Gymnastics: Great Britain star Louis Smith announces retirement…

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Great Britain gymnast Louis Smith

Two-time Olympic silver medallist Louis Smith has announced his retirement from gymnastics at the age of 29.

Peterborough-born Smith has represented Great Britain at three Olympic Games and won two bronze medals at that level between 2008 and 2016.

He also won three World Championship silver medals, along with two European golds and the Commonwealth Games pommel horse title in 2006.

Before retirement, Smith had announced his intentions to return to training in order to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but changed his mind due to qualification changes and new ‘exciting opportunities’.

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Louis Smith competes on the pommel horse at London 2012

His bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing saw him not only win Britain’s first Olympic gymnastics medal since 1928, but become the first man to achieve an individual medal since 1908.

Smith’s glittering career hasn’t been with it controversies though. He was given a two-month ban in November 2016 by British Gymnastics for a video in which he appeared to mock Islam. Smith apologised for his ‘thoughtless actions’.

Away from the gym, Smith is set to star in musical Rip It Up on London’s West End in February, and won Strictly Come Dancing with dance partner Flavia Cacace in 2012.

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Gymnast Louis Smith won the 2012 series of Strictly Come Dancing. Here he is pictured with dance partner Flavia Cacace

Smith’s former Great Britain team-mate Dan Keatings paid tribute to the star, saying:”You set the benchmark and made British gymnasts believe we can mix it with the best in the world.

“British gymnastics wouldn’t be where it is now without you. You’ve achieved your dream winning multiple medals in all major competitions and can leave the sport with your head held high.”

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Q&A: Peterborough Panthers superfan, Sarah Miles…

As some people (mostly fans of the Peterborough Panthers) may know, I contribute a (not quite) weekly column to the club’s official match night programme. I wanted to use this post to feature such a piece. Introducing programme editor and speedway superfan, Sarah Miles…

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Speedway superfan Sarah Miles. She is pictured front left, along with husband Steve (front right) and Peterborough Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone (front middle)

A speedway fan since 1996, Sarah Miles has travelled the length and breadth of the UK (and around the world) just for her shale and methanol fix. She gives us her thoughts on all things speedway and Panthers related…

Q: What first attracted you to speedway?
A: The social interaction.  I have friends both here and away from home.  I love the interaction with the riders – what other sport can you have a hug or a chat with the stars?!

Q: Have you always been a Panthers fan?
A: Yes. Despite growing up 10 minutes away from the Arena Essex raceway (so sorry to see this go), my first meeting was here watching the Panthers against Coventry. I also have a soft spot for the Edinburgh Monarchs, a team I used to like watching when we were in the top league.

Q: Who is your all-time favourite Panthers rider and why?
A: This is a really tough one, but I would have to say Ryan Sullivan. He was the star when I first started watching in 1996 and then I got to know him really well when he asked Steve and I to do his testimonial programme. A real nice bloke on and off the track.

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Ryan Sullivan – Sarah’s all time favourite Panthers rider

Q: Who is your all-time favourite non-Panthers rider and why?
A: Greg Hancock – to be this good for that long and still smiling!

Q: Which riders would make up your all-time Panthers 1-7?
A: Ryan Sullivan, Danny King, Ulrich Ostergaard, Scott Nicholls, Nigel Sadler, Jason Crump, Emil Grondal

Q: Which riders would make up your all-time non-Panthers 1-7?
A: Max Fricke, Chris Holder, Maciej Janowski, Greg Hancock, Dan Bewley, Darcy Ward, Joe Screen

Q: If you could pick three speedway related guests (past or present) to invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
A: Danny King, Ritchie Hawkins and Adam Roynon – I wouldn’t stop laughing..

Q: Is there a rider that hasn’t ridden for Panthers that you would have like to have seen in the red and black? Why him?
A: Tomasz Gollob – a brilliant rider and I saw him here in the World Cup and that race with Danny King was absolutely brilliant.

Q: What has been your highlight watching the Panthers?
A: 2006 when we won the Elite League.  It was so unexpected that I will admit I cried when we won.  The party afterwards was amazing and a memory that will live with me forever.

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Peterborough Panthers – 2006 Elite League winners

Q: We’re heading towards the end of the 2018 season. What were your hopes/expectations for Panthers at the start of the season? Have they been met or exceeded?
A: I will be honest, although I wasn’t completely pessimistic when the team was announced, I didn’t believe we were going to be anywhere near where we are now. To already have won the Fours, finish the league season at the top and now look forward to the Play Offs and still in with a chance of winning the KO Cup and/or the Shield – what a season!

