Glen Durrant wins maiden PDC title with Players Championship Four in Wigan

Glen Durrant sealed his first ever PDC title, beating World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh 8-3 to win Players Championship Four in Wigan on Sunday.

The three-time Lakeside World Champion, who finished runner-up to Dave Chisnall at Players Championship Two in just his second day on the PDC circuit, scooped the £10,000 top prize after seeing off the young Belgian.

Durrant made his first televised appearance as a PDC professional, losing to Daryl Gurney when the Premier League roadshow hit Glasgow last Thursday.

  • Nine-dart MVG wins Players Championship

And the 48-year-old from Middlesbrough continued his dream start to life in the PDC as he beat Jamie Lewis, Richie Edhouse, Joe Cullen, Mensur Suljovic and youngster Bradley Brooks before averaging a colossal 109.3, as well as landing a 128 checkout in a high-class affair against Gerwyn Price, to reach the final.

Durrant made a dominant start in the final, racing into a 3-0 lead to immediately put Van den Berg on the back foot.

The pair traded 13 darters as the Belgian got a foothold in the game, with the final then going with throw for the next four legs.

A 12-dart break of throw from Durrant – the best leg of the final – was to follow as he landed his third 180, a 140 and 130 to set up a 51 checkout and move to within a leg of the title.

  • Best of the darts in Glasgow

He sealed a famous victory with a 76 checkout to round off a comprehensive 8-3 win.

Saturday’s winner Michael van Gerwen was on the receiving end of a 6-1 thumping at the hands of World Championship semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall.

Yes, and as another Twitterer pointed out, it marked his 8th loss of the past 5 years. He also lost 6-0 to Peter Wright in 2017.

The Players Championship action continues next weekend (February 23-24) with events Five and Six at the Barnsley Metrodome.

What comes next? Night Three – Thursday, February 21 at the 3Arena, Dublin

The Premier League heads to the 3Arena in Dublin on Thursday, February 21. You can also stay up to date with all the action by following us @SkySportsDarts and get all the latest news, previews and interviews

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Valerie Loureda makes short work of Colby Fletcher on her MMA debut

Valerie Loureda lived up to her billing on her Bellator MMA debut as the 20-year-old taekwondo black belt made short work of Colby Fletcher.

Loureda showcased her arsenal of weapons in the flyweight match-up before turning up the heat to dispatch her opponent with a TKO victory at 2:55 of the opening round at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

  • MVP outpoints Daley

“This is a moment I’ve been dreaming of since I was little girl,” an emotional Loureda said in her post-fight interview. “My whole life I dreamed of the moment I could have the platform to show my martial arts to the world.”

🧸 #Bellator216 @valerielouredaa

Yaroslav Amosov stayed undefeated with a unanimous points decision over veteran Erick Silva.

The 25-year old Ukrainian was given a 29-27 and a pair of 29-28s to move 2-0 in Bellator.

Cheick Kongo battled his way to victory over former Bellator heavyweight champ Vitaly Minakov with a unanimous decision. The judges’ scores were 30-27 and a pair of 29-28s in favour of the 43-year old Paris native (30-10-2).

Mirko Cro Cop was also awarded a unanimous decision with revenge over Roy Nelson having lost to his opponent at UFC 137.

Cro Cop was awarded the fight 30-27 and a pair of 29-28s as the 44-year-old made it 7-0 in rematches.

  • MVP v Daley II in the UK?

“Roy is tough, a hard puncher,” Cro Cop said. “I will say it was more mentally hard for me than physically. It’s always hard to go into rematch when you lose the first fight.”

Sky Sports will be the only place in the UK and Ireland to watch the US, London and Dublin shows of the Bellator MMA 2019 tour.

Sky Sports fight dates announced:

  • Bellator 217: Gallagher vs. Graham – Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 – 3Arena – Dublin
  • Bellator 218: Sanchez vs. Grimshaw – Friday, March 22 – WinStar World Casino & Resort – Thackerville, OK, USA
  • Bellator 219: Koreshkov vs. Larkin – Friday, March 29 – Pechanga Resort Casino – Temecula, CA, USA
  • Bellator 220: MacDonald vs. Fitch – Saturday, April 27 – SAP Center – San Jose, CA, USA

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How quickly are Dublin progressing, and more GAA weekend talking points

Ahead of the weekend’s GAA action, we look at at the main talking points.

