Yesterday was very much a Commonwealth Games day, but despite there being plenty of action in the pool and velodrome, as well as the start of the track and field competition, I chose to watch a couple of team sports that may not be as high profile as some of the more “mainstream” events, but are no less compelling.
First of all though, it would be remiss not to mention the wonderful performance of the thirteen year-old Shetland Islander Erraid Davies, who finished third in the 100m breaststroke (SB9 category). Apparently her schoolmates didn’t even know she was competing, but the teenager produced a personal best swim to win the bronze medal – along with cake and Irn Bru to celebrate!
A brilliant achievement!
Anyway, back to my day in front of the television (although I would stress it wasn’t a full day... I did 20km on the exercise bike during the afternoon – mainly out of guilt) and a fairly early start to watch the fantastic Jamaican netball team outclass the host nation. I had recently seen an excellent BBC feature on the Jamaican squad – who are known as The Sunshine Girls – and with my charity challenge goal shooter debut hopefully not too far away, I am officially supporting the Jamaican girls, and picking up as many hints and tips as I can along the way.
I must admit that even when I was at the peak of my athletic powers (roughly around the age of eight!), I could only have marvelled at the speed of thought and movement, as well as the sublime skills on show in top-level netball; and any attempt to replicate what I’ve seen will be done in slow motion, with many a painful wince along the way.
The shooters I have watched (Romelda Aiken in particular) make scoring look ridiculously easy at times, but I reckon when it’s my turn to have a go, the hoop will surely get smaller and higher as soon as I take aim.
At 5 o’clock, it was the turn of the England girls to take on South Africa. It was a crucial encounter and the first two quarters were both close and far more physical than you’d expect from a “non-contact” sport. The netball court is certainly no place for a Premier League footballer, that’s for sure.
England dominated the third quarter, and built a lead that they held relatively comfortably during the final fifteen minutes. There were quite a few errors, hardly surprising given the tension that comes from such an important game, but it was a gripping contest nonetheless.
In between the netball, it was the turn of England’s women hockey squad to take on Malaysia. The tournament gives Kate-Richardson-Walsh’s side the ideal opportunity to put a disappointing World Cup campaign behind them, and they duly won their second pool game by a comfortable 5-0 margin. Their opponents seemed defensively well-organised, but showed no real attacking flair, and the final scoreline reflected not only England’s dominance, but also a fine performance from the Malaysian goalkeeper.
Once again, you could not fail to be impressed by the skills and incredible fitness levels on show. I know it’s not always fair to single out individuals, but in my opinion the respective “women of the match” were Geva Mentor (netball goal keeper) and Alex Danson (a hockey forward, who I’ve been fortunate enough to meet). They must surely be two of the most exceptional athletes currently playing any team sport (male or female) for England, but I wonder how many of you would actually have been able to put names to these faces?
It’s great that the BBC is streaming sports like netball and hockey to the public at large. They might not get a great deal of primetime coverage on BBC1 or BBC3, but right now they are only one press of the red button away – not really that much of an effort to see some outstanding athletes and top quality sporting action is it?