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Monday, October 31, 2011

Henry quits as New Zealand coach

 Henry was in charge of Wales between 1998 and 2002 World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry has stood down as New Zealand boss after an eight-year reign.

The 65-year-old took over in December 2003 and saw his side narrowly beat France 8-7 in the World Cup final on 23 October to claim their second title.

He said: "I've had enough, it's been an enormous privilege to coach the All Blacks and I am exceptionally proud of how the team has added to the legacy."

Henry won 85.4% of Tests as All Blacks coach, winning 88 of his 103 Tests.

Continue reading the main story Named coach in 2003 replacing John MitchellIn 2005, Henry's New Zealand beat the Lions 3-0, win the Tri-Nations and win every game on their tour of the northern hemisphere The All Blacks recover from a poor start to win the 2008 Tri-Nations then record a Grand Slam tour of the UK and Ireland in NovemberThe Kiwis win the Tri-Nations in 2010, securing an unprecedented six wins from six games. A third Grand Slam in five years followsWorld Cup glory follows in 2011 as they beat France in the finalHenry wins 88 of his 103 Tests in charge of New Zealand

He won the Tri-Nations, which pits New Zealand against Australia and South Africa, five times and achieved three Grand Slams against the Northern Hemisphere home nations during November tours.

But he will be most feted for guiding the All Blacks to their second World Cup triumph on home soil, 24 years after the side won the inaugural tournament, also in New Zealand.

Henry added: "I am exceptionally proud of how the players have developed an extremely professional and enjoyable culture and environment, and how they have reached out to people of all ages and put a smile on their faces, both here in New Zealand and overseas.

"So I want to say a special thank you and congratulations to all the players who have played during this time, especially to Tana Umaga and Richie McCaw, the two long-term captains."

Former Wales coach Henry has said that he would be interested in a role with the RFU.

But New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew is confident of keeping Henry in the country in a mentor role.

Tew said: "He leaves the All Blacks job as one of the greatest coaches in the game, his record is unsurpassed and while he will now get time to spend with family and friends, and the odd bit of fishing, we are delighted that Graham is still going to be involved in New Zealand rugby."

Henry was in charge of Wales for four years, winning 20 of his 34 Tests before leaving in 2002, and he also took charge of the Lions' losing tour to Australia in 2001.

Henry and assistant Steve Hansen - who has been linked with taking over - will coach the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday, 26 November.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bobsleigher suffers fractured spine

British bobsleigher Serita Shone is reported to have suffered a fractured spine in a training crash in Germany.

British Bobsleigh performance director Gary Anderson told the BBC that Shone had undergone surgery following the crash. Her team-mate Fiona Harrison is said to have suffered a head injury and remains under observation.

Anderson told BBC Sport: "I can confirm they were injured during a training run for the British Championships. Serita has had spinal surgery and is still under sedation. My focus is now on the two athletes and their families."

The pair were training in Winterburg where the British Bobsleigh Championships are taking place this week.

Shone, 22, joined the bobsleigh team last month after switching from athletics where she had competed as a heptathlete.

Harrison, 29, is also a former heptathlete who has competed in bobsleigh for two years.

British girls pitch in as hockey gets a revamp for Olympics

BRITAIN’S women’s hockey team trained on the new blue and pink Olympic pitch yesterday and insisted it is not just a gimmick.

London 2012 will be the first international competition to use the state-of-the-art blue pitch, complete with pink surrounds and a yellow ball.

The new shades aim to make following the ball easier for spectators.

Britain’s captain Kate Walsh, 31, said: “It updates the sport. Maybe with the green, people can think of the old jolly hockey sticks thing but this just makes it new and modern.

“On camera, you can see the ball better. Hopefully with the balmy summer that we will have for the Olympics, it will definitely help with the glare.”

Crocked Pietersen could miss out on IPL riches

KEVIN PIETERSEN looks set to be denied the chance of convincing Indian Premier League teams to splash out and sign him up.

He had hoped to play for England in tomorrow’s T20 at Eden Gardens knowing a big ­performance in front of an adoring Indian public would give him, or any others looking for an IPL team, a timely leg-up just weeks before the auction for next year’s ­tournament takes place.