Q: Would you like to see one big league made up of Premiership and Championship teams, with only the National League being a separate entity? If so, why? If not, why not?
A: I would like to see one league that is split into a Northern and Southern section.  The Play-Offs would then be a final between the winners of each section. This would reduce travelling for riders and fans and make the season end on one big final. I think the National League would have to remain separate but with a clear link to the main league to keep the consistent development of young British riders in place.

Q: We’re over two thirds of the way through the World Championship. Can Tai Woffinden keep his lead at the top of the standings? Or will the likes of Bartosz Zmarzlik and Maciej Janowski (his nearest challengers) spoil the party?
A: I still think Tai is in the driving seat, but I have had money on Janowski all season (and won a few times).  I would love him to win it, he has a great personality and speedway has been missing riders with a personality to match their riding skills for too long.

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Tai Woffinden (pictured when riding for Polish side Sparta Wrocław). The Brit picked up his third world title on Saturday in Torun

Q: After the recent test match between Great Britain and Team Australia in Glasgow, would you like to see more international matches, if so who would you like to see as opposition and why?
A: I like the idea of test matches as long as the riders are paid well so we always get to see the best.  We have a number of countries represented by riders who ride in our league so I think Test Matches with Denmark, Sweden, Poland etc will all be well received.

When she’s not trackside, Sarah is one of the driving forces behind the official Panthers matchnight programme. She goes on to tell us how she came to be in the role and what’s involved…

Q: Many Panthers fans also know you as one of the guys behind the programme (along with husband Steve), how long have you been doing this? What made you take up the role?
A: Steve always had a dream of producing the Panthers programme but knew if he got the chance it would need both of us to get it done. We got our first chance with the Pumas back in 2000 and then finally got our chance to do the Panthers programme in 2003.  We took a short break in 2010 when I became ill and then took back the reigns in 2014 and have been behind the programme production since then. We love doing this and putting something back into the Panthers.

Q: What’s involved with putting the programme together?
A: It’s not just us, we have a number of contributors, such as the PPSSC and Yvonne Edey who provide us with the supporters’ information and 100 club and the photographers (Steve Hone and Chloe May Coles for Peterborough and then other photographers up and down the country for the away meeting action).  It is essential that the management team and the riders are approachable in any season otherwise we couldn’t do the interviews. We couldn’t do any of this without the help we have!

Q: How long does it take to complete a single issue?
A: The first programme of the season takes the longest, we normally start the design in January for our first meeting in March. Once we get started, the programme all comes together over the weekend before the meeting.  It then gets printed on the Wednesday and delivered to us on the Friday.

Some brilliant and insightful answers there, I think you’ll agree!

*article featured in the late September issues of the official Peterborough Panthers matchnight programme

PGE Ekstraliga: Advantage Leszno while Gorzow defeat Czestochowa…

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Fogo Unia Leszno took a massive step towards the Ekstraliga playoff final after defeating Silesian rivals BETARD Sparta Wrocław at the Stadion Olimpijski last Sunday (September 2).

2019 Speedway Grand Prix qualifier Janusz Kołodziej led the way for the PGE Ekstraliga champions with 13 points, with 2018 star Emil Sayfutdinov scoring 11, paid 12.

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Janusz Kolodziej was the standout performer for Leszno against Wrocław

Current World Under-21 champion Maksym Drabik was one of Sparta’s best performers, scoring 10, paid 11.

Grand Prix stars Maciej Janowski and Tai Woffinden managed nine, paid 12 and nine, paid 10 points respectively. Australian youngster Max Fricke collected nine points for the Spartans.

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Maksym Drabik starred for Wrocław with 10, paid 11 points

Over in Czestochowa, Slovakian star Martin Vaculik raced to a 15-point maximum as Stal Gorzow also put one foot in the showpiece final.

Vaculik, who won the MIB Nordic Gorzow SGP just weeks earlier, was flawless from five rides to inspire Gorzow to a 49-41 first leg win.

SGP title chaser Bartosz Zmarzlik produced a brilliant performance to back up Vaculik, managing 11 points, while Krzysztof Kasprzak piled up 10, paid 11.

Michał Gruchalski and Denmark’s Leon Madsen were the top scorers for the Lions, managing 11 points apiece. It was a tough day though for Czestochowa’s SGP stars as Freddie Lindgren scored six points, paid eight, while Matej Zagar could only manage three.

The Slovene crashed with visiting rider Szymon Wozniak and withdrew from the meeting through injury.

Both return fixtures take place this Sunday (September 9).

