Women in Sport Week 2016
The 3-9 October 2016 is Women in Sport Week. To help celebrate it, we've brought together writing from all of our women (and girl) contributors - athletes at the top of their sport, athletes just starting out, school children, octogenarians, volunteers, race marshals, race secretaries - all women putting something back into the sport (and writing rather well about it too). We've included a couple of other pieces - like the one on the Special Olympics below, which also celebrate the achievement of female athletes.
Our first piece below is from paratriathlete Lizzie Tench, followed by two collections of writing from Stoke-on-Trent to scroll through, the first celebrating sport generally, the second celebrating Stoke's wonderful half marathon, the Potters 'Arf.
Read and enjoy - there are some great stories here!
My name is Lizzie Tench and I am a Paratriathlete competing internationally with the GB Paratriathlon Squad. I sustained a spinal cord injury in 2012 whilst cycling when I was hit by a trailer from an overtaking car resulting in a broken back, several other injuries and paralysis from the waist down.
“It’s helped me learn a lot and make new friends. I enjoy doing SO and it keeps you fit. I find it interesting and exciting to do sports. I like going to athletics meetings and it’s great running and you can get medals and go on the podium..."
Stoke-on-Trent is not the most obvious place to live and to take up a new activity based entirely on the sea. But, after many years of different sports, sea kayaking is now what I ‘do’, and I’m pretty sure it’s here to stay. Sea kayaking can involve a lot of time moving slowly, through a salty landscape giving plenty of time to think, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about why I sea kayak.
When I was nine and at primary school, my dad took me to my first football match at the Victoria Ground, Stoke. There were no boys in our family but dad and I were close and often went on expeditions, so it was natural for him to include me in his football excursions. Sometimes we went on the train from our home in Meir, sometimes on the bus, and sometimes we cycled.
Many years ago after a big operation on my spine I joined a swimming class - it was actually with some pensioners, but it was perfect as I just wanted a gentle swim to get back some mobility. I'd started to get a little stronger and my swimming stroke was improving so it was suggested I join a swimming club as I was not a bad swimmer.
In early July this year Hanley came alive with dancing. Not just in our theatres but in our streets too, and it was all thanks to Stoke-on-Trent’s Big Dance Festival. The weekend was organised by North Staffordshire Dance Development Partnership (NSDDP); a consortium of charities, companies, individuals and educational establishments who are passionate about improving access and communication in dance.
My dancing dream
Is to be in a good team...
The way to succeed is to try
I didn’t mean to cycle from Land’s End to John O Groats. I foolishly told a cycling friend that I’d always wanted to do it when I was younger, and before I’d fully realised what was happening, we were planning to do it together in 2014. She was celebrating her 60th birthday, and at 68 I was just hoping to keep up.
When I was only two and a half, my mum decided to enrol me into ballet and tap lessons at the Jill Clewes Performing Arts Centre to give me a hobby - and probably also because I was a very chubby baby. Most children lose interest in their first hobbies until they find what suits them best, switching between musical instruments or sporting activities, but surprisingly I maintained dance for a while. Until now, in fact, at seventeen years old.
When I was at grammar school in the 1960s, I loved all sport. I was strong, with lots of energy, and as they say, it was a 'no-brainer' that I would be involved in every sport going. In an all girls school, it was so easy to take every opportunity offered. We hardly had any male teachers and certainly not for PE. It's funny but I don't remember any of the PE teachers but I do remember loving being part of a team.
Sporting Stories writes: Speedway doesn't feature on our list of sports (those which get you fitter through exercise) but Pat's beautifully written piece really captures the community spirit and sense of well-being which comes through participating in any sport, even as a spectator. If you've ever been to Speedway then you'll find this story wonderfully evocative. And the poems are perfect too...
When I read Cheryl Strayed's book "Wild" (now also a film with Reese Witherspoon), I was very much inspired by her story of walking the Pacific Crest Trail, up the west coast of the USA. The sheer scale of the endeavour, with most of her time spent on her own just walking with one foot in front of the other, was mind blowing. I'm not sure it made me want to walk hundreds of solitary miles, but it did make me wonder what was possible and what I'm capable of doing.
Mowenna Hastings is a wheelchair basketball player, introduced to the game by her mother Tink, who helps coach the Stoke Spitfires team. Mo is an outstanding and passionate player who has just broken into the top level, representing Great Britain in an international competition earlier this year (2016).