But a fractured thumb suffered in the field on Sunday in Mumbai makes him a big doubt for the game, although he will have a fitness test today in the hope he might still be able to make it.

The 31-year-old batsman is a cult hero in India thanks to his time as England captain when the side returned following terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008.

He also turned out for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League in both 2009 and 2010.

However, having seen his auction fee – the amount a team is willing to pay for his services – tumble from $1.55million last year to $650,000 this year, a double hernia then prevented Pietersen from playing his part for the Deccan Chargers.

He chalked up a quickfire 33 in England’s T20 win over India in August, but knows a big ­performance from him tomorrow would have caught the eye of IPL franchises looking to bolster their squads for the spring.

Even a young player such as Jos Buttler, who will be making just his fourth T20 appearance for England, has a chance to impress after shining for Somerset in the Champions League. Buttler and Alex Hales will be the two new additions to the side as England aim to put their 5-0 one-day ­drubbing behind them and do what India could not on their tour of England – win a match.

“Nobody wants to leave this tour without a win and we have got one last chance on Saturday to make that happen,” said Buttler. “Potentially there is a bit of pressure on us because we’re world No.1 and world champions in T20 cricket. Everyone is looking to that positively.

“The five one-dayers have gone and that is history now. What has happened has happened and we can’t do anything about it so we just need to focus on trying to get a win.

“Playing in India is different but the basics are the same. The wickets are a bit different and it is our job to adapt to it.

“Twenty20 gives you the chance to express yourself and play with no fear, which I think can only help your batting.

“Hopefully we can put on a good performance on Saturday and end the tour with a win.”

Buttler is one of a new breed of cricketer who have grown up with T20 cricket as part of the ­furniture and is used to the ­razzmatazz surrounding it, as well as the innovative shots which need to be played.

He has probably the biggest hitter in T20 cricket alongside him at Somerset in the shape of Keiron Pollard, who would make more money than the rest of the squad by virtue of travelling the globe and playing the shortest form of the game. It would be easy to see why Buttler and his generation could have their heads turned by the sort of lifestyle enjoyed by Pollard, but there is only one goal for Buttler.

“I want to play Test cricket,” he added, before the England players left for a charity visit to Future Hope School to support work in helping street children of Kolkata enjoy a brighter future.

“Look at the Ashes series recently and the fact that England are now the No.1 side in the world,” said Buttler.

“I think a lot of young cricketers want to be a part of that.

“Test cricket is my ultimate aim as I think it should be for any young player coming into the county game.

“Potentially there are those who see Twenty20 as the big stage, but I enjoy all three formats of the game and the pinnacle as far as I’m concerned is Test cricket.”

Fans and stars turn out to pay respects to Simoncelli

MARCO SIMONCELLI was laid to rest yesterday in Coriano, the village where he was born and lived.

The Italian MotoGP rider died on Sunday after suffering fatal wounds during a track crash in Malaysia.

Simoncelli lost control of his Honda at turn 11 and swerved across the track, into the path of his close friend Valentino Rossi and American rider Colin Edwards.

Large crowds gathered yesterday outside the church in Coriano where the funeral was held to bid farewell to the 24-year-old. The service was shown on big screens set up in the village square.

Mourners included seven-time world champion Rossi, Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo as well as Gresini Racing Team boss Fausto Gresini.

Gresini said: “Perhaps we didn’t consider just how much he was loved, we thought we knew it, but the number of people that have come here has been truly great. This is comforting even though we have a lot of pain inside.”

Two of Simoncelli’s bikes, a Gilera 250 and a Honda, guarded the coffin while his helmet with the No.58 was placed above the casket.

Hamilton aims to sign off with a hat-trick of wins

From BYRON YOUNG in New Delhi

LEWIS HAMILTON has targeted a hat-trick of wins to sign off from the toughest season of his Grand Prix career.

The 26-year-old is convinced he can win Sunday’s inaugural Indian Grand Prix and then add Abu Dhabi and Brazil to his list of victories.

“There’s three tracks coming up that I like and I’d love to win all three,” said the Vodafone McLaren racer.

“I feel positive coming into the weekend, knowing that we were competitive in the last race.”

But Hamilton openly admitted that he is still coming to terms with his break-up from Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger.

