Olympic24: Jones starts with a bang, GB women pegged back

12 February 2015 / 07:53

London 2012 taekwondo champion kicks off important Rio qualification year with victory while Great Britain’s women have to make do with draw in their second match with Spain. Here's our review of the last 24 hours.

  • Jade Jones opens 2015 season with victory over Martina Zubcic at the European Clubs’ Championships in Turkey on the same day as confirming participation in inaugural European Games in Baku.
  • Also golds for London 2012 bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad and 2014 European champion Bianca Walkden.
  • Alex Danson scores second goal in successive matches but Spain hit back to draw 1-1 in Valencia with one game remaining of series.
  • Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe stay in the hunt after stage four of the Tour of Qatar.
  • Fellow cyclist Becky James suffers complicatons over her return from knee injury. 
  • Undefeated in the World Series of Boxing this year, Sam Maxwell heads British Lionhearts team for Thursday night’s fight against Russian Boxing Team.
  • England badminton squad target podium at European Mixed Team Championships.
  • Andy Murray wins first match on return to action following Australian Open final defeat.
  • Mo Farah to begin 2015 season with half marathon in Portugal. 
  • European champion Jo Pavey among Laureus World Sports Awards nominees.

Hat-trick of golds for GB taekwondo stars as Jones, Muhammad and Walkden taste success

Olympic champion Jade Jones opened her 2015 campaign in the same way as she finished last year – atop the podium after claiming one of three gold medals won by Great Britain at the European Clubs' Championship in Turkey.

London 202 gold medallist Jones hadn’t competed since securing victory over Spanish rival Eva Calvo Gomez in the WTF World Grand Prix series final in Mexico last December.

But there was little sign of rustiness at the one-day event in Antalya as she beat Croatian Martina Zubcic 11-4 in the -57kg final.

London 2012 bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad and 2014 European champion Bianca Walkden also claimed titles in the -80kg and +73kg categories respectively.

Jones, who, on Wednesday was also named as an international Athlete Ambassador for this summer’s inaugural European Games in Baku, said: "The first couple of rounds I was really nervous, probably because I haven't really fought for a while.

“Sometimes, it is hard to get up for the smaller competitions. But then I got into it and started buzzing. I was losing in the first round of the final but stayed calm and managed to bring it back.

"This year is so important. By the end of it we will know which weights will be picked for Rio 2016. To qualify the weight, I have got to be in the top six in the world and luckily I am in a good place at the minute."

Danson on scoresheet again but GB women held by Spain 

Great Britain women’s team were unable to seal a series victory over Spain after drawing their second game in Valencia 1-1.

As had been the case in Tuesday’s opening game, captain Alex Danson got the goal for the visitors, firing home in the fourth minute after a searching run by Nicola White.

But Spain hit back just before half time when Lola Riera Zuzuarregui converted a penalty stroke after the umpire adjudged the ball had struck a Great Britain foot on the line.

Great Britain upped the pressure in the third and fourth quarters but could not find the winning goal – although head coach Danny Kerry insisted there were positive signs ahead of Friday’s final game.

“I was much happier with the performance. We created a lot more opportunities compared to the previous game and Spain had no open play shots and only one penalty corner,” he said.

“We’ve been working really hard on certain areas of our game in training and I think we’re much harder to break down as a unit now and we are able to defend higher up the pitch which is paying dividends for us.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the final result, but it was a really good step forward.”

Stannard and Rowe well placed after stage four of Tour of Qatar 

Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe both remain well positioned after largely staying out of trouble on stage four of the Tour of Qatar.

Both riders resisted the temptation to get embroiled in the sprint which rounded off the 165.5km trek from Al Thakhira to Mesaieed and came home five seconds back in the peloton.

Victory went to Alexander Kristoff with Stannard retaining third place overall, 12 seconds off overall leader Niki Terpstra while sixth-placed Rowe stays in the possession of the young rider’s jersey.

Meanwhile Sir Bradley Wiggins, third in the time trial on Tuesday, suffered a flat tyre but was able to complete the stage and sits 75th overall, 10.14 seconds off the pace.

Sutton remains confident in James' Rio prospects despite injury setback

British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton remains optimistic Becky James will be ready for Rio 2016 despite the cyclist suffering a setback in her recovery from a serious knee injury.

The 23-year-old picked up a problem in her left knee last spring, ruling her out of the Commonwealth Games while she also spent three months off the bike this winter as part of a rehabilitation programme.

