England’s success puts women’s sport in the spotlight at Comm Games | Sports

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — A week after the Lionesses became England’s pride by winning the European Women’s Championship, their field hockey compatriots are hoping for their own historic moment in Birmingham.

England have won a women’s ice hockey medal at the previous six Commonwealth Games, but gold has proved elusive. A thrilling win over New Zealand in Friday’s semi-finals gave England another chance to end their losing streak.

In the final on Sunday they meet four-time world champions Australia. The hosts lost the previous two games against Australia in the title fight.

England’s success is a bonus for Commonwealth officials who have taken great care to highlight women’s sport, with three major team finals on Sunday a priority.

Branded as Super Sunday by organizers, the gold medals of the women’s cricket, field hockey and netball finals are decided on the penultimate day of the competition.

It comes a week after England defeated Germany 2-1 in a football final at Wembley last Sunday that drew 87,192 spectators, the largest attendance at a European Championship decider for either sex.

Ticket sales for women’s sport in Birmingham were also strong.

Organizers reported that cricket alone at Edgbaston Stadium sold more than 160,000 tickets, making it the largest women’s draw tournament in history.

England have a real chance of a medal in all three events and former netball captain Ama Agbeze is hoping the winning streak will attract more girls and women to the sport.

As a member of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Board, Agbeze led England to a gold medal in Australia four years ago and is delighted with the importance given to women’s sport during the 12-day competition.

“The Women’s Euro has been an incredible competition and the Commonwealth Games just takes that success and atmosphere and just carries on,” she said.

“It was great foresight by the organizers of the Games to have the women’s Super Sunday with all these sports and it was great that the women’s soccer team won because they basically got into the whole narrative of raising the profile of women’s sport to have.”

England’s ice hockey team played their part – the hosts defeated holders New Zealand 2-0 on penalties. Both teams remained goalless in regular play, but Hannah Martin scored England’s second goal from four tries on penalties.

In the other semi-final, Australia defeated India 3-0 on penalties after the teams finished 1-1 in regular play.

Rebecca Greiner scored in the 10th minute to put Australia ahead but against the current in the 49th minute, India equalized when Vandana Katariya deflected a close-range shot into the net – the first goal Australia had conceded in the tournament had collected

The shooting began controversy when Australia’s Rosie Malone took the first shot and missed. But Malone got a second try because the eight-second countdown clock on the scoreboard wasn’t working.

Malone converted her second try and teammates Kaitlin Nobbs and Amy Lawton also scored to send Australia through to the final.

“When they called the rerun, I thanked the universe for a second chance,” Malone said. “I knew if I put it in, all of India would hate me. But all of our other girls did our shootouts, so it’s not like a shootout is the be-all and end-all.”

England’s netballers meet Australia in a semi-final on Saturday and the nation’s cricketers meet India for a place in the decider. Australia play New Zealand in the other women’s cricket semi-final, also on Saturday.

In other highlights on Friday, India found success in wrestling as Deepak Punia, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik all won gold medals.

Malik, who won the women’s 62kg class, said the support of the strong Indian community living in Birmingham helped her succeed.

In the final she prevailed against Canada’s Ana Godinez Gonzalez.

“It was amazing to have such a mass presence,” she said. “There weren’t many Indians at the Tokyo Olympics…so it’s amazing for a wrestler to have that presence.

“And then when I fell behind at one point and came back, the audience played a big part in getting me where I wanted to be, which is at the top of the podium.”

George Miller became the oldest Commonwealth Games gold medalist when, aged 75, he served as director for visually impaired Scottish bowler Melanie Inness. His grandchildren watched from the stands as Miller helped the Para Mixed Bowl combination to a 16-9 win over Wales in the final.

‚ÄúBowling is pretty easy for older people, but any sport, (be it) hiking, soccer, rugby, whatever, get out (and) train. Play games,” he said. “Competitions are brilliant no matter how old you are.”

The overall gold medal race intensified as leaders Australia added a string of smaller medals on Day 8 but failed to win a gold medal.

Australia has 50 golds and 140 medals overall, while England are now just three golds behind Australia (47 golds, 131 overall) with three days of competition remaining.

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