“I’m just trying to keep my mind focused on business,” he said. “It’s never easy to go through tough times. They are sent to try you and it’s about how you pull through.

“I’ve got my family to help me and I feel pretty good. Nicole and I parted on good terms and we’re still friends.

“It’s something everyone goes through. Everyone has hard times in their life and they just deal with it.”

McLaren will spend part of today’s practice trying to solve the mystery front wing problem that prevented Hamilton hunting down Sebastian Vettel for victory at the last round in Korea.

Haye leaves door open for Klitschko comeback bout

David Haye David Haye (Pic: AFP)

David Haye admits "only time will tell" whether the Klitschko brothers try to lure him out of retirement with a shot at redemption.

Haye officially retired on his 31st birthday this month despite ending on a low note following his high-profile heavyweight unification loss against Wladimir Klitschko in July.

However, the former WBA champion would undoubtedly lace up his gloves once more to take on Wladimir or brother Vitali should the right offer be made for him to get back into the ring.

The Londoner, who lost his belt to the Ukrainian IBF/WBO champion in Hamburg this summer, today launched the biography 'Making Haye' and in the book admits he has simply "retired from fighting anyone without the Klitschko surname".

The former cruiserweight king, who will pursue an acting career in the future, told Press Association Sport: "The book leaves it open a little.

"You never know, there's always another chapter, whether it's me retiring and you never hear from me again, or because I go out there and become a big success with the acting. It's the end of one chapter and there are plenty of chapters to come in the rest of my life.

"Only time will tell whether the Klitschkos need me more than I need them.

"They won't believe that. But it depends what they want out of boxing. If they want guaranteed easy victories then they can do what they've always done but if they want a tough challenge you'd think they would want to beat down my door.

"But if they're not interested in fighting then fair enough, I've moved on. It obviously wasn't meant to be."

The Klitschko camp claimed days before Haye's scheduled retirement on October 13 that they were negotiating a deal for the Briton to meet Vitali, but the fighter himself insists they "never came close" to agreeing anything.

Haye bowed out with a record of 25 wins - 23 by knockout - and two defeats, and admits his losses to Carl Thompson early in his career and Klitschko in his last fight are just something he has to accept.

"The two defeats were completely different because against Carl Thompson I was unprepared, both mentally and physically and there was a lot more I could have done, whereas the fight with Wladimir was completely different," he said.

"It didn't go my way against Klitschko. It was one of those fights. I lost a points decision and it is what it is.

"I did the best I could and I've got to live with that."

Haye infamously blamed a toe injury for his failure to perform against Klitschko in his final fight, but maintains he never considered pulling out, especially having withdrawn from a bout with Klitschko in 2009 with a back problem.

"It was never an option to pull out of the fight no matter what was wrong," said 'The Hayemaker'.

"I was never going to pull out.

"I had to go through with it. It was not an option. Certain fights you can pull out of and certain fights you can't, and in that fight it was not an option."

Haye insists he is content to carry on enjoying a life of leisure for the time being.

"I'm definitely not getting itchy feet just yet," he said.

"I'm keeping busy, catching up with friends and family, having a rest and taking it easy. I'm enjoying life and enjoying all the things I wasn't able to while I was a competitive boxer."

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Britain's women's hockey team trained on the new blue and pink Olympic pitch yesterday and insisted it is not just a gimmick.

London 2012 will be the first international competition to use the state-of-theart blue pitch, complete with pink surrounds and a yellow ball.

The new shades aim to make following the ball easier for spectators.

Britain's captain Kate Walsh, 31, said: "It updates the sport. Maybe with the green, people can think of the old jolly hockey sticks thing but this just makes it new and modern.

"On camera, you can see the ball better. Hopefully with the balmy summer that we will have for the Olympics, it will definitely help with the glare."


Bemused Brit schoolboys who faced Nazi salute before game

Nazi hockey players salute Hitler before a 1939 match at an English public school.

The German adult touring team extended their arms and shouted "Heil Hitler" as their bemused young opponents looked on.

The moment was captured in a recently-unearthed photo taken at Hitchin Boys' Grammar School, Herts, six months before the Second World War broke out.

Journalist and former pupil Richard Whitmore, who found the snap in a local museum, said: "It sent a shiver down my spine."