How quickly are Dublin progressing?

The biggest test of the Mattie Kenny era to date comes on Sunday afternoon, as Dublin travel to Galway. The Tribesmen will be eager to bounce back following their draw with Carlow, but there is no doubt that this is a bigger game for the visitors.

After three narrow losses last summer, the Sky Blues will be eager to deliver some results this spring ahead of the championship.

The Dubs have had a positive start to 2019, as the former Cuala supremo seemingly has an idea of his best 15. With the spine of the team settled, there is real competition for places in the forward line, with Donal Burke, Danny Sutcliffe , Oisin O’Rorke and Eamonn Dillon among those to impress thus far.

After victories over Carlow and Offaly, they are facing a step up in standard. Sunday provides the first real litmus test of 2019.

Can Cork get lift-off?

Cork host Clare on Saturday night, with the game taking place at Páirc Uí Rinn. While a league title was never top of the agenda for the Rebels facing into 2019, with young players being blooded into the side, they are the sole Division 1A team without any wins thus far in the campaign.

Add in the venue controversies. and John Meyler will want his side to avoid any pressure building when the Banner come to town on Saturday night.

Clare travel south with a spring in their step after their victory over Kilkenny, and Cork will need to significantly raise their game to dig out a result.

Will Limerick pass the latest test?

The reigning All-Ireland champions are going about their business just the right way. They encounter another significant test this weekend when they travel to Kilkenny.

John Kiely’s young side have admirably dealt with expectations up to this point, but face a step up on Sunday afternoon.

There’s nothing Brian Cody would like more than sending the All-Ireland champions home with their tails between their legs. The Cats will be gunning to bring down the Treaty, and playing Kilkenny in Nowlan Park remains one of the trickiest assignments in hurling.

Can Carlow maintain momentum?

Carlow were the story of round two of the Allianz Hurling League, as they held Galway at home. However, there’s no time to stand back and admire their achievements, as their trip to Waterford is coming down the tracks.

The Déise have been utterly dominant thus far, and with Laois and Offaly facing off this weekend, Carlow will know that they are far from safe from the clutches of a relegation play-off just yet.

Carlow showed they are at home at this level in their opening two games, after leading Dublin at half-time and drawing with Galway, but Waterford’s early-season form ensures Colm Bonnar’s charges will need to take another step up.

Will there be a shock in the club football semi-finals?

Anything other than Corofin and Dr Crokes wins would represent a major shock this weekend.

It’s odds-on that the 2017 and 2018 All-Ireland champions will face off in the decider, but there’s nothing like club GAA to provide a shock.

Mullinalaghta have defied expectations up to this point, overcoming Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster final. The Longford champions have earned the respect of the country so won’t be underestimated by the Killarney outfit. Nonetheless, the manner in which the Kerry champions returned to the All-Ireland series would suggest they will be hard to stop.

Similarly, Gaoth Dobhair’s historic Ulster title was an indication that they’re right at home at this level, but most are predicting that Corofin will be too strong.

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GPA to seek seat at table of CCCC for GAA fixture planning

Gaelic Players Association CEO Paul Flynn says the players’ body is seeking a seat at the table of the CCCC for when fixtures are being set.

There is ongoing controversy surrounding scheduling of matches within the GAA, with various competitions overlapping at this time of year, including the Allianz Leagues, third level competitions as well as the All-Ireland club championships.

“There’s more need for all the bodies to be involved in the decision making,” said Flynn. “The fixtures is something that’s vitally important across the organisation.

“For us, it’s about who do we represent? We represent the inter county players.

“We want our voice heard with regards to fixtures and that’s the committee (CCCC) that decides it, so we feel we should have a seat at the table.”

Flynn feels that it’s not an impossible task to offer certainty for players:

“A couple of weeks ago I got sent every game I am going to have for Fingallians right up until the end of the year.

“Any of the games that are fixed we have them, and any of the games that are fixed for inter county I have them so it can be done.

“It’s up to County Boards with regard to club fixtures across the board to work hard to emulate some of the programmes. I know in Kildare it’s similar and across the board in counties they have done this and shared the fixtures.

“Each of the County Boards has to take responsibility for that aspect of it. More joined up thinking with regards to whether it be third level, colleges so forth.”

