didn’t want to experience it on such a large scale in London so that did make me really keen to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.’

She did not, of course. She flew, producing a British record of 12.54 seconds for the 100m hurdles in her first event and setting three personal bests in the seven events on her way to a British and Commonwealth record of 6,955 points, culminating in that final 800m on ‘Super Saturday’.

The impact of that moment, coupled with the public’s admiration for the poster girl who lived up to her billing, makes Ennis the leading female contender for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on December 16.

She is pleased she does not have to pick a winner herself, mentioning Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah and Ellie Simmonds before sitting firmly on the fence and concluding it is a ‘tough’ competition this year, but will see any award as a bonus.

These things take time: Laura Williamson with Ennis in 2011, before the Games

These things take time: Laura Williamson with Ennis in 2011, before the Games

Golden girl: Ennis with her spoils

Golden girl: Ennis with her spoils

‘Sports Personality is a nice thing to achieve at the end of the season,’ she says, ‘but we would rather have that gold medal. All the athletes are like, “That’s what we set out to achieve — a gold medal”. We’ll see what happens.

‘It’s so hard to say your (achievement) is better. You won a gold medal and so did they, but you’re going to get first position. I suppose it is down to personalities people like. It will be tough.’

And after that, who knows. Under new performance director Neil Black the coaching structure of UK Athletics is changing, with more coaches and athletes based at Loughborough University.

Sheffield, however, has quite clearly proved a successful environment for Ennis and her coach, Toni Minichiello, recently voted the UK Coach of the Year, and the pair are yet to discover how the changes will affect them.

Ennis says she was not particularly
surprised to hear of head coach Charles van Commenee’s departure after
UKA failed to match their medal target of eight in London, despite
winning four gold medals, but admitted looking beyond 2012 is ‘quite
scary’.

‘I thought we were
really successful at the Olympics,’ she says, ‘but I didn’t know if
Charles wanted to go and pursue something else. There’s always a big
change after the Olympics, so I always expected there to be some
changes.

‘Everyone was
building up for that one moment and it’s scary to think what’s going to
happen after, but obviously change is what’s happening at the moment.
We’ll just have to wait and see.’

Minichiello is ‘convinced’ Ennis can compete at two more Olympic Games, defending her heptathlon title in Rio in 2016 and then concentrating on the hurdles, while Ennis wants to join the elite group of three athletes who have broken the 7,000 points barrier.

Moving targets: Ennis said her Olympic success was the best day of her life... until she tried on her wedding dress

Moving targets: Ennis said her Olympic success was the best day of her life… until she tried on her wedding dress

‘I still feel like I’m new to the sport,’ she says, ‘but I suppose I have been around a while now.

‘I want to keep doing the heptathlon and see if I can get closer to 7,000 points and see what I can do at the worlds (in Moscow next year). It’s nice to have that option that I can go and do the hurdles as well, hopefully one day.

‘Olympic gold is any athlete’s dream and that’s what you always work towards. And now I’ve got that. I do feel really complete but it’s nice to then re-evaluate and re-set your targets; 7,000 points would be amazing because you go down in history for that as well.’

Jessica Ennis, Olympic heptathlon champion, is an official Powerade ambassador. For more information, go to www.poweradegb.com

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
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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
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

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
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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.

Laura Robson: I won Junior Wimbledon at 14 and everyone assumed I"d be beating Serena the very next day

I won Junior Wimbledon at 14 and everyone assumed I'd be beating Serena the very next day

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UPDATED:

21:20 GMT, 17 November 2012

Laura Robson passed her driving test a year ago but she has been behind the wheel just once since then and, while she has won almost 200,000 in prize money this year alone, she does not own a car and makes do with a monthly allowance from her father.

At 18, she remains steadfastly grounded despite her rise towards the upper echelons of the game, an ascent accelerated by her success in becoming Britain's first woman tennis player to make the final of a WTA event in 22 years.

Laughing all the way to the bank: But Laura Robson is still paid only a monthly allowance by her father

Laughing all the way to the bank: But Laura Robson is still paid only a monthly
allowance by her father

But if her transition from Junior
Wimbledon champion at 14 to her current status just outside the world's
top 50 players has been slow and at times painful, Robson is quick to
point out just how big a leap she has had to make in those four years.

'I think everyone assumes that, if you win Junior Wimbledon, you can beat Serena Williams the next day,' said Robson last week.

'That's just not realistic. 'It's a
really tough transition from junior tennis to professional tennis and I
think it takes a strong person to do it. There are not a lot of juniors
that have come through to the top in the last few years.'