Meeting scores…
ForBET Włokniarz Czestochowa 41:
Leon Madsen 11, Michał Gruchalski 11, Fredrik Lindgren 6+2, Adrian Miedzinski 5+1, Tobiasz Musielak 4+1, Matej Zagar 3, Bartosz Swiacik 1, Andreas Lyager 0
Cash Broker Stal Gorzow 49: Martin Vaculik 15, Bartosz Zmarzlik 11, Krzysztof Kasprzak 10+1, Szymon Wozniak 6+1, Rafał Karczmarz 5+1. Alan Szczotka 1+1, Grzegorz Walasek 1, Hubert Czerniawski 0

BETARD Sparta Wrocław 42: Maksym Drabik 10+1, Maciej Janowski 9+3, Tai Woffinden 9+1, Max Fricke 9, Vaclav Milik 3, Damian Drozdz 2, Przemysław Liszka 0, Patryk Wojdyło 0
Fogo Unia Leszno 48: Janusz Kołodziej 13, Emil Sayfutdinov 11+1, Bartosz Smektała 8+1, Piotr Pawlicki 8, Jarosław Hampel 4, Brady Kurtz 3+2, Dominik Kubera 1+1, Jaimon Lidsey 0

 

Eventing: New Zealand’s Tim Price victorious at 2018 Burghley Horse Trials…

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New Zealand’s Tim Price has claimed his first four-star eventing title on British soil after winning the prestigious Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Price had a fence in hand over nearest rival, and defending Burghley champion, Oliver Townend and jumped clear on his horse, Ringwood Sky Boy, to confirm his overnight lead from the cross-country phase and therefore win the title.

Speaking to Horse & Hound, a delighted Price admitted he took inspiration from watching he fellow countrymen Andrew Nicholson, Mark Todd and Blyth Tait on television as a child.

‘I took inspiration from that, but being here and in this position is not something I’d have predicted. I thought I was just good at breaking in horses and sitting on tricky ones. To be here and win is beyond my wildest dreams,’ said Price.

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Tim Price jumps clear on Ringwood Sky Boy to win Burghley 2018. Photo: Peter Nixon

He also made reference to the showjumping course, saying he learnt from from riding the tricky six-stride distance through fences seven and eight, having jumped clear on his first horse, Bango.

He said: It was riding quite short this morning, which people weren’t reading, so I jumped in and made a proper connection for a few strides, then found myself off fence eight although Bango is a big-striding horse. So that reminded me if I made a nice six strides it should be ok.”

Townend best of the Brits, Nicholson in top three, Price with two horses in top 10…

Outgoing champions Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class held onto their overnight second place and finished as the best of the Brits, even though the pair rattled the first part of the double at fence five.

“I couldn’t be happier with his performance – he felt completely with me in all three phases, ” he said.

Price’s fellow countryman Andrew Nicholson produced a clear round on his mount, Swallow Springs to move him up from fifth to third. Sarah Bullimore was another one to move up two places with a clear on her horse Reve De Rouet.

Piggy French finished in fifth after her horse Vanir Kamira hit the gate at fence four, while four faults for Harry Meade at the infuential UK Sport oxer at fence eight, meaning the pair could only manage sixth.

Richard jones and Alfies Clover placed seventh, with Willa Newton eighth on Chance Remark. Both riders jumped clear.

Elizabeth Power incurred four faults on her mount, Soladoun, for Ireland, dropping her from seventh to ninth. Eventual champion Price rounded off the top 10 with a clear round on his second horse, Bango.

Next years event runs from 5th-8th September 2019.

Speedway: Polish rider Tomasz Jedrzejak dies aged 39…

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Speedway is in mourning today after Polish rider Tomasz Jedrzejak was found dead at his home.

Jedrzejak’s death comes less than 48 hours after he last rode for his current Polish club, Stal Rzeszow, and has been described by Poland team manager Marek Cieslak as ‘a huge and incomprehensible tragedy.’

Rzeszow owner Ireneusz Nawrocki added: “It froze me. The world collapsed on my head. I recently said goodbye to a friend who hanged himself, and now something like this.

“I talked with Tomek on Sunday. It was normal. We laughed, we were joking. I have no idea how this happened.”

Polish news sources are claiming that the former Polish champion took his own life.

Tributes have been pouring in for Jedrzejak – a popular rider on the international speedway circuit.

Former Grand Prix star Darcy Ward tweeted: ‘Rip mate. We had some good racers. You normally trapped me. Pretty cool style on ya. Very sad.’

World Championship leader Tai Woffinden also paid tribute to Jedrzejak – a former teammate. He said: ‘Some times you just dont know whats going on under the surface! Your a legend mate such a good bloke. Your gonna be missed brother.’

The 39-year-old started his career in Ostrow and stormed to national championship glory in 2012.