The GPA are tabling a motion to Congress to have a seat at the CCCC, but only in regards to fixtures, and not in other functions of the committee such as disciplinary procedures.

“We have no vote,” he explained. “All we do is give that information and leave the room. We feel that when they are talking about fixtures, inter county games, it is very, very easy for us to be in there.

“But, also to be actually a decision maker and not just be in there and give feedback.

“We can leave again if they want to discuss other issues. That’s the purposes of it.

“I think if, from speaking to people within the GAA leadership team, broadly speaking it’s been received quite possibly, and hopefully that will be the case at Congress and we can get an opportunity to speak to people, around us explaining why we want to be there. It’s for no other reason other than to be part of the decision making process.”

“Joined-up thinking is important when it comes to fixtures.”

Flynn is eager to see change

Flynn also discussed the Club Players Association, and stated that the CPA’s aims are aligned with those of the GPA.

“We have met with them a number of times,” the Dublin footballer explained. “They have been pretty clear about what’s their mandate. It is to fix the fixtures. And if you look at our own congress motion it is aligned to fixing the fixtures.

“There are aspects where we are quite aligned. That seems to be their main mandate and they reckon once they fix the fixtures they can disband as such.

“Fixtures is one element of what we do and it falls under one are of representation.

“We have a breadth of work going on around player welfare and the player development elements too.

“Joined-up thinking is important when it comes to fixtures.”

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Ladies football wrap: Galway and Donegal set the pace

Galway and Donegal are the early pace-setters in Division 1 of the Lidl Ladies National Football League after both sides maintained their perfect starts to the competition.

Tim Rabbitte’s side claimed a two-point away win in Monaghan, with the Leonard cousins, Tracey and Roisin, contributing all nine of their points, while Maxi Curran’s Donegal turned on the style with a 3-10 to 2-7 victory over Mayo in Convoy on Sunday.

As well as the Leonards, Galway had substitute Sarah Conneally to thanks for their win in Cloghan. Conneally’s goal in the second-half put Galway clear, although Leanne Maguire hit back for the home side to set up a grandstand finish.

But points were hard to come by on a tough afternoon for football and after they were tied 0-4 each at the interval, the flurry of scores did not arrive in the closing stages either. Roisin Leonard was off target with a late penalty, but Tracey slotted her sixth free late on to wrap up the win.

In Donegal, captain Karen Guthrie led the way again as her side fought hard to earn their second win as their strong finish shook off the challenge of Peter Leahy’s Mayo.

Guthrie’s 1-2 haul in the first 12 minutes saw Donegal lead by six points early on, but Mayo recovered from the loss of captain Niamh Kelly to the sin bin and her goal pulled them level at half-time 1-6 each.

Mayo briefly took the lead, but a 43rd minute goal from Ciara Grant and another one from Roisin Friel gave the home side the breathing space to seal victory – despite Rachel Kearns’ reply for Mayo.

After their losses last week, perhaps it was no shock to see TG4 All-Ireland finalists from 2018, Dublin and Cork, both claim their first wins of the 2019 League. Six-goal Dublin took their frustration out on Tipperary with a dominant 6-9 to 2-8 win at Ardfinnan, while Cork strolled to a 0-10 to 0-2 win over home side Westmeath.

Both Siobhan Killeen and Lyndsey Davey scored two goals each for Dublin in a strong performance, while Nicole Owens and Carla Rowe also found the net for the defending Lidl NFL champions.

A goal from Tipp’s Roisin Daly meant Dublin’s half-time lead closed to 3-4 to 1-3, but as Bohan rolled through his unlimited subs – he used nine throughout – Dublin kept the pressure on. Davey and Killeen doubled their tallies after the break before Aisling Moloney hit the net for the home side, but it was a stroll to victory for Dublin.

And in Mullingar, Cork were never threatened as Orla Finn’s four points kept them clear of Westmeath as Ephie Fitzgerald’s side bossed this encounter.

Cork were 0-6 to 0-1 ahead at the break thanks to Niamh Cotter, Aine O’Sullivan and Finn, but Rachel Dillon’s point was all Westmeath could manage before the interval.

It did not get any better on the resumption and Cork raced into a nine-point lead before Maud Annie Foley kicked Westmeath’s second score at the death.

In Division 2, Armagh have already opened up a two-point lead at the top of the table thanks to their comprehensive win over Cavan at Clonmore on Sunday. Aimee Mackin hit a goal in each half for the Orchard girls, who were far too strong for their visitors in a 2-17 to 0-3 win.