To underscore Robson's point,
Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, the teenager from Thailand she beat in the 2008
Junior Wimbledon final, struggled to make a meagre pay cheque in a
small event in India a week ago and, while Robson stands at No 53 in the
world, Lertcheewakarn is ranked at 207.

While Robson's childhood friends were
starting university courses this autumn, probably fearful of the day
when they must repay their student loans, she has been cementing her
place in the tennis public's consciousness – and boosting her bank
balance.

Not that she has access to the money.

'Absolutely, not!' said Robson. 'My dad's not stupid – the money is completely off limits.'

Off limits: Robson's father looks after her finances

Off limits: Robson's father looks after her finances

Her father, Andrew, an executive with Shell, manages his daughter's growing fortune.

'At the end of the season, he was nice enough to give me a bonus,' she said.

Her cash windfall was spent almost immediately on a shopping expedition.

In all, Robson has won nearly
350,000 in a carefully-nurtured career that took flight from the day
she won Junior Wimbledon in 2008.

Photographs of her cuddling the
trophy were published on the front page of almost every newspaper the
next morning and her triumph made the news bulletins on every TV
channel.

But the other side of success was
spelled out to her recently during a visit to the financial advisor her
father has brought in to watch over her burgeoning bank account.

'When we had a meeting at the bank
the other day, I was told that 30 per cent of footballers end up
bankrupt,' Robson explained.

Looking to the future: Robson is savvy with her money

Looking to the future: Robson is savvy with her money

'I think my dad is being very
cautious; not that I would ever go crazy. You just have to be aware that
it's a short career and do as much as you can to save for as long as
possible.

'I am not overly interested in what I
am worth because I don't get to spend it anyway. But I am becoming more
involved. Dad wanted to wait until I was 18 or interested in what to do
with what I earn. I have become interested, so I'll keep going to
meetings and learn from them.'

Despite the temptations to spend her
earnings, she does not possess any credit cards, has just one debit
card in her bag – and no inclination to move out of the family home in
Wimbledon.

'I like my mum's cooking too much to want to leave for a few years yet,' she said.

Her father may be planning for her
financial welfare but it is her mother, Kathy, a former professional
basketball player in Australia, where Laura spent the first 18 months of
her life, who has been visibly most supportive on the circuit.

Proud moment: Robson and Andy Murray display their Mixed Doubles Olympic silver medals

Proud moment: Robson and Andy Murray display their Mixed Doubles Olympic silver medals

Today, Robson and her mother will
leave for a warm weather training camp at Chris Evert's tennis academy
in Boca Raton, Florida.

They will fly out – economy class –
with her Croatian support team of coach Zeljko Krajan, fitness trainer
Dejan Bojanovic and hitting partner Mislav Hizak, who are all on her
payroll. Robson met Krajan at the Olympics at Wimbledon this summer,
where she won a silver medal with Andy Murray in the mixed doubles.

In Florida, Robson will build on her
team's hard, uncompromising boot camp, which has just wound down at the
National Tennis Centre at Roehampton.

But she will return in time for her
first Christmas at home for five years – and the opportunity to get the
better of older brother Nicholas during festive family board games.

'If I play any game against my brother, it gets quite ruthless,' said Robson.

'I used to cheat at Monopoly all the time.'

Ched Evans refused appeal against rape conviction

Former Sheffield United striker Evans refused appeal against rape conviction

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UPDATED:

16:06 GMT, 6 November 2012

No appeal: Ched Evans

No appeal: Ched Evans

Former Wales striker Ched Evans has lost a challenge against his conviction for rape.

The ex-Sheffield United and Manchester City player had his case rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in London.

The ruling was made by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Mitting and Mr Justice Griffith Williams.

The 23-year-old was jailed for five years in April for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room.

Evans denied the offence but was
found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court of raping her at a
hotel in North Wales in May last year.

He admitted having sex with her but the woman told the jury she had no memory of the incident.

The prosecution said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.

Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald, 23, who also admitted having sex with the victim, was found not guilty of the same charge.

Lord Judge, rejecting the conviction
challenge by Evans, said: 'We can see no possible basis which would
justify us interfering with the verdict of the jury, which heard all the
evidence and reflected on it after careful summing up by the judge.'

The judges also threw out a bid by Evans to have his sentence reduced.

Part-time model Tihana Nemcic takes charge of Croatian football team

The beautiful game: Part-time model takes charge of Croatian men's league side

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UPDATED:

17:34 GMT, 1 October 2012

Tihana Nemcic wants to be treated just like any other head coach. The 24-year-old Nemcic, a former Croatia women's international and part-time model, just happens to be getting more attention than usual.

That's because she has taken over as coach of a Croatian men's football team – fifth division side NK Viktorija Vojakovac.