Jedrzejak has also played a key role in firing ‘The Cranes’ to the top of the Polish second division table this season, as the club begins its charge towards the PGE Ekstraliga, Poland’s top flight.

Prior to that, he was a vital part of Sparta Wrocław’s side in the Ekstraliga, racing alongside World Championship stars such as Tai Woffinden and Maciej Janowski. He has also raced in Sweden and competed in the UK for clubs such as Belle Vue, Eastbourne and Lakeside.

Away from league racing he also featured as a non-riding reserve at the 2007 European SGP in Wrocław, as well as being named as second substitute rider for the 2009 series but didn’t get a ride.

Ride in Peace Tomasz. Gone But Never Forgotten!

Bandy: A guide to Peterborough’s newest and coolest sport…

It hasn’t been played on the Fens since way back in the 1910’s, however the newly established Peterborough Bandy Club is aiming to reignite bandy in the UK.

The club, which plays out of Planet Ice in Bretton, Peterborough, has been set up under the guidance of the Great Britain Bandy Federation (GBBF), by current president Lyn Gibb De-Swarte, as the founding club for the sport in the United Kingdom.

Not only is it the club’s main aim to bring the sport back in the UK, it is hoped that, over time, it will contribute players to both a Great Britain men’s and women’s team for the purpose of international competition – something which will likely increase the demand for the sport’s inclusion in the Winter Olympics.

The Peterborough club currently has 15 players at its disposal, with 9 male players and 6 female. Some players have made the transition to bandy having played ice hockey for various teams within the city, including the Peterborough Penguins, Peterborough Phantoms and more.

Here is a quick guide to Peterborough’s newest and coolest sport…

What is bandy?
Bandy is a team sport, played on ice. It is similar to hockey, however it shares its most common traits with association football, ice hockey and field hockey. To play the game, skaters use a short, curved stick and direct a ball into the opposing team’s goal.

How long is a game of bandy?
Similar to association football, a game of bandy typically consists of two 45 minutes halves. It is played on an ice pad which is around the same size as a football pitch, with teams of 11 players each. A variation of the sport, rink bandy, can be played on a field the size of an ice rink with goal cages being used. Rink bandy teams comprise of six players, although in the USA Bandy League, teams are made up of just five players. Both forms of the game are recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Is the sport an Olympic sport?
Despite never being officially played at the Winter Olympics, bandy was demonstrated at the 1952 Games in Oslo,  Norway.

What equipment do I need?
A typical bandy kit comprises of a round ball (instead of a puck), a shorter stick, socks, ice hockey skates, helmet and gloves. Knee and elbow pads can be worn if desired.

Is it a contact sport?
Bandy is non-contact, meaning women can train on the same ice as men. This is unlike ice hockey, where men’s and women’s teams have separate rules regarding contact.

What countries are the most successful?
Top bandy countries include Sweden, Russia and Norway. Russia fielded the most successful bandy team in the 1955 World Championships.

When can I train?
Training is every Tuesday night, 8pm-9pm and £10 per session.

Russia 2018: World Champions Germany eliminated after Korea defeat…

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There will be a new name on the World Cup trophy for 2018 as holders Germany were beaten by South Korea in Kazan.

The 2-0 defeat also marks the first time that ‘Die Mannschaft’ will not participate in the knockout stages of the tournament since 1938, after manager Joachim Low’s side finished bottom of Group F.

The four-time winners crashed out after conceding twice in second half stoppage time as they went in search of the goal that would send them through to the last 16.

In an astonishing turn of events, Kim Young-gwon’s 92nd minute goal, despite being initially ruled out for offside,  left the 2014 champions staring at the prospect of elimination. The goal was then given after VAR overturned the on-the-field call.

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Kim Young-gwon initially saw his goal ruled out for offside before VAR overturned the call.

However, worse was to come for the Germans when, deep into stoppage time and appearing evermore desperate for a goal, goalkeeper and Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer lost possession of the ball in the Korean half.

Ju Se-jong capitalised on the error, launching the ball forward where Son Heung-min was able to poke the ball into an empty German net for his side’s second of the afternoon.

South Korean fans inside the stadium were jubilant while, in contrast, some Germany fans were in tears after watching their national side lift the Jules Rimet trophy just four years ago in Rio; a fitting end to a tournament that had seen ‘Die Mannschaft’ beat hosts Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals.

Wednesday’s defeat to Korea followed their opening game loss against eventual group runners up Mexico, while it took a dramatic late winner from Toni Kroos to see off group winners Sweden – their only points of the group stage.

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The final Group F table sees Sweden go through as group winners, while Mexico take the runner-up spot. Holders Germany are out.