UK Sport Talk

Published 25 January 2016

2016 Getty Images

Friday 29 January

Skeleton: David Swift won skeleton gold for Great Britain on Wednesday as he registered the maiden win of his nine-year international career.

Swift triumphed in the penultimate race of the Europa Cup (EC) season in St Moritz, beating 42 other sliders in the process

The 31-year-old from Devon won the overall Intercontinental Cup (ICC) competition last season and had previously claimed bronze and silver medals on both the ICC and EC circuits but his success in Switzerland was his first in more than 80 senior races.

“It’s taken a long time, but it’s such a nice feeling hearing your national anthem blaring out above the podium,” said Swift, who was in second spot at the end of Run 1.

“I was eight tenths ahead of the Swiss slider who I thought would be my biggest rival after my first run so to then see a German slider come down in front of me was a bit of a surprise. I’d initially thought that I’d be out in front after that first run but I wasn’t and I knew I had to give the second run everything I had.

“Push wise I was good and, although there were a couple of errors at the bottom, the drive was good enough. The race was executed almost as well as it could have been.”

For more info: The BBSA

Sailing: Entries are now open for the 2016 RYA Youth National Championships at the Welsh National Sailing Academy, Plas Heli from the 2-8 April.

Over 300 sailors are expected on the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales to compete for Youth Nationals glory and a spot on the British EUROSAF Youth European Sailing Championship team, while for some, it’s the chance to race on a national scale for the very first time. 

The Youth National Championships is the premier event on the youth racing calendar and a proven talent indicator, previous notable winners include Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and Sarah Ayton. 

To be eligible to compete all sailors shall be under the age of 21 on 31st December 2016, with the exception of any 420 sailors also entered into the 2016 GBR 420 Class Association World and Junior European Championship selection event.

Bob Lowe, Vice-Chairman for the Welsh National Sailing Academy is looking forward to hosting the event: “We are delighted that the RYA Youth National Championships are being hosted in Pwllheli this Easter. This prestigious event will showcase our new shore-side facilities that complement the superb sailing waters, to a wide audience.

For more info: Royal Yachting Association

Thursday 28 January

Wheelchair Tennis: Gordon Reid reached his first ever Grand Slam men’s singles wheelchair tennis final on Thursday at the Australian Open. 

Elsewhere, Andy Lapthorne finished runner-up in the quad doubles, but retains slender hopes of reaching the quad singles final despite losing his second round-robin match. Meanwhile, Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley were narrowly edged out in their bid to reach the women’s doubles final.

After beating world No. 1 Kunieda in his opening singles match at Melbourne Park, world No. 5 Reid clinched a three set win over Argentina’s world No.6 Gustavo Fernandez 6-3, 6-7(6), 9-7 in three hours and 13 minutes to reach his first Grand Slam singles final. He has previously reached the men’s singles semi-finals at both Roland Garros and the US Open.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to make my first Grand Slam singles final after winning my first two Grand Slam doubles titles last year. This is what you’re doing it for, this is what you play tennis for so I’ve just gone out there and enjoyed it” said Reid, who will play world No.4 Joachim Gerard of Belgium in Saturday’s final.

“I just couldn’t believe it really at the end, I’d had two match points already and been a little bit tentative with them so I told myself just to go for it and if you miss it you miss it, but I couldn’t believe it. It was such a hard match and I was so tired after it, it was exhausting.”

Reid could yet reach his second Australian Open men’s doubles final, but his scheduled semi-final partnering Japan’s Shingo Kunieda was cancelled for the day and will now be played on Friday.

Should Reid and Kunieda, be successful, they will then have the men’s doubles final later in the day.

For more info: Tennis Foundation

Hockey: Great Britain Head Coach Danny Kerry has named the 22 athletes to travel to Australia for a six-test series. With a slightly larger squad than the usual 18 taken to tournaments, Kerry has been able to add some players to the group who did not feature at the World League Finals in December 2015. 

Kerry has opted to bring in seven players who did not play in Rosario with Giselle Ansley, Susie Gilbert, Sarah Haycroft, Sarah Robertson and Zoe Shipperley coming in alongside Shona McCallin and Sophie Bray who have returned from injury. Three players who featured in the World League Finals, Ashleigh Ball, Nicola White and Emily Maguire will not travel to Australia.   