Nemcic, a former club player in Croatia, graduated in July from the country's Sporting University. Since taking over at NK Viktorija Vojakovac, she has asserted herself as the one in charge – not the center of a media stunt.

It's a woman's game: Tihana Nemcic has taken over as coach of NK Vuktorija Vojakovac in Croatia

It's a woman's game: Tihana Nemcic has taken over as coach of NK Vuktorija Vojakovac in Croatia

She's a star: Nemcic shows off her skills

She's a star: Nemcic shows off her skills

'I am the head coach and I have full liberty to create and plan the team's tactics,' Nemcic said. 'If a woman and a man have the same professional qualifications for a coaching job, I see no reason why I should not get into male football.'

The team is currently eighth in the 16-team league standings with four points after one win, one loss and one draw.

Tihomir Jagusic, one of of the club's players, described Nemcic as 'very good, focused and serious during training'.

'We listen to her,' Jagusic said. 'She is very strict at training.'

Nemcic got interested in the sport when she used to follow her boyfriend to training.

'I was watching him play, how he played… and then I started to play myself and it has become part of me to this very day,' she said. 'This is a big challenge for me. I have had some experience with kids, but with men's teams – no.'

Nemcic is finding life as a coach very different from her days as a player.

'When you are a player, you worry only about yourself and your personal performance,' she said. 'Now, when I am a coach, I have to think about more players. But both jobs are equally nice. Both have ups and downs.'

Nemcic, who was among 15 finalists
for the beauty title of Croatia Miss Sport in 2008, does face a
particular challenge in coaching the men.

'We
have a rule,' she said. 'Boys go in to change. When they are finished,
one of them comes out and calls me in. I would never put myself in the
situation to walk in on them inside the dressing room.'

Many talents: Nemcic is a former Croatia women's international and part-time model

Many talents: Nemcic is a former Croatia women's international and part-time model

Laura Robson reaches Guangzhou Open final after beating Sorana Cirstea

Brit special! Robson ends 22-year wait to reach Guangzhou Open final

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UPDATED:

14:01 GMT, 21 September 2012

Laura Robson became the first British woman to make a final of a WTA Tour event in 22 years after she defeated Sorana Cirstea in the semi-final at the Guangzhou Open.

Robson dominated throughout and eased to victory with a 6-4, 6-2 win to become the first British woman in a final since Jo Durie in 1990.

The 18-year-old went three games up after breaking her opponent early on before taking the first set, with the second a formality despite some late resistence and a break by her Romanian opponent.

Brit special: Laura Robson is the first female British tennis player to reach a WTA final in 22 years

Brit special: Laura Robson is the first female British tennis player to reach a WTA final in 22 years

Alex Kay Talks Tennis

The victory continued the impressive run of form for the new British No 1 after she overcame seventh seed Peng Shuai in the quarter-finals, following on from her success at the US Open where she made it to the last 16 after wins over Kim Clijsters and Li Na.

Su-Wei Hseih booked her place in the final after she defeated Urszula Radwanska in the other semi-final.

The fourth seed dropped the second set but powered back to win 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 in a match time of one hour and 37 minutes.

Women"s British Open: Jiyai Shin wins to make Asian record

Shin the star at Hoylake as Asian grip on women's golf extends to all four majors

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UPDATED:

20:58 GMT, 16 September 2012

Fourteen years was all it took for golf in the Far East to go from Asia minor to Asia major.

Fourteen years after Se Ri Pak became the first Asian to win a major championship, her Korean compatriot Jiyai Shin completed an overwhelming nine-shot victory in the Ricoh British Open at Royal Liverpool on Sunday that symbolised the region's complete domination of women's golf.

Not only have Asian golfers now completed the Grand Slam this year, they have won the last seven majors in succession.

Champion: Jiyai Shin celebrates with the trophy and on the green (below)

Champion: Jiyai Shin celebrates with the trophy and on the green (below)

Shin's 18th green celebration

Alongside the brilliant Taiwanese
Yani Tseng, the driving force, of course, has been the Koreans, where
producing a good woman golfer seems to be the primary ambition for many
households.

Shin completed her victory with one of the great performances in the recent history of this event.

It is never easy to follow up a
great round, and on Saturday she scored 64, hitting all 18 greens in
regulation to record the lowest total seen in competition on this, the
most historic course in England.

Yet Shin never broke her stride on
Sunday during the course of the final 36 holes played out in conditions
that varied from the benign in the morning to the frightful during
mid-afternoon.

Runner up: Inbee Park came second at Hoylake

Runner up: Inbee Park came second at Hoylake

As the wind blew and the rain came in
sideways, the championship was reduced to ridicule when play was
suspended for a short time for no obvious reason, and contrary to the
rules of the game.