She had progressed enough to start pedaling at the end of January but Sutton has since admitted the former double world champion’s knee injury was still a concern.

“To be brutally honest, Becky has had a few setbacks over the last week or so,” Sutton said, without revealing details.

“We looked like getting her back into full swing, but there have been one or two little complications. She is getting the best treatment possible. Everybody is working together.

“It’s a time thing. That’s all I can say. I still believe she will be ready for Rio. I’m totally confident we will get her right for Rio.

“As long as we get to 12 months out from the Games, you can do a lot in 12 months. OK, she has lost a lot of time. Give us 12 months, a clean bill of health and then Becky will be knocking them over in Rio, for sure.”

Maxwell and British Lionhearts primed for tough encounter in Russia

Sam Maxwell will look to make it three wins from three after being named in the British Lionhearts team for their latest World Series of Boxing (WSB) fight against the Russian Boxing team.

Light-welterweight Maxwell has secured impressive victories over Touliaowutayi Sarike of the China Dragons and Morocco Atlas Lions' Hamza El Barbari and will lead a relatively inexperienced side in Moscow on Thursday night.

He is joined by fellow GB Boxing squad members Ashley Williams (light-flyweight) and Dan Woledge (middleweight) while Holland’s bantamweight boxer Enrico La Cruz and French heavyweight fighter Abdoulaye Diane are the overseas selections.

"It's been a good start to the season for me, but Russia away is a very tough assignment," said Maxwell.

"It will not be easy but I just need to go there, keep doing the things that have brought me success and stick to my gameplan."

England set sights high at European Mixed Team Champs

Head coach Jakob Hoi insists his England badminton contingent head into this week's European Mixed Team Championships in Belgium with their focus firmly set on reaching the podium.

England kickstart their bid in Leuven against Ireland before taking on hosts Belgium while a possible match up with either Scotland, Holland, France or Poland awaits in the last eight.

World number six pairing Gabby and Chris Adcock lead the charge in the doubles with Rajiv Ouseph one of four singles players selected for the 12-team tournament.

Hoi said: “We want to medal. We are here to showcase the best we have and we want the chance to stand up against Denmark.

"It will be tricky as all the teams have won the right to be here. It will be interesting as we have been training for a long time for this.”

Returning Murray eases past Mahut in Rotterdam 

It was back to business for Andy Murray who defeated qualifier Nicolas Mahut in his World Tennis Tournament opener in Rotterdam.

The top seed and 2009 champion was playing his first match since losing the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic.

But swiftly dispatched Mahut 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 33 minutes to set up a second-round clash with Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the next round.

Four podiums in a row and counting for Koyander

Olympic moguls skier Ellie Koyander is hungry for even more success after securing her fourth successive Europa Cup podium of the 2015 tour in Valmalenco last week.

Koyander, who represented Team GB at Vancouver 2010, picked up silver in Italy to move into second in the overall Cup rankings ahead of the final two events in Finland and Sweden next month.

She said: “Our plan was to use the Europa Cup events for developing race skills in a full-on competition environment.

"After hitting the podium in four consecutive races I now find myself in second place on the overall leader board - which has been a great confidence boost!

“I am really enjoying being on the podium and once you get that taste, it’s something that you just want every race! I am so pleased with the consistency of my skiing in competition and that’s another really important season’s goal achieved.”

Farah to open season at Lisbon Half Marathon

Double Olympic and world champion Mo Farah will ring in the new season with an outing at the Lisbon half-marathon on March 22.

Farah who last year opened with a second-place finish at the 2014 New York City Half before making his marathon debut in London, will run against competitors such as Stephen Kibet, Guye Adola, Aziz Lahbabi and Silas Kipruto.

Accolades continue for super mum Pavey

Jo Pavey’s successful 2014 has been recognised once again after she was shortlisted for the prestigious Laureus World Comeback of the Year award.

Pavey became the oldest ever European champion winning 10,000m gold in Zurich last summer at the age of 40, just two weeks after an impressive bronze over 5000m at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Her victory in the Swiss capital came just 11 months after giving birth to her second child and Pavey has subsequently been named on a six-strong shortlist for the comeback award with the winner revealed at the Awards Ceremony in Shanghai on April 15.

On this day...Sochi 2014

Chemmy Alcott was all smiles after securing a top-20 finish in the women's downhill at Rosa Khutor.

"I know it sounds crazy to some people, especially when we have such a strong team here in Sochi, but 19th is a gold for me," said Alcott. "Anyone who has followed what I've been through will understand that.”

© Sportsbeat 2015