Sport

WOKING Ladies manager Jon Bloomfield wants his players to leave a legacy when they step out against Abingdon Town Ladies in the Thames Valley Counties League Cup this weekend.

Having clinched the Thames Valley Counties Women’s League Division One East last week – following their 4-1 win over Binfield Ladies – The Cards are looking to secure the double with success against Abingdon at Alfredian Park, Wantage this Sunday at 4pm.

Woking Ladies celebrate their win over Binfield Ladies last week

Bloomfield, 55, admits that it will be a good test for his players against a team who are currently second in the Southern Regional Women’s Football League Division 1 South. However, he believes Woking ladies can stand shoulder to shoulder with Woking men.

“I want my players to be able to look back in years to come to see what they started as they’ll be laying the foundations for future generations.

“Women’s football is growing exponentially in England and if there’s anything that we can do to help move it along, we should get involved.

“It’s important that all of us at Woking support and nurture some of the young players coming through the schools and local clubs,” he added.

Woking ladies have proved difficult to beat this season, having lost only three times in 29 league and cup matches. 

However, Sunday’s final against Town is likely to be their fiercest test yet.

For the full story get today’s (9 May) edition of the News & Mail

WOKING Athletic Club long-distance runner Stephen Blake flew the flag for the borough at the Virgin Money London Marathon.

A victorious and exhausted Stephen Blake after crossing the finish line of this year’s London Marathon

Blake, 31, ran the world-famous endurance race in a personal best time of 2:28.13 hours to finish in an impressed 56th place out of more than 40,000 competitors.

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge ran the second fastest marathon in history (2:2.38 hours) to win the prestigious event for a fourth time. Britain’s Mo Farah finished fifth.

Blake improved hugely on his time of 2:39.17 recorded at the 2018 London Marathon, which saw him finish in 139th place.

FORMER Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sam Skillcorn (née Lowe) is encouraging more youngsters to look at Judo as fitting way to improve their body and mind.

After narrowly missing out on competing at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Sam and husband Vince set-up Fighting Fitness Judo (formerly Pyrford Judo Club) in 2015.

Coach Sam Skillcorn with students Jack and Amelia

Since opening its doors, the club’s membership has increased substantially, with over 200 judo students now practising the sport on a weekly basis.

The News & Mail caught up with Sam at The Arbor Centre in Pyrford last Saturday to get the lowdown on the club’s rise to the fore.

She said: “Vince and I always knew that we wanted to keep our hand in when we eventually retired from competing, but you’re never quite prepared for when that time comes.

“We were asked if we would like to take over the running of Pyrford Judo Club, which had been running for 30 years by Graham Hoptroff.

“It was a bit daunting at first – to run our own club: however, we haven’t looked back since as we now coach up to 650 children across three centres and at 27 different schools each term,” she added.

Students Jack and Amelia put Sam’s coaching into practice

Following the couple’s decision to retire from competitive sport six-and-a-half years ago, the success of Fighting Fitness Judo is evident for all to see.

Despite competing at the highest competition levels, though, the duo – both third dan black belts – still had to gain their level 1 and 2 coaching qualifications. 

Since then, Vince has successfully gained a masters in advanced sport coaching practice. He is one of only a handful of people in the country to hold the award.

“For us, the main purpose of doing what we do is to make Judo, fun and accessible for all. 

“There’s no point trying to force a child to love any sport if they don’t like it, but similarly if they take to it, it’s important to give them all the encouragement to excel. That’s the ethos that we promote at Fighting Fitness Judo.

“Students take part in lots of different movement skills. As a result, they develop spatial awareness, balance and greater agility. 

After just four years, Fighting Fitness Judo has become a reputable name across Woking and further afield, with more girls now actively participating in the sport.

The club’s Judo players will also be competing in the Surrey under-16s and senior closed trials on 28 April in a bid to make the Surrey county squad.

For more information on Fighting Fitness Judo, or to take up a free trial, please go www.fightingfitnessjudo.com

For the full story get the 18 April edition of the News & Mail

INLINE hockey is making its mark in north west Surrey, thanks to the exploits of the Avalanche club.

Based on the outskirts of Brookwood, Avalanche are fast becoming a hit with freestyle roller skaters, as well as more seasoned ice hockey players.

Members of Bisley-based Avalanche Inline Hockey club with their coaches at the Lord Roberts Centre

While inline hockey may not necessarily be on the tip of most people’s tongue, the sport is one of the fastest growing local sports.