Tyrone and Waterford are hot on Armagh’s heels though: last year’s TG4 IFC champions Tyrone earned their first win at home against Laois, who are bottom of the standings after their second loss. And Waterford’s draw in Tralee, secured thanks to Aileen Wall’s late goal, sees them maintain their good start to the competition, while Wexford and Clare had to be happy with a share of the spoils.

In Division 3, a late, late goal from Sheila Brady rocked Kildare and gave Roscommon their second win in a week and sees them pull clear at the top of the table, while Longford edged past Sligo. In the two games played as double headers with the men’s NFL games, Wicklow defeated Down at Aughrim, while Meath turned on the style and fired five goals past Offaly to take the honours at Páirc Tailteann.

And in the bottom tier Leitrim defeated Derry, Fermanagh rocked Antrim with a late goal at The Dub, Louth won well at home to Kilkenny, while Limerick lost out narrowly to Carlow at Askeeton.

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Horan hands out two debuts in Mayo team for league opener

James Horan has handed out two debuts in the starting team to face Roscommon in Saturday’s National League opener.

With all the hype and excitement surrounding Horan’s return, many are intrigued to see what the men in green and red will offer in 2019. After this group went so close to landing All-Ireland honours in 2016 and 2017, the new boss will be eager to give the side an added edge.

Two young players have been handed their debuts, with Conor Diskin and Brian Reape named in the full forward line.

Claremorris club man Diskin was one of the county’s standout stars in the run to last summer’s U20 All-Ireland final, while 2016 U21 All-Ireland winner Reape will be looking to make an impression.

Meanwhile, Jason Doherty will be making his 100th appearance for Mayo.

Mayo team to face Roscommon:

1. Robert Hennelly
2. Eoin O’Donoghue
3. Brendan Harrison
4. Keith Higgins
5. Lee Keegan
6. Colm Boyle
7. Paddy Durcan (C)
8. Diarmuid O’Connor
9. Donal Vaughan
10. Fergal Boland
11. Aidan O’Shea
12. Jason Doherty
13. Evan Regan
14. Brian Reape
15. Conor Diskin

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England beat Australia at Quad Series – here are the talking points…

Tamsin Greenway has reflected on the Netball Quad Series which concluded with England Roses defeating Australia Diamonds but narrowly missing out on the title…

Netball Quad Series final standings

What is the significance of England’s win over Australia?

England proved [that beating Australia at the Commonwealth Games] wasn’t a fluke which is absolutely brilliant. England needed to win against Australia.

It was a really important win. They needed to win by five goals to win the overall Quad Series and didn’t, unfortunately, but a win by three goals will give them so much confidence ahead of the World Cup. A scalp of the world No 1 is so important.

A scalp of the world No 1Β is so important.

Tamsin Greenway

What England players shone brightest?

Tracey Neville was really brave in game three of the Quad Series by starting a new combination. Nat Haythornwaite got the nod at Wing Attack and was fantastic – she was fantastic and will definitely be on the bus to Liverpool.

We have to talk about Rachel Dunn. She came off the bench in the second quarter of the match – England were five down at this point, but won the quarter 18-10.

At 36 years old it is an amazing comeback from being left out of the Commonwealth Game squad nine months ago.

At this stage, we need to see who the big players are. Dunn has to have booked her place in the World Cup squad.

Serena Guthrie played incredibly well in every game. She is the best mid-courter in the world. She captained the side so there was extra pressure but she lived up to expectations.

Your thoughts on England’s defeat by South Africa?

It shows how close world netball is, at the moment. You can’t take anyone for granted. The Quad Series had extra, extra time with South Africa and New Zealand. Four games were decided by three goals which is nothing in netball. On any given day the fourth, fifth or sixth team in the world can beat the top teams.

England’s players will now be split between the Superleague and ANZ in Australia…

Of the squad of 12 at the Quad Series, six will head off to Australia and six will remain. The Superleague is massive preparation and starts again this weekend which is brilliant because the players don’t want a break.

Those that are overseas will have a couple of months break and then they will start their competition.

Neville has a headache because, not only has she got to manage the players in this country, but she has to make sure that those overseas are performing well. The next six months will be a testing time.