A number of players are set to reach landmarks in their international careers during the series. Having reached the 350 cap milestone at the World League Finals, Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh is poised to become Great Britain’s most capped female player of all time. Currently on 353 caps, she has Karen Brown’s 355 in sight and could surpass the total in the third match of the series. Richardson-Walsh also has 49 international goals.

Olympic Bronze medallist Georgie Twigg currently has 45 Great Britain caps to her name and could go past the 50 mark if she features in five of the six matches.

Hannah Macleod, another Olympic Bronze medallist is also in sight of the 50 Great Britain caps mark, also on 45. St Albans striker Ellie Watton needs just three caps to reach her half century of combined England and Great Britain appearances.   

Great Britain will face Australia six times over the course of the series with the first match set to take place on 12 February 2016. The series will provide excellent preparation for the team ahead of an important year where London will host the best teams in the world at the Champions Trophy before the Olympics in Rio in August where Australia and Great Britain are in the same pool. 

“We will be using the training and the test series to give the squad exposure to a different style of hockey to the one they would typically face in Europe, said Danny Kerry, Great Britain Head Coach. It is a good opportunity for us to develop as a group with an extended period of matches in an overseas environment. 

I am delighted for Sophie Bray’s return. She has persevered through a challenging time to overcome injury. I look forward to seeing her back on the pitch.

Sarah Robertson has also been included in the group. She is an intelligent hard working young player who has shown rapid development. We believe this experience will serve her well in that continued development.”   

For more info: England Hockey

Athletics: The Welsh Athletics Senior Championships will host some of the country’s best athletes on Sunday 31 January, including Paralympic champions and World Championship finalists.

The men’s 60m will be one of the standout contests of the day with 2014 European 100m gold medallist James Dasaolu taking on training partners Adam Gemili and Jonnie Peacock. Gemili, European 200m champion in 2014 and Peacock, Paralympic 100m champion will be looking to start their season in an encouraging manner.

Asha Philip will head the billing in the women’s 60m event and will take on Swansea’s Hannah Brier who enjoyed a year of improvement in 2015. Brier reached the IAAF World Youth Championships final over 100m in Cali and will take on Philip who lowered her 100m PB to 11.10 last year.

Paralympic, World and European champion Aled Davies will kick off 2016 in the shot put as he targets gold in Rio this summer. After winning double gold in Doha in October, world record holder Davies will focus on a solid start on the Road to the Paralympic Games.

Stephen Morris, fresh from setting a UK T20 indoor 1500m record last weekend, will be looking for further improvement in Cardiff. In the hurdles, European U23 110m hurdles champion David Omoregie will start his season in the 60m hurdles, taking on David King who finished fourth in Tallinn. Also, Chris Baker will contest the high jump after breaking an All-Comers record (2.26m) at the stadium earlier this month.

For more info: British Athletics

Swimming: Olympians Katie Clark and Olivia Federici will make their competitive return at the German Open that takes place in Bonn from 29 – 31 January.
The pair will compete in the Duet events and will be using the same routines that they will use in March when they try to secure their place at the Olympic Games at the Rio 2016 Test Event.

Clark and Federici returned to the sport at the start of the season and will be back to competitive action at the three-day competition in Germany.
The British Duet will be taking on competition from 22 nations including the likes of Italy, France and USA.   

For more info: British Swimming

Wednesday 27 January

Wheelchair Tennis: Gordon Reid stunned world No.1 and defending champion Shingo Kunieda on Wednesday’s first day of wheelchair tennis action at the Australian Open as the British No.1 and world No.5 progressed to his first men’s singles semi-final at Melbourne Park 6-3, 7-6(1).

Reid broke Kunieda in the third and ninth games of the opening set, but after taking a 2-0 second set lead the Scot had his own serve broken twice as Kunieda took a 4-3 lead. However, Reid would not be denied and twice more came from behind to force a tie-break. A succession of forehand winners saw him take a commanding lead in the tie-break and he wrapped up his fourth career win over Kunieda with a backhand winner.

“I'm obviously really happy with the result today. I knew it was going to be a tough match against a player who's number one in the world for a reason. I went into the match with a clear game plan and I believe I used that effectively, as well as playing my best tennis in the important parts of the match,” said Reid, who will play Argentinian world No.6 Gustavo Fernandez for a place in the final, having already beaten Fernandez twice this year in Sydney and Melbourne.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back out there for the singles semi-final as well as the doubles semi-final with Shingo.”

For more info: Tennis Foundation

Tuesday 26 January

Diving: A team of 15 divers has been selected to travel to Rio for the 2016 Olympic test event where the aim will be to qualify Great Britain’s remaining quota places for the Games this summer. 