The salute was mandatory for Germans at the time. England's football team were even told to join in at a 1938 game in Berlin.

Leicester Tigers boss Cockerill calls on fringe players to shine

Richard Cockerill Richard Cockerill (Pic: Getty)

Richard Cockerill has challenged his Leicester fringe players to rise to the challenge of propelling the team up the table after Manu Tuilagi joined the club's injured list.

Star centre Tuilagi is set to be absent until mid-December after breaking a cheekbone in a collision with Scott Lawson during last Friday's home victory over Gloucester in the LV= Cup.

The England international will miss a raft of big matches for Tigers, who head into tomorrow's Aviva Premiership clash away to Sale Sharks in an unfamiliar 11th place, after just one win in six games.

He joins the likes of Mathew Tait and Billy Twelvetrees on the sidelines, with director of rugby Cockerill left to wonder when his team's fitness fortunes will improve.

Cockerill said: "Manu suffered a broken cheekbone after a clash of heads in the Gloucester game and we'll be without him for about six weeks. Anthony Allen has had an operation on his thumb after an injury in an accident at home.

"We're having a terrible run of luck, especially with Mathew Tait's groin injury and Billy Twelvetrees out with an ankle injury.

"But we knew we would need the whole squad to front up if we were going to push on this season.

"Matt Smith has been playing really well and Horacio Agulla came back from the World Cup and fitted right back in last week.

"We now have all the Test players back with us and we've been working hard to integrate them as quickly as possible."

Leicester's only win in the league this season came in a tight match at Newcastle, and most of their defeats have come in close games, aside from when they shipped 50 points to Saracens at Welford Road.

Tomorrow they will have hooker George Chuter making his 250th appearance in Tigers colours, and Tom Croft playing his 100th match for the club.

Sale's policy heading into the Edgeley Park tussle will be to ignore the league table and remember the threat Leicester carried in finishing top of the pile last season.

Sale boss Steve Diamond said: "We've had some good sessions this week, working on several issues raised by last week's game.

"The match against Leicester will be very tough, probably our hardest task of the season. We can't wait."

Wasps will have England hooker Steve Thompson in their line-up for the first time tomorrow as they tackle Worcester at Sixways.

The former Leeds man returns after World Cup duty and said: "I can't wait to get out there and am delighted to get my first start because there is a lot of competition here for the number two shirt."

Worcester head coach Richard Hill recalls Shaun Perry after a feared serious knee injury proved only a minor problem.

Just three weeks ago, Hill had ruled Perry out of his plans for six months, and feared he lacked cover at scrum-half.

Perry is back, though, and Hill is looking forward to a testing encounter, calling for a resilient effort after defence coach Phil Larder condemned the performance in the last league outing at London Irish, where Worcester leaked 26 points in the second half to lose 42-14.

Hill said: "We had a poor defensive day with Phil Larder away. He has been in since then and read the riot act so I am certain we will get the right response.

"We expect Wasps to come full strength and they will keep the ball in hand and look to put pressure on us.

"Our three quarters will need a strong defensive game as Wasps will test us out in the wide areas, but I am confident in our defence."

Leaders Harlequins take on Exeter on Saturday, when second-placed Saracens visit Gloucester, London Irish have home advantage against Bath and Northampton play bottom-of-the-table Newcastle.

McIlroy goes on Shanghai birdie blitz in search of jackpot

RORY McILROY reeled off five birdies on the back nine as he began his quest for the richest prize in world golf.

His eight-under-par 64 yesterday gave him a one-stroke lead over Hunter Mahan after the opening round of the Shanghai Masters, which carries a top prize of £1.25million.

Playing partner Lee Westwood carded a 69 as McIlroy emerged with a perfect bogey-free round.

The lucrative invitational tournament organised by the International Management Group doesn’t carry any ranking points, but many of the world’s top golfers have been lured by the £3.1m total prize pot.

The Northern Irish US Open winner had eight birdies in total at Lake Malaren Golf Club on the outskirts of Shanghai.

American Mahan had seven birdies, including three in a row on the back nine, but he missed his final chance on the 18th when his putt glanced off the lip of the cup.

England’s Paul Casey and Ian Poulter and Irish three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington were three shots back at five-under.