How can she blend the squad? And hope there are no injuries. It has been a risk for Serena Guthrie and Ama Agbeze to come back to this country because the ANZ is the best competition in the world. It is upping the level of our game.

Sky Sports will show every game of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup live in July. A huge year for netball continues with the Vitality Netball Superleague, starting on Monday, January 28 when Team Bath take on Surrey Storm, live on Sky Sports.

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Freya Anderson, Marta Bassino and Ellen Keane compete around country

Three Sky Sports Scholars were in the heat of competition at the weekend to kick-start their new year in lively fashion.

Swimmer Freya Anderson was part of an 18-strong GB squad at the Flanders Cup in Antwerp and the 17-year-old European champion was the star of the show by gracing the podium twice.

On day one it was gold in the 100m Freestyle, and on day two she swam a lifetime best of 1 minute 59.17 seconds to secure victory in the 200m Freestyle.

“I’m really happy with my races at the weekend and I feel I’m in a really good place,” she said.

“I feel I can practice my processes much better throughout my races and I cannot wait for the rest of the season and to get back to the hard work back home.”

Italian skier Marta Bassino would have been hard pushed to improve on her incredible bronze in the Giant Slalom at Kronplatz last week in the World Cup.

There were no podiums for the 22-year-old but she let nobody down on the Italian slopes in Cortina with a 21st and 26th place in the downhill and on Sunday just missed out on the points in the Super G by one place.

“I was expecting a better performance in the Super G but everyday I’ve learned something new,” Bassino said.

“It was a great speed weekend and I’m really happy about my efforts in the downhill.”

Quante emozioni!! πŸ’«πŸ¦‹πŸŒ» Che bello tornare sul podio in gigante condividendolo con due campionesse come @mikaelashiffrin e @tessaworley La giornata di oggi mi ha regalato dei momenti magici, grazie a tutti per aver creato questa meravigliosa atmosfera a @skiworldcupkronplatz e tutti voi che avete tifato da casa! πŸ™πŸ»β€οΈ #kronplatz #salomonracing #sonsofablast #timetoplay #helvetia #misura #skysport #skyscholars #limoneriservabianca #csesercito #esercitoitaliano #leki #sportiscrew #sick #GSsheep #ethicsport

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Para-swimmer Ellen Keane shrugged off a bad ear infection to compete in the Regional Leinster Open in Dublin.

Despite the illness, the 23-year-old Paralympic ‘veteran’ was just happy to be competing again.

“I was just doing race practice rather than being ‘full steam ahead’ so it was good to shake the cobwebs off,” the Dublin swimmer said.

“The time wasn’t as fast as I wanted but it’s only January and it’s a good starting point for the year.”

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Athlete activism upsurge encouraging next generation to speak up for social causes

It’s the “gumption” of the younger generation that gives Helen Richardson-Walsh hope for the future.

The Olympic gold medallist wants more sports stars to show they care about social issues by speaking out. She’s seeing encouraging signs; that those coming through are getting more savvy about social media and are recognising the power of their platforms. There’s an improved understanding that you can be a high achiever and an athlete activist, but that it takes initiative and self-confidence to succeed at both. Richardson-Walsh is ready to help harness that enthusiasm.

“When I was younger, I’m not even sure I’d have recognised it was necessary,” she admits, when asked if she would have felt so comfortable in the past to address inclusion, gender equality, and mental health. These are three issues which the hockey champion – who won almost 300 caps for England and Great Britain – has brought to wider attention through discussing her own experiences, at events, in interviews, and on social. But even in her youth – “I was a grumpy teen, often moaning” – it was never the case that she didn’t care enough, just that she lacked direction.

A pointed comment from a teacher sticks in her memory. “She looked at me once after I’d complained about something, and said simply, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ It’s only in recent years that I’ve truly started to appreciate what she meant.”

Her sense of purpose is shared by the women alongside her on a panel discussion about Olympians and Paralympians’ perspectives on social causes, being held at the relaunch event of the thinkBeyond Talent agency. Like Richardson-Walsh, Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson participated in multiple Games before refocusing her energies to bring about change; next to her, Jade Jones-Hall is pursuing her own targets in paratriathlon as well as wider goals in access to disability sport; and Molly Thompson-Smith, a Sky scholar, is using her journey towards Tokyo 2020 to raise awareness of the lack of diversity in climbing and adventure sports.