You stand once again at the starting line
Waiting for the games to commence
You’ve been here many times before
Yet you must race again and again
I moved to Stoke on Trent in 2009 (I married a local) and found that life in my new home was enjoyable but not really conducive to my health and wellbeing. I was much more sedentary than I'd been whilst living in London, doing very little exercise and gaining weight. I couldn't even run for a bus and the 10 minute walk from my house to the shops became an ever growing challenge. By November 2010 I knew it was time for a change... Working on the mantra of eat less, exercise more, I changed my diet, switched to a smaller dinner plate and started using the exercise bike that had been gathering dust in my garage.
Jean Gough is the daughter of Sir Stanley Matthews, and patron of the Sir Stanley Matthews Coaching Foundation. She has very generously shared this article (previously published on the Foundation’s web site) and some photos from the family’s photo albums as a very personal insight into Sir Stanley, the family man.
Angela Smith is a former world champion squash player, winning the 1979 Women's World Team Squash Championships, and she was one of the world's highest ranked players throughout the 1980's. Playing squash has allowed her to travel the world and she has been involved in numerous initiatives internationally to develop the sport. She is currently chair of Stoke City Supporters Council, a director of the Sir Stanley Matthews Coaching Foundation, and chairs the European City of Sport Local Organising Committee.
Emma Jackson is one of Stoke on Trent’s outstanding athletes, who has represented England at 800m in every age group. She was the fastest junior in the world in 2007 and in that year also won a silver medal at the European Junior Championships. In 2011 she reached the semi-finals of the World Championships and after a spell out with injury has recently represented England again at an international meet.
It’s finally arrived the month of the race, where did all that time go? It’s the big push now, got to get everything sorted for the big day. At this point the emails are coming in at a rate of knots and hopefully they get answered with a quick response and an answer that will quell any concerns that someone may have. I have my trusty notebook to back me up which contains lots and lots of info, ticks and crosses, that might seem a little old fashioned in this technological world but it is my security blanket and very important to me. Hopefully I don’t forget anything!
We gathered on the morning of the race to offer last minute words of encouragement and share bin bags to keep us dry on the walk to the start. From the club, there were 16 runners taking part in relay teams brilliantly organised by Janet – the Bluebell Girls, the Dancing Daffodils, the Blooming Roses and the First Marigolds (with all of this team being 65 or over). One of our members completed the event with the walkers and 11 runners did half marathon distance.
Running the Potters ‘Arf is hard work, really hard work. Even on my best of running days, it’s probably one of the toughest road races I’ve completed. But the support on the course from club mates, friends and family members also make it one of the most enjoyable – ice pops at the bottom of Anchor Road, the house with everyone in fancy dress on Leonard Avenue (which I was sure was a hallucination the first time I completed the race… did anyone else see “can can” dancers?) and the “encouraging” signs announcing the unwanted but unavoidable climb up Heartbreak Hill all add to the legend of the event.
It was good to finally get underway after the build-up – amazing crowds on the bridge over Potteries Way cheering us on at the start. I had been told how incredible the support was from the local communities, and it was true.
Gracie is number one – six – five
She’s just ran a mile – she’s staying alive!
Dad’s been her chaperone, he ran it too,
Now he’s nipping off to the loo!
Running has never come naturally to me, despite my will to try. My attempts started as a kid during Primary School, where I had a go at joining the after school cross country club. I turned up, nervous, in my little black pumps, shiny blue shorts and White t shirt. I felt ready. Cross country was slower than sprinting, so surely I'd be ok at this. How wrong could I be?!
Hi. I’m an older runner, been running since I was 55, joined a club in the Lake District after my first half marathon. I’ve been ‘doing’ the Potter’s Arf for eight years now. Travel down each year specially from the north of England; York at the moment, although one year I had to travel back from Malawi!
Dougie Mac has been involved in the Potters Arf since 2009 and in the past 7 years over 650 runners have taken part to support the hospice with £207,547 raised to help fund end of life care in North Staffordshire.
he Potts Arf marathon is a ‘must do’ on every runners race calendar in Staffordshire and further afield. I have completed the event nine times to date from my first in 2006 and only missing the years 2009 and 2010 due to injury and a holiday mistakenly booked at the same time! The friendly, supportive and nervous atmosphere amongst the runners on the day at the start is unique and is what seduces runners from elite to first timer, from experienced to beginner, to a one-off runner for charity to turn up and give it a go.
The trepidation, tribulation, the jubilation is clear,
As that special day around mid-June draws ever closely near!
We’ve done the training, the early starts, the (sort of!) watching what we eat,
But despite all this will I make it? … Thirteen miles on very tired feet?!