McIlroy said: “If I can play as solidly for the next three days as I did today, I feel I’ll be very hard to beat.”

McIlroy leads after strong start

Rory McIlroy made a superb start to his bid for a record £1.25million jackpot at the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters as he fired an eight-under-par 64.
Northern Ireland's US Open champion was playing in a group alongside Lee Westwood, with whom McIlroy shared a manager - Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler - until recently moving to join Ryder Cup partner Graeme McDowell at Dublin-based Horizon.
McIlroy's impressive bogey-free round gave him a one-shot lead, with American Hunter Mahan his closest challenger.
Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington shared third place, three off the lead, after rounds of 67, with American Anthony Kim and China's Li Chao carding 68s.
Westwood finished on 69, which positioned him level with John Daly, Robert Karlsson, YE Yang and Retief Goosen, while Colin Montgomerie was one further adrift, along with South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.
The tournament is a a 30-man invitational event, not aligned with the main tours, offering the highest first prize in professional golf.
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PFA dispute Tevez fine

The Professional Footballers' Association have backed Carlos Tevez in his appeal against the fine imposed on him by Manchester City.
Tevez was fined four weeks' wages - believed to be around £800,000 - after the club found him guilty of misconduct during the Champions League match against Bayern Munich on September 27, when manager Roberto Mancini claimed the striker refused to play.
City had asked the PFA to ratify the fine, but PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has backed the Argentinian after attending last week's hearing. A PFA statement read: "The PFA's opinion, based on all the evidence presented, is that Carlos Tevez never refused to play for the club.."
The statement continued: "This is accepted by the club in that the charge against Carlos made at the hearing was not one of refusing to play. As such the PFA considers that there is no justification for a fine other than up to the prescribed sanction of two weeks' wages agreed by the FA, the Premier League and PFA.
"The PFA has informed the Manchester City Football Club accordingly and Carlos will continue to be supported by the PFA in this regard."
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Schumacher: Race tragedies are just down to fate

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER had no time for motor racing’s painful soul-searching this week.
Formula 1 prepared to roar into action today for the first time since the two tragedies that have rocked motorsport.
Dan Wheldon, who was killed in a fiery 15-car collision in Las Vegas a fortnight ago, is the highest- profile British death in more than three decades.
And Italian Marco Simoncelli perished seven days later in the Malaysian MotoGP when his helmet came off.
But old campaigner Schumacher – who has toyed longer and harder with his own destiny than anyone on the grid – simply put it down to the nature of the beast.
“If something has to happen, that is something I would call fate, and fate is something we are all faced with,” said the 42-year-old German.
“I am touched by what happened to both drivers but unfortunately we have to say that is life. To have total safety is impossible.
“I don’t think when we drive we are thinking about putting ourselves in danger.
“When we push our cars to the limit, that is what we feel comfortable with.”
As a tribute, Wheldon’s friends Jenson Button and Mark Webber will carry his logo on their helmets this week. And Marussia Virgin will have his initials on their car, while several teams will don black armbands.
The unspoken fear is that death’s icy hand will to New Delhi as Formula 1 roars into action on another new continent.
Button took comfort yesterday in the remarkable safety revolution that followed Ayrton Senna’s death at Imola in 1994.
“No, I’m not superstitious. It’s just a very unlucky week in motorsport,” Button said.
“Every circuit we go to we point out areas that we think could be a massive hazard and should be improved.
“It can always be better but the FIA have done incredible things and Formula 1 is on another level in terms of safety compared with other formula.”
Stalking the paddock yesterday, as ever, preaching his sermon of vigilance, Sir Jackie Stewart was a walking reminder of an era when deaths did not happen once a decade but once a month.
Button added: “We forget what it was like 30 years ago. There was no pitlane speed limiter, so they came in at 180mph. That’s just madness.And people could stand on the edge of the track, like in rallying.”
Lewis Hamilton, Schumacher’s heir in the art of truly ruthless racing, believes the outcome might have been different had Wheldon not moved to America. Hamilton said: “They are both in our thoughts, it’s just tragic to see two deaths in such a close period of time.
“The fact is motor racing is dangerous. If Dan was in a Formula 1 car, it may not have happened. Who knows?”
The macabre jokers of the paddock yesterday said the track, for all its dangers, was probably the safest place on India’s hastily-constructed £125million venue outside New Delhi.
Real concern was widely voiced at the quality of the building work.
One ramshackle grandstand, clearly fitted with extra supports to hold up its bowed roof, is supposed to hold thousands of fans on race day.
And the dubious standard of the workmanship on the main paddock buildings is clear to the naked eye as India prepares to join the Formula 1 family this weekend.