Together they represent Generations X, Y and Z, with Richardson-Walsh and Grey-Thompson familiar to medal podiums and public speaking, and Jones-Hall and Thompson-Smith eager to gain more experience of both. The aim of thinkBeyond is to assist talent in identifying causes close to their hearts, and to best position them so that their words are heard, and their hard work gets results. In a video message after the panel chat, Michael Johnson presents a showcase for his Young Leaders programme, while boxer Carl Frampton appears in person to discuss his commitment to community cohesion in his native Northern Ireland.

It’s a time of opportunity, particularly for those in the UK who are picking up on the raised volume of athlete activism in the US. As a Serena Williams tweet earlier in the week put it, “Listen up. This is the voice of the athlete.” Even by itself, that call to action would be strong, given Serena’s personality and history, but it’s galvanised further by the presence of the Nike logo. ‘Until We All Win’ is a brand slogan that strives for equality and which people can buy into – in every sense.

Richardson-Walsh describes herself as “a massive Serena fan”; they were in fact born only a few days apart, and while both struck gold at Rio 2016, Helen would be the first to emphasise that their personal narratives and the size of their respective global audiences are vastly different. Yet in relative terms and through their individual sense of identity, both have become accomplished storytellers.

Helen’s triumph with Team GB at Rio 2016 had added significance as it was achieved alongside her wife Kate, providing a milestone for LGBT visibility in sport. Her parents were special needs teachers, and the spirit of their work continues with the Richardson-Walshs serving as ambassadors for Access Sport on the Flyerz Hockey programme for disability hockey. In addition, Helen has spoken of her own experiences with depression in a bid to eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental health.

A commitment to participation for all underpins her inclusion work; she cites Flyerz as an example. “I feel like I’m coming from a place of privilege in certain areas, and that would be one of them.

“Everyone should grow up, regardless of who they are, with the opportunity to play sport. That’s why I feel so passionate about disability hockey. When you see those people out there on the pitch, connecting, enjoying it, it takes me back to why I used to play. Sometimes it’s easy to forget why we play sport, and what it can give.

“You can get just as much satisfaction out of helping someone else play, and seeing them develop, as you do yourself.”

She is encouraged by the albeit slow progress on the visibility of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in sport – “it is important, and every year, it gets slightly better” – but debates around the T in LGBT frustrate her. “I try to put myself in different people’s shoes, and this is one area where I’ve been disappointed with LGB people. I don’t think there is that support that there should be for the trans community.

“In society, there absolutely isn’t either. Trans people are going through what gay people went through in the 70s and 80s, and it doesn’t need to be the case.

“In sport, I think governing bodies and associations need to really start talking about this. Recognising that there are trans people that want to play their sports is first and foremost. But the more vocal we are as a collective, the better it will be.

“Even for hockey, they struggled to support outwardly myself and Kate in our relationship. There is that fear factor, of not wanting to say or do the wrong thing. Whether those NGBs look more to Stonewall or they talk more to trans people in sport, they need to really try to understand what’s necessary for inclusion. And that’s only the starting point.”

Richardson-Walsh continues to seek out answers herself; she now has a Masters in organisational psychology, with her studies providing a deeper knowledge of workplace behaviour, while also allowing her to apply academic thinking to the elite sports culture in which she grew up. In union with Kate, she has an ongoing pledge to “smash stereotypes” and is interested in how clever marketing can kickstart the kind of conversations that release people from their pigeonholes.

In the last week, she has attempted to stay across reactions to the new Gillette advert, titled ‘We Believe’, which takes a didactic approach to how ‘men behaving badly’ affects society. The campaign launch has followed on from the release of a much-discussed American Psychological Association report on the dangers posed by traditional masculinity. So did Gillette get the tone right? “If everyone’s talking about the ad, then it’s probably having the impact they wanted. When we start talking, that’s when stuff changes.

“But I don’t see it as being about ‘masculinity’.” The ad shows various scenarios where men act inappropriately towards women. “Really, it’s about how we pick up on what’s wrong. It’s saying we should treat people the right way.”

Later, Richardson-Walsh cites another Procter & Gamble campaign – Always’ #LikeAGirl – which first ran five years ago and used examples from sport, society, and the more limited emoji library of the times, to show how girls and young women received a stream of negative signals in their day-to-day lives. “We live in a constructed world,” she explains, “that puts stereotypes – which are limiting and excluding – in our heads. That leads us to take shortcuts, and to put things into groups.” During the panel chat, she asks the audience to be mindful of that and to leave a space between thought and action; room to manoeuvre around the stereotype.

