Writing the newspaper roundup from the sunny Suffolk countryside on an unseasonably warm October morning has a rather different feel to writing it from the London rat-race. Partly that’s to do with having to walk for fifteen minutes to actually get to the nearest shop. Partly it’s to do with having a week off from ‘the day job’ and consequently not experiencing the fear of going back to the office tomorrow morning. Partly it’s down to having to fight tooth and nail to secure the sports pages as the family descends upon the pile of shining, promising papers.
Different feel or not, this is still a newspaper roundup that offers the expected (Sunday Mirror), the surprising (The Independent on Sunday) and the genuinely fascinating (The Observer). And so, without further ado…
The Sunday Telegraph
As mentioned in this blog before, The Sunday Telegraph is the weekend paper that this particular writer grew up with. Since leaving home some time ago, the Telegraph no longer makes an appearance in the household, with the parents finally realising its uselessness. So its return for the Media Roundup is like bringing a former friend back into the fold.
And subsequently casting it right back to the banished hell that it came from, for even by the paper’s low standards, this is dreadful. Not one mention of women’s sport. Not even a News In Brief item. Nothing. And in the homes of the Telegraph-reading conservative elite, the role of the woman continues to be a Victorian archetype. Women playing sport? Don’t be so ridiculous.
We may never have mentioned it before, but The Sunday Mirror really quite likes its football. Likes it enough, in fact, to prepare a 20-page pullout exclusively dedicated to the sport every single week. Thankfully, The Sunday Mirror is intelligent enough to know that its readers are interested in more than just football. So it’s a relief that their 13-page main sport section has only ten pages on the week’s football. Phew.
As for women’s sport, Tony Leighton’s weekly paragraph on women’s football gives us the Champions League and Birmingham City’s struggles to find out any information about their forthcoming opponents, PK-35 Vantaa. These people’s jobs would be so much simpler if the media…oh, I don’t know…actually paid attention to women’s sport.
The Independent on Sunday
You may remember, some weeks ago, the Independent on Sunday nailed its colours well and truly to the mast, with a commitment to feature women’s sport with as much fanfare as its male equivalent. The paper was rightly lauded and has been true to its word ever since. Except today, where the Independent on Sunday has as much to say about women’s sport as The Sunday Telegraph.
Which, in case you’ve forgotten, is nothing.
The Sunday Times
Thankfully, another champion of women’s sport exists in the mediascape. The Sunday Times has taken some criticism in the past from The Sportist, not least when trumpeting its Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards while, basically, not reporting women’s sport. No longer.
With the buildup to this year’s awards well underway, the paper again dedicated a full two-page spread to some of the award contenders. This week, in its Team of the Year category, the brilliant England Hockey squad that came so close to EuroHockey glory back in August before devastatingly losing in the final, on penalties, to Germany. With eyes set firmly on Rio 2016, England Hockey might well be Team of the Year contenders for a few years to come.
Elsewhere, as a main awards contender, Shelley Rudman; Winter Olympic silver medallist (2006) and now World Champion (2013) in the skeleton bob and undeniably one of Britain’s most consistently competitive and successful sportswomen of the last decade. With more medals firmly in her sight (the 2014 Winter Olympic Games now only 4 months away from their February start in Sochi), Rudman is yet another example of Britain’s burgeoning roster of elite sportswomen.
Finally The Sunday Times offers a profile of Young Sportswoman of the Year possibility, Amy Marren – part of Team GB at last year’s Paralympic Games as a 14-year-old S9 400m freestyle and 100m backstroke, this year Marren’s appearance at the World Championships yielded an astonishing four gold medals and two silvers.
Two things we hugely admire about The Observer. First – no matter what the situation or the week’s sporting action, the paper manages to find an angle to cover women’s sport. Second, in those weeks where the actual sport itself seems difficult to find, Anna Kessel usually crops up with some sort of brilliant article. This week, it’s a simply brilliant piece on Leanda Cave, Britain’s Ironman World Champion who defends her title next weekend at the Ironman World Championships.
Cave, of course, is a phenomenon. For starters, it’s worth reiterating the figures that make up an Ironman event. 2.4 mile open water swim. 112 mile bike ride. Marathon. Back-to-back. To put it in context, at last year’s World Championships, Cave finished in a time of 9:15:54. The woman is incredible; has 2012 double of the World Championship and the 70.3 World Championship made her the first woman ever to do the double and puts her proudly alongside the legendary Chrissie Wellington in endurance racing royalty.
In February of this year, Cave was also diagnosed with skin cancer.
It’s this point in Kessel’s interview that the piece really comes to life. Yes, it’s about a woman who is genuinely amongst the elite of her sport. But it’s also about an athlete who competes outdoors, for hours at a time, in searing temperatures and sees at first hand the effects that doing so can have on a person’s health.
Sports preview. Health warning. Public service journalism. Whatever it is, it’s brilliant. Much like the woman at the centre of it, the brilliant Leanda Cave.
Image from Wikimedia Commons – credit, Chris Smith. Thanks!