The Mirror helps Olympic champ Denise Lewis on her journey to become a tennis star

 Hot shot: Denise Lewis
DENISE Lewis narrows her eyes as she walks towards the net. “You’ve got that look in your eyes,” she growls, pointing her finger. “It’s that smug look you have when you’re winning.”
A little smile escapes before the former Olympic athletics champion turns on her heel, walks back towards the baseline and prepares for her next shot.
The Mirror has been following Denise’s Allplay challenge – a tennis journey that will take her from a novice to someone with the skills to win a celebrity match at the Aegon Masters in December.
I’ve been sent down to help Denise practise her game by running around the court with her. But thankfully it’s not me on the other side of the net, it’s her husband Steve.
He’s come down to “lend a hand” but his presence seems to have only ignited the fierce competition between the couple.
Denise, who won gold in the heptathlon at the 2000 Olympics, laughs: “Steve never even considered playing tennis before I got involved in Allplay. He’d never thought about it before I started playing.
“But when he saw the improvement I’d made after a couple of lessons he started being competitive – it was hilarious.
“Now he’s trying to find any friend he knows who might play with him so he can build up his skills and beat me.”
Denise, 39, tells me she gave Steve some useful tips at first which are now coming back to haunt her.
Aces: Denise Lewis with The Mirror's Melissa Thompson
“I beat him a few times right at the beginning. He couldn’t even hold a racket properly,” she says. “But I was able to help him. And now that he’s improved, he beats me. So I refuse to play against him.”
Denise has no such qualms about facing me though. Perhaps someone’s tipped her off about my ability – or lack of it.
As she assumes a perfect tennis pose at the other end of the court, I suddenly wished I’d practised more. Before long I’m misfiring balls everywhere.
“Don’t worry, you’re doing fine,” Denise tries to reassure me as yet another shot flies past her head.
Her coach Tom Dale is keeping a watchful eye out and tells me to stop apologising – which is difficult when Denise rarely gets to return a ball.
Thankfully, after 10 minutes, she puts me out of my misery and we sit down to chat. I’m perspiring and out of breath but Denise looks the picture of calm as she picks at a croissant.
When we first joined Denise in June, at the start of her six-month journey, she was enthusiastic but lacked the skills.
Now, she can hold her own – but that’s still not quite good enough.
She says: “As an athlete I do have high standards and I get really frustrated with the game – incredibly frustrated. I can see myself being better because I think I’ve still retained a lot of strength from my athletics days. So I know I’ve got the potential to become a much better player – now I just want to do it.”
Denise is training so intensely to perfect her moves before she takes part in the Allplay celebrity exhibition match on December 1, at the Royal Albert Hall, with TV stars Lorraine Kelly and Tim Lovejoy and DJ Jamie Theakston.
Ex-professional player Greg Rusedski likened her style to tennis superstar Rafael Nadal when she first picked up a racket, but Denise says she is not sure she’s there just yet.
“I was surprised at how little I knew about the game when I came to play,” she says. “Everyone thinks they can just return in tennis but it’s a lot harder than it looks. I’m very conscious that the day is fast approaching when we’ll be playing in front of a lot of people.
“I don’t have a preference for whose team I want to be on – I just want to be on the winning team.”
 Highly strung: Denise Lewis' Allplay tennis challenge
Denise has come a long way from her working-class roots in the West Midlands.
She became a national treasure after winning gold in the heptathlon during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. And now, with the Royal Albert Hall beckoning, she has really developed a passion for a different sport.
“I just love it, she says. I come down to the club and there are ladies in their 60s right down to children playing.
“I’m determined my children will join a tennis club because it’s really nice to get involved in it. I can’t encourage people enough. But I might change my tune if I don’t win in December.”