Thompson-Smith is still at the beginning of her career as an athlete but is equally determined to inspire others. “I want to teach girls that it’s cool to be strong, and to take on adventure sports,” she says. The 21-year-old is already working with British climbing’s governing body, the BMC, to make the sport more accessible to BAME people and women, producing content and video and tailoring introductory sessions so that new starters come back for more. “I’ve heard girls say, ‘I don’t want to train, there’s boys in the area, I’m scared’… all kinds of excuses. But it’s all about encouraging them to have goals and to go for them.”

There’s certainly a feeling at thinkBeyond that UK sport contains many more athletes like Richardson-Walsh and Thompson-Smith who want to make social change part of their stories. For whatever reason, those individuals have struggled to find their voice or to be heard thus far. Maybe that’s due to a sense of ‘British reserve’, or uncertainty around the impact they could have. For others, it could be a fear of negative reactions or even indifference – there’s often a ‘who cares?’ response expressed on social media, particularly on an issue like LGBT representation in sport. “We have to ignore them and carry on with what we’re doing,” says Richardson-Walsh.

The advice to athletes from Baroness Grey-Thompson, who has been a crossbencher in the House of Lords since 2010, is to be clear what you want to achieve, and do it with personality. “I have an opinion on everything, but the world doesn’t need to hear all of them,” she says with a smile. For those closer to the conclusions of their sporting careers, the ability to focus a new goal takes on even more importance. “It’s that transition – what’s next? You need other things to think about.” Jones-Hall cites the example of Andy Murray, for whom injury is forcing a finale in tennis at the age of just 31, as a reminder of the sharp shock of impending retirement. As a long-standing vocal champion for gender equality, his views are guaranteed to be sought out after the big serves have stopped, on matters inside and outside the tramlines.

What about our other modern-day idols, particularly those in the Premier League? Their community work often tends to go unsung, while in many cases, players’ social accounts are managed almost to the point of sanitisation. The impact made by Raheem Sterling’s polemic on undercurrents of racism in the media had added power because it felt so rare for a footballer to make such a strong statement. “I’m sure there would be a lot of footballers who have things close to their heart which, if they were given the choice, they would probably stand up for,” says Richardson-Walsh. “It’s interesting why more of them don’t do it.

“Agents and management companies can play a massive part in that, just by asking the question – have you thought about this? Is there anything that you’re really passionate about, a campaign you want to fight for?”

Thompson-Smith may not be a household name just yet, but it won’t be long until Olympics fever is again building in the national consciousness. Grasping all the opportunities which that presents is the next level. “The job is more than just sport, it’s about inspiring people,” she says confidently. As more athletes find their feet in the arena of social causes, the climb towards equality continues to gather pace.

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Dawid Malan signs new Middlesex deal to stay until end of 2021

Middlesex captain Dawid Malan has signed a new contract keeping him at the Lord’s club until the end of the 2021 season.

Malan, who will receive a testimonial year in 2019, has made over 350 first-team appearances for Middlesex, scoring almost 15,000 runs across all formats.

The 31-year-old has played 15 Tests and five T20 internationals for England, hitting his first Test ton against Australia in Perth during the 2017-18 Ashes series.

“I am very pleased to have extended my contract with Middlesex and feel honoured to have been granted a testimonial,” Malan, who has 26 centuries for the county, said.

“The club has become my cricketing home in every sense, and everybody – staff, coaches, teammates and members – can rest assured that I will be giving everything to represent Middlesex well and to bring success on the field.

“There is a sense of energy around the club, and I believe that 2019 will be a great year for us all.”

Angus Fraser, Middlesex’s managing director of cricket, added: “I am delighted that Dawid has committed his future to Middlesex Cricket.

“The award of a testimonial year is a fitting reward for the commitment he has given and performances he has produced since 2006.

“Dawid is a hugely important figure at Middlesex and has been one of our most consistent and outstanding performers. He is a high-quality cricketer and has much to offer Middlesex, and still potentially England.”

Middlesex will be coached by Stuart Law in 2019 with the former Australia batsman and Windies coach signing a four-year deal.

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