The master commentator Peter Alliss mixed mirth with indignation.

'Yes we know it's miserable, but you can't stop play because it is miserable,' he said.

When one player seemingly carried on
before the hooter sounded to signal play could continue, he added: 'Why
not play when you like, and dole out some prize money at the finish'

Away we go: Shin tees off on the 15th hole

Away we go: Shin tees off on the 15th hole

A poor tournament for the British contingent had two small bright spots.

Scot Catriona Matthew, the 2009
champion, shot 75 to squeeze into the top 10 and Holly Clyburn, 21, from
Cleethorpes, came within two strokes of finishing as the leading
amateur.

Meanwhile, at the Italian Open,
Martin Kaymer picked a timely moment to turn in his first top five this
season, finishing with two 67s in his last event before the Ryder Cup.

Team-mate Nicolas Colsaerts finished alongside him in fifth spot of an event won by the Spaniard, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

Sandstorm: Paula Creamer plays out of a bunker

Sandstorm: Paula Creamer plays out of a bunker

Andy Murray: I used to get hate mail sent to my locker at Wimbledon

Murray: I used to get hate mail sent to my locker at Wimbledon

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UPDATED:

21:23 GMT, 15 September 2012

Andy Murray will bring the small Scottish town of Dunblane to a standstill when he makes his first, personally chosen, public appearance as US Open champion on Sunday.

At some point, he will take a microphone to remind those who knew him as a boy that he will always think of the town as his home.

Thousands will cheer him to the echo, proud to a man, woman and child that Britain's first men's Grand Slam tennis champion for 76 years should have returned to celebrate among them.

King of New York: Andy Murray enjoys the moment as he is crowned US Open champion

King of New York: Andy Murray enjoys the moment as he is crowned US Open champion

But the reception will be in stark contrast to the treatment Murray says he has received in the past at the home of British tennis, Wimbledon.

The 25-year-old Scot, who beat reigning US Open champion Novak Djokovic in a dramatic five-set final in New York on Monday night, won great admiration during two appearances at Wimbledon this summer.

His defeat by Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final is remembered for his teary-eyed speech thanking the crowd for their support.

Then he eclipsed that performance by defeating Federer to win an Olympic gold medal on the Centre Court three weeks later. But as messages of support overwhelmed Murray following his triumph in New York last week, he revealed how much abuse he had attracted earlier in his career at Wimbledon.

'I was still a kid but I was getting notes to my locker at Wimbledon that said: “I hope you lose every tennis match for the rest of your life”,' said Murray.

'People within the grounds of Wimbledon were saying [offensive] stuff to me, too.'

You've earned it: Murray kisses his trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic

You've earned it: Murray kisses his trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic

Murray's reputation had plummeted when, following initial rave reviews after he arrived on the barren British tennis landscape as the 17-year-old heir-apparent to Tim Henman, Murray made a joke against the English football team, saying that he would 'support whoever England were playing against' in the 2006 World Cup.

The comment has haunted him ever since, even though it was clearly intended as a lighthearted remark during an interview with Henman, during which the former British tennis No 1 had mocked Scotland's failure to qualify for the tournament in Germany.

It's my time: The moment Murray became a Grand Slam winner

It's my time: The moment Murray became a Grand Slam winner

But Murray's popularity rating had also suffered as a consequence of his, at times, petulant and foulmouthed reaction to the unfolding drama of matches around the world.

'It's a shame it took me to cry at Wimbledon to maybe change the perception of me,' said Murray last week.

'But the support I have had over the past few months has been unbelievable. It has definitely helped.'

Murray knows he polarised opinion in Britain during his rise to the top.

He
said: 'Maybe I've said things I shouldn't have said. You can get away
with that when you are young, but at 19 or 20 people start to question
the way you act on court. Everything you say is judged. I always felt I
hadn't done anything wrong but I started to understand how things
worked.

'I started to become a bit more guarded. Also, I spoke with people about how to deal with that stuff.

'You need to try to be yourself as much as possible but, at the same time, if people don't like you, it's not your problem.'

Murray believes that this summer he has reconnected with the Wimbledon
public. 'Over the last few months I have definitely had that connection
come back,' he said.

'I hope it stays that way.

'Obviously, you see the hard work that the British Olympic athletes have done but the support of the nation, and the media, helped the performance of those athletes at the Games this summer, no question.'

Now Murray has regained that support, he will surely do his utmost to retain it.

And a joyous homecoming in Dunblane on Sunday will be the perfect way to demonstrate the public's affection for the champion who was once characterised as just a grumpy young man.