Tindall battles to save his career

DISGRACED England centre Mike Tindall goes up against a player of the future tomorrow as he attempts to resurrect his faltering career in club rugby.
Tindall is set to play some part in Gloucester’s Premiership clash with Saracens in Watford when he will come up against Owen Farrell, one of England’s new breed of up-and-coming stars.
Farrell, 20, was one of the bright lights of England’s Junior World Cup campaign in the summer and only just missed out on a spot in the senior tournament.
It wasn’t a bad gig to miss out on as it turned out, as Martin Johnson’s squad crashed and burned amid allegations of unprofessionalism both on and off the field.
By contrast Farrell, who booted Sarries to the Premiership title last season, has been starring in the centre for Saracens this campaign – and will be learning even more about the tools of his trade from old stager Charlie Hodgson who has joined from Sale.
And with a bright future ahead, he’s sure to be a starter for England in the 2015 campaign.
Sarries’ boss Mark McCall said: “Every time that a new challenge has been presented to Owen, he has risen to that challenge. He had a ­magnificent six or seven months at the end of last season but he is 20 and he has got a hell of a lot to learn.
“Charlie has been a top class Premiership rugby player for the last 10 seasons. He knows rugby inside out and he is going to be able to pass on a lot to Owen.”
Farrell, son of league legend Andy, was forced into playing fly-half last season because of an injury crisis at Sarries, but has settled into the centre this season where he played his rugby as a youngster.
Tindall, 33, was at the centre of the World Cup farce when he was caught on CCTV in Dunedin in a drunken clinch with a blonde and was trapped in the headlights as England were bundled out by France.
His contract with Gloucester is up at the end of the season and boss Bryan Redpath has warned Tindall it could be the end of the road unless he pulls his finger out.
Redpath said: “He hasn’t struck a blow in anger this year for Gloucester. This is going to be his first chance to play – play and develop and then put his hand up and say I want to play more, I want to play well and I want to keep playing rugby.
“If Mike plays well there is no reason not to keep him on for another year but, if he doesn’t, then we sit down and have a discussion and I say: ‘Mate, it’s not right for Gloucester rugby.’
“He has done well to stay in that England mix. He’s a battler... it’s one of his strengths, his durability.
“He has had a lot of knocks but he’s got the mental strength to take the criticism and keep going.”
Meanwhile, the Rugby Players’ Association – the players union – has received feedback from around 80 per cent of the players involved in England’s disastrous time in New Zealand.
The remaining 20 per cent of the squad have until Monday to complete and hand in their questionnaires which are set to form part of the Professional Game Board’s review of England’s dismal performance.
cSARRIES have lost scrum-half Richard Wrigglesworth for the season after he required knee surgery.

Tuilagi out with fractured cheekbone

GAVIN HENSON insists rugby is his only focus as he relaunches his career at Cardiff Blues.
The former golden boy of Welsh rugby stars in the finale of Channel Five’s The Bachelor tonight but stresses that regular rugby is now his priority.
Henson, 29, said: “That’s it with reality TV. It’s just about rugby for me now.
“My hunger is back and is as strong as it’s ever been.”
Henson missed out on the World Cup for a second time after he suffered a dislocated wrist in the match against England in August.
He endured unsuccessful spells at Saracens and Toulon last season, but after signing an initial eight-month contract with Cardiff Blues he hopes to fully relaunch his career.
Henson added: “The injury was crushing. It meant missing out on a World Cup again. But on reflection it would’ve been unfair for me to sneak in at the last moment.
“My long-term goals are the next Lions tour and I’ve always said how much I want to play at a World Cup – I’ll try my best to go to the next one.”