The four World Championships medallists, Tom Daley, Rebecca Gallantree, Jack Laugher and Chris Mears, all feature in the line-up as Britain’s best prepare to take on the world for the first time in 2016. 

And Freddie Woodward, Georgia Ward, Katherine Torrance, Grace Reid and Lois Toulson will all make their debuts at a senior world level competition. 

For World Champion Gallantree this competition is one of the vital steps for the divers as they continue preparations for Rio 2016. 

“This is the final chance for Great Britain to qualify the Olympic quota which makes this one of our most important competitions of the year,” Gallantree said. “Every country will be at this event aiming to secure their place in Rio for the Olympics. 

“In the 3m Synchro, three countries, China, Canada and Australia qualified their place by winning medals at the World Championships in Kazan and the fourth place is Brazil’s so there are only four places left and we have to make sure that we are in those places to ensure that we will have the spot during the Games. 

“There will be a big field at the competition and we are prepared for that with the experience that Alicia [Blagg] and I have. We are going to be taking a couple of less intense days of training before building our dives back up and making sure they are sharp ready to be at our best in Rio next month.”

For more info: British Swimming

Monday 25 January

Hockey: BT Sport and England Hockey are pleased to announce that the Super 6s Finals Day – the climax of England’s domestic indoor hockey season at the SSE Arena, Wembley, will be shown live on BT Sport on Sunday 31 January.

The Women’s and Men’s Semi-finals and Finals will all be shown live across BT Sport’s channels. Super 6s offers a fantastic spectacle of end-to-end action and an abundance of goals – over 50 on the day in previous years – and as such is a very entertaining prospect for BT Sport’s viewers.

The competing club teams feature international stars such as Laura Unsworth and Simon Mantell and the event also offers an opportunity for fans to meet international players in autograph signing sessions, which is always a focus at hockey events to inspire young followers. In the men’s competition, Canterbury, Reading and Sevenoaks will be looking to end East Grinstead’s indoor dominance of recent years; while in the women’s competition last year’s Champions Bowdon Hightown will be defending their crown against Canterbury, East Grinstead and University of Birmingham.

Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: “BT Sport thoroughly enjoyed bringing hockey fans the World League Finals last year. And through our coverage of the Super 6s, we aim to help generate a real buzz around English hockey as the season builds to an end.”

England Hockey’s Commercial Director Jonathan Cockcroft commented: “Following BT Sport’s broadcast of the World League Finals last year we are delighted that England Hockey’s show-piece indoor finals, the Super 6s, will be televised. Fans will be able to enjoy six action-packed matches on 31 January, live from the SSE Arena, Wembley. Television coverage of our game is critical for the growth of the sport and we hope that those who watch the fantastic coverage will be inspired to pick up a stick or come to a future England Hockey event.”

For more info: England Hockey

Diving: World Champion Tom Daley impressed the sold out crowd in Southend as he took the gold medal in the Men’s 10m Platform final on the last day of the British National Diving Cup. 

The London-based diver took bronze at last year’s World Championships and secured Great Britain an Olympic quota place for this summer’s Games. He finished the final with a total of 545.80.

“I’m pretty happy with how today went,” Daley said. “Missing my inward 3 ½ Somersaults, one of my easiest dives, definitely made me fight for gold even more, especially with Matty [Lee] diving fantastically. 

“545 is a good score at the start of the season and that performance has really shown me that I can perform well no matter what.
“Every year, I start a little bit better than the one before. I’ve been working really hard and I feel like I’m in the best shape I ever have been so I’m really excited about the year ahead.” 

World Champion Rebecca Gallantree stormed to victory in the women’s 3m Springboard with a performance that scored an impressive 326.05 points.
Gallantree put in a strong performance in both her prelims and final today and it was her Back 2 ½ Somersaults Piked that scored 72.00 points to give her a lead of ten points going into the final round. 

The City of Leeds diver dropped a couple of marks on her final dive but impressed the home crowd as she retained her title.
Speaking after the event, Gallantree said: “There were some fantastic dives from the younger divers in today’s final. I heard some big scores being announced, so thankfully I was able to hold them off one more time.

“I was really happy with how I performed my fourth dive, a Back 2 ½ Somersaults. I have been working really hard on it recently and as it is also one of mine and Alicia’s [Blagg] synchro dives, it gives me a lot of confidence for the synchro event.”

For more info: British Swimming

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