Founded in the 1960s in Texas, USA, inline hockey is proving to be complimentary and an attractive alternative to field hockey and ice hockey disciplines in the UK.

Ashley Tombs, owner and head coach Avalanche at the Lord Roberts Centre in Brookwood, believes that inline puck hockey, which is non-contact, could become common place if more investment is forthcoming.

He said: “I used to watch Guildford Flames (ice hockey) when I was younger, but when I found out about Ash Avalanche, as it was known then, I became hooked on inline (hockey).

“Due to the limited number of inline rinks in the country, it doesn’t receive the same attention as other sports. 

“However, Woking is lucky, as there are two dedicated venues within just a short drive of the town, so there’s plenty of opportunity to try it out,” he added. 

Although the concept of inline hockey is akin to the common rules used in ice hockey, players use inline rollerblades on a hardened rubber surface instead of ice-skates.

Inline hockey is also a unisex sport and is played with four outfield players and one goaltender, which differs from ice hockey and field hockey teams that contain six and eleven players respectively. 

“A lot of players that play inline have come from ice hockey, as opposed to the other way around,” explained Tombs.

Young Avalanche players during a Friday training session

“I’m a big believer that I can improve the performance of ice hockey players through playing inline, not least of all be able to hone their strength and skating abilities.  After all, a lot of players who play ice hockey don’t experience full contact (body checking) until they’re 15 years old now.”

Since taking over at Ash Avalanche five years ago, Tombs morphed the old club into its new incarnation in 2017, which has seen the club grow exponentially.

Such is the rising popularity of the sport locally, Tombs is now working to a five-year goal for Avalanche to have its own purpose-built inline rink within Woking or a neighbouring borough by 2024.

For more information about Avalanche, please inquire via their Facebook page at https://en-gb.facebook.com/avalancheinline/

For the full story get the 4 April edition of the News & Mail

WOKING swimming club topped the performance table in this year’s Hants and South Coast Invitational Swimming Meeting at Woking Pool last Saturday.

Woking Swimming club juniors with their well deserved trophy

Competing against five other clubs, it was a chance for Woking’s younger age groups to shine in a number of 50m and 100m events.

Matt Watt was named the top nine-year-old male swimmer on the night following his win in his 50m freestyle.  

For the full report and pictures get the 21 March edition of the News & Mail

SENIOR Woking gymnast Jamie Lewis won one silver and two bronze medals at this year’s British Gymnastics Championship (14-17 March) at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.

There was a big crowd in attendance for the senior competition, with a star-studded field containing World and Olympic medallists.

Jamie Lewis, middle, with teammates Lorenzo Carrozo and Timothy McCarthy

In the Men’s Senior All-Around, Lewis was involved in a tightly fought contest for a podium position. Despite errors in his pommel horse routine, the former European junior gold medallist finished with a strong rings’ routine to take home the all-around bronze medal with a score of 80.950.

He added a second Senior bronze medal with his floor routine, where he beat the current Olympic champion – Max Whitlock MBE, before picking up a silver on the rings after reaching the Masters on the final day.

Fellow senior gymnast, Tim McCarthy, started with a stylish parallel bars’ routine, scoring 12.900. Although he suffered a fall from the pommel horse, he accrued an All-Around score of 71.450 to take 15th place in what was an otherwise unblemished day of competition.

Meanwhile, team-mate Lorenzo Carrozzo had a jittery afternoon. However, he did manage to catch his Kovacs on high-bar for the first time in competition, which meant he finished in 21st place overall (69.450).

Other Woking gymnasts performed well – see today’s (21 March) Woking News & Mail for the full report

THE chairman of The Football Association visited the Byfleet village Club at the weekend.

Greg Clarke, right, with Paul Robinson (club chairman), middle, and Rosie Ainsworth (club secretary), left

Greg Clarke, who previously served as the chairman of The Football League and Leicester City, was given a tour of Byfleet Village’s facilities by Paul Robinson (club chairman) and rosie Ainsworth (club secretary). Clarke also watched practice sessions involving the club’s girls and under fives.

His visit was part of a whistle-stop tour of some of Surrey’s youth development clubs for boys’ and girls’ football.

Robinson said: “It’s nice to see that people at the The FA are willing to come down and see what we are doing at Byfleet Village.

“This season we got our first girls’ team off the ground, at under-11 level

A Byfleet Village player practices her footwork

“We’re also actively involved through local schools helping to promote girls’ football, where we’re currently providing training free of charge until the end of the season to try and get as many girls involved in football as possible.”