Tyson Fury not ready for gamble against the Klitschko brothers

TYSON FURY claims he is not interested in cashing in with a big pay day against one of the Klitschko brothers – yet.
Wladimir and Vitali, the undisputed kings of the heavyweight ­division, both say they would like to fight the unbeaten 23-year-old.
But he will resist the lure of what would be his biggest purse as he believes he is not ready.
“It would be quite easy for me to go and get a fight with Wladimir in Germany,” said Fury. “But I’m only a baby in heavyweight terms. I’m the British and Commonwealth champion, I’m ­undefeated in 16 fights, but I don’t need that fight right now.
“Maybe in five or six fights’ time, if they want to do it, then fine. But I’m not going to Germany now, because after another five fights I’ll be hot property and they will have to come over here and fight me. What would be the point in me fighting them now for a quick pay day? It’s not about money for me, it’s about achieving.
‘‘I’m not going to rush in there until I’m ready and get beat. Because once my ‘0’ is gone, it’s gone. I’m going to take it steady at my own pace. I don’t need the money. I’ve food in the cupboard, I can put diesel in the car and I can go to the movies. I’m living the dream and I want to live it as long as I can.
“It’s quite easy to get a title shot these days because there are a lack of opponents.
“But to jump in the deep end now when I can’t swim yet would be senseless.”
Fury will defend his Commonwealth crown against undefeated Canadian Neven Pajkic at Manchester’s Event City on November 12.
It is the type of fight he feels will prepare him for a possible showdown with the Klitschkos in a year or so.
“I ain’t the finished article yet, nowhere near it,” added Fury. “At the moment I’m just 25 per cent of what I can be. But in 18 months’ time, I’ll be ready.”

Wozniacki finishes as No.1 despite being hammered by Kvitova

PETRA KVITOVA dominated top-ranked Caroline ­Wozniacki at the WTA ­Championships yesterday, winning 6-4 6-2 to hand the Dane her second loss at the season-ending tournament.

Kvitova earned an early break in the first set and never looked troubled the rest of the way, hitting 36 winners compared to just six for Wozniacki, who never earned a break point.

The Czech Wimbledon champion broke two more times in the second set before clinching the victory with a backhand winner.

Kvitova improved her record to 2-0 in the round-robin phase, while Wozniacki fell to 1-2 after also losing to Vera Zvonareva.

Wozniacki still wrapped up the year-ending No.1 ranking after Maria Sharapova ­withdrew from the ­tournament with an ankle injury on Wednesday.

Earlier yesterday Victoria Azarenka became the first player to qualify for the semi-finals after a ­comfortable 6-2 6-2 win over Li Na.

Azarenka followed her win over US Open champion Sam Stosur with a victory by the same scoreline over Li, the French Open winner.

“She’s a very, very tough opponent,” Azarenka said about Li. “Especially if you give her one rhythm, she’s really solid.”

Anton Ferdinand: I won’t let this ruin my game

ANTON FERDINAND insists he will not allow the John Terry race storm to ruin his game.

The QPR defender has found himself the unwitting subject of an FA investigation following Sunday's stormy west London derby clash with Chelsea.

Terry stands accused of making racist comments to Ferdinand during Chelsea's 1-0 defeat, an allegation the England captain has strenuously denied.

But it is Ferdinand who is having to deal with the fall-out from the incident, which has also attracted the attention of the Metropolitan Police.

Speaking for the first time since Sunday's game, Ferdinand told SunSport: "I am not going to let any of this affect my game.

"All week in training I have been focusing on nothing other than my preparations for Sunday's game at Spurs.

"People have been stopping me in the streets and talking to me but when you're in the public eye that happens every day of the week.

"Of course it's been a bit more strenuous this week but it's when people don't want to talk to you or take your picture that you have a problem. It's football as usual as far as I'm concerned.

"The bottom line is that I'm playing in the best league in the world week in, week out. So how can I not be enjoying myself?"

Ferdinand, 26, is under strict orders not to discuss the specifics of Sunday's game after QPR submitted a formal complaint to the FA.

But the laid-back defender is clearly coping with the added attention and is even looking forward to getting more abuse at the weekend.

He said: "I know I'm going to get booed at White Hart Lane because of my West Ham connections and because I once scored a last-minute goal against them.

"But I'm looking forward to another competitive London derby and the only thing that matters is getting another good result for QPR. The win against Chelsea will always mean the world to our supporters. But for the team that result won't mean anything if we don't back it up with a decent performance against Spurs."

Ferdinand signed for QPR in a £5million deadline-day move from Sunderland and is relishing the opportunity to play regular Premier League football again.

He said: "I'm enjoying my football and that is showing in my form for QPR. This game is all about confidence and if you're in the team one minute and out of it the next, you're never going to be at your best. I had three years at Sunderland and in that time we progressed from being a yo-yo club to an established Premier League side who finished in the top 10 last season.
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