You could be forgiven for thinking that British sport is in somewhat of a crisis. In rugby union France beat all the home nations convincingly on their way to the six nations grand slam, in tennis Great Britain recently suffered a humiliating defeat to Lithuania in the Davis Cup and in football England were the only Home Nation which qualified for the World Cup in South Africa – and the less said about England’s performance in the tournament the better. This analysis has one flaw however; it does not include British sportswomen’s successes. And you’d be a fool to ignore them.
The same time that France were completing their Grand Slam the England women’s rugby team were beating their French counterparts to claim their fourth grand slam in five years. The England team only conceded 15 points in the whole tournament and scored a staggering 156. Despite being narrowly defeated in the world cup final earlier this month the international standing of the women’s team is clearly well ahead of the men’s side. This pattern is continued on the football field. None of the home nations qualified for the men’s European Championships in 2008, whereas the English women’s team got all the way to the final of their competition in 2009 – eventually losing out to Germany. Even the men’s cricket team’s achievement in regaining the Ashes last year was eclipsed by their female counterparts. The women’s team regained the Ashes, but also triumphed in both the One Day and Twenty20 World Cups, firmly establishing themselves as the world’s best.
In individual sports as well British women are arguably superior to men. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Amy Williams claimed Britain’s only medal in the skeleton bob – in Turin four years earlier Shelley Rudman had again been Britain’s only medallist in the same event. Despite excelling at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 male cyclists contributed only two of the nine medals won by the British track cycling team in 2009 (a silver and a bronze). Victoria Pendleton and Lizzie Armistead both won three medals each. Britain’s encouraging showing at this summer’s European athletic championships was led by the brilliant showing of the world’s best heptathlete, Jessica Ennis. Even given the desperate dearth of talent in British tennis, as shown by the loss to Lithuania, British women arguably have greater strength in depth. There are three British women in the world’s top 150 and only one man – however that one is world number 4 Andy Murray.
Male British sport hasn’t got much to shout about at the moment, but female British sport definitely has. The coverage and appreciation of women’s sport has increased but is still terribly underreported compared to male sport. However if you like to see Britain taking on the world and winning our ladies are surely the one’s to watch.