Clarke said: “Byfleet village is a wonderful club run by wonderful people.”

For the full picture feature get the 14 March edition of the News & Mail

WOKING moved back to the top of Vanarama League South on Tuesday – but they didn’t have it all their own way against mid-table Oxford City at Court Place Farm.

Armani Little celebrates after scoring

The Cards’ last-gasp 2-1 victory was enough to lift them three points clear of Torquay United at the summit, although the Devonians now have a game in hand and still boast a much superior goal difference.

The home team secured just a single corner in the first half, and failed to win another until 10 minutes from full-time, but certainly frustrated Alan Dowson’s outfit and were deserving of a draw.

Oxford went into the match on the back of a 5-3 home defeat to Hampton & Richmond Borough, and with a dismal record of only one win from their previous 10 league matches in 2019. But after seeing Woking’s Max Kretzschmar fire a free-kick narrowly over the bar, City went ahead in the 15th minute. 

What followed was a tense back and forth that saw the hosts come a hairsbreadth from equalising more than once as they harried the Woking visitors at every turn.

However, with the clock showing five minutes of injury-time played, City were unable to clear and Harvey Bradbury – on loan from Oxford United – volleyed past King, via the underside of the bar, to break the hearts of home players and supporters.

For the full match report get the 14 March edition of the News & Mail

WOKING Ladies could be on course to complete the ‘treble’ if they beat North Leigh Ladies in their League Cup semi-final this Sunday.

In what is only their second season in the Thames Valley League, Woking Ladies rise to the fore could see them trump their male counterparts to silverware.

Chelsea Goulter on the ball

Under the managerial guidance of former Reading Town and Chertsey Town Ladies’ coach Craig Gareppo – and assistant Leigh Hunter – Woking Ladies are fast proving a force to be reckoned with.

With just two defeats in 22 matches, The Cards could win the Division Two East championship and reach two cup finals by the end of the month – a feat many other clubs would find hard to rival.

Speaking exclusively to the News & Mail, Gareppo praised his players’ renewed drive and professionalism after they finished third in their inaugural season.

“We’ve attracted players who have played at a higher level, which has helped bring about a more professional approach,” explained The Cards’ boss. “Their attitude on match days has really rubbed off on the whole team.

The Cards are currently three points behind Abbey Rangers Ladies Reserves, but with three games in hand. 

The Ladies’ section also has the full support of Woking’s men’s manager too, Alan Dowson, who has not only watched a few games, but also took charge of a few training sessions in the summer.

For the full story, pick up the 7 March edition of the News & Mail

In 2011, Cardinals Netball was nothing more than an idea shared between two former Sheerwater school friends. Nine years later, it’s one of the most successful and fastest growing clubs in Woking and Surrey at large.

Young cardinals with Surrey Storm and South Africa International player Shadine Van Der Merwe

Co-founders and level 2 head coaches Kate Carthy and Hilary ‘Hils’ Hooper have been instrumental in the meteoric rise in popularity of netball, with Cardinals now becoming a beacon for other clubs to aspire to.

“It was actually my husband who suggested that we should start a netball team. My daughter wanted to play netball in year three at school, but there wasn’t really anything that she could get involved with until she was in year five, so there was a gap to fill,” Carthy said.

In the early days, the club comprised a small group of friends, which included Carthy and Hooper’s sons, to help make up the numbers.

Since then, the club has grown year-on-year through word of mouth. It now has in-excess of 250 girls playing netball each week.

Kate Carthy and Hillary “Hils” Hooper

Speaking of Cardinals increasing popularity, Hopper added: “Netball is one of the biggest growing sports in the UK.

“Girls’ sport in particular has experienced high levels of growth over the past decade or so, not just through the likes of football and cricket, but netball too.

“The fact that they’re now showing netball on television has really helped to raise awareness of the sport; so much so, it’s actually becoming increasing more difficult to get tickets to watch Surrey Storm compete in the Netball Superleague.

“We now manage the best part of 20 teams, who train at Sythwood Primary School and SJB (St John the Baptist School).

“We promote the fact that we are inclusive, not exclusive and that we will always do our utmost to accommodate every player we can between the ages of six and 18,” added Hopper.

Carthy and Hooper are now looking into the possibilities of running a summer league this year to demonstrate the club’s ongoing commitment to provide a pathway for progression and soon to be unrivalled sporting achievements.

For the full interview get the 28 February edition of the News & Mail