Inspirational Grantham sportswomen celebrated following International Women's Day
Following the celebration International Women’s Day on Monday, local sportswomen have spoken about the day’s importance, as well as who and what inspired them to get into sport.
The Grantham area has produced many fantastic sportswomen over the years, including Katie Colclough, a former professional track cyclist born in Grantham, and wheelchair tennis starlet, Abbie Breakwell, who asserted herself as Britain’s top ranked junior female by winning all four of her matches at the first ever LTA Wheelchair Team Battle in December 2020.
Abbie, a member of Grantham Tennis Club (GTC), said: “International Women’s Day is great, and it’s important that we acknowledge and celebrate all the amazing achievements of women from around the world. I’m proud to be a strong minded young woman and I choose to challenge myself and life every day and hope this helps other women in the future.”
“I’ve been inspired by many female wheelchair tennis players such as Louise Hunt, Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker. But ultimately the woman who inspires me the most is my mum. She has taught me to be strong, independent, to never give up hope and to reach for my dreams.”
GTC celebrated the influence of women in their coaching team. Although only 20% of the LTA coaching workforce is female, seven of GTC’s 14 coaches are women. The GTC female coaching team were instrumental in the setting up of Lincolnshire She coaching group, a forum for sharing ideas, best practice and helping coaches reach their potential. Megan Jones and Susan Stannard are LTA She rallies ambassadors, which is headed up by Judy Murray. Their goal is to empower and expand the number of women and girls coaching and playing tennis across the UK.
Michelle Parczuk, committee member of Grantham Running Club (GRC), said: “International Women’s Day is such an important reminder of the focus that continues to be needed to achieve gender equality across the world and some of the freedoms & choices we take for granted in the UK are still far from reality for many women.”
"Sport is so important to help with a sense of achievement and well-being and I re-discovered my passion for sport once my three children were a little older and I desperately needed some time that was just for me. I started running once a week just to get fit and from there entered the occasional race to keep myself motivated & suddenly now I find myself supporting the committee of Grantham Running Club and having signed up for my first marathon!
"I was particularly inspired by Jess Ennis-Hill, as I think the discipline and training that goes into mastering expertise and high performance in that many events takes such talent & dedication. She is also an amazing role model returning to sport after having her son."
Kate Marshall, also a member of GRC, said: “When Ellie Pell won a 50k endurance race in 2019, she was awarded 1st place and ‘fastest lady’ trophies. No woman had won the race before, and consequently organisers had no ‘fastest male’ trophy available for the second placed runner. It is inspirational to see women like Ellie challenging expectations.
“I’m also inspired by the new generation of female athletes who are proving that there doesn’t have to be a trade off between sports performance and motherhood, like Sophie Power, who was famously photographed breastfeeding her son during one of the world’s toughest races, the 105 mile Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.
"I didn’t take up running until my 40s but am now a Run Leader and Beginners Programme Officer for Grantham Running Club, and Co-Event Director for Wyndham junior parkrun. I’m keen to inspire females of all ages to start running, which can improve physical and mental health."
Jade Sheardown, Kesteven Rugby Ladies’ Captain, said: “IWD brings us to reflect, a chance to reset our thinking and encourages us to celebrate all women and their achievements. It’s about empowering each other to be strong and powerful, but more importantly to be ourselves. It’s about opening our eyes to what we can achieve and being brave enough to take that leap!
“We support each other throughout, looking to inspire those around us. I joined Kesteven Ladies in November 2017. I was encouraged by my husband who has been part of Kesteven Rugby Club since he was 4 years old. So after some persuasion I decided to give it a go! It really has been one of the best things I have done in my entire life and has offered me confidence in myself and my ability that I’m not sure I’d have found otherwise.
“I really enjoy the gym and the devotion and dedication that goes alongside it. A huge inspiration to me are women who compete in competitions such as the CrossFit Games. I think this level of discipline can also be seen in such players as Red Roses player, Vicky Fleetwood. The Kesteven Ladies had the honour of doing a live workout session led by her where she certainly put us through our paces. The effort and devotion she has to the team and sport is clear to see.”
Emma Gooden, also a member of Kesteven Rugby Ladies squad and a Kesteven Rugby Girls coach, said: “For me, highlighting the power and strength women have is so important, especially in sport. Abby Dow, Emily Scarrett and Amy Cockayne are just a handful that have inspired many young women, including myself. But it’s not always about the big-name players and the Kesteven Ladies prove this. That team are a force to be reckoned with and being part of it is just amazing.
“As a team they have helped me grow on and off the pitch, they have inspired me to make an impact and start coaching the Kesteven Girls. Passing on my knowledge and skills is hugely rewarding, especially to a group of young girls that are truly powerful.”
Ellie Talton, a member of Leadenham Hockey Club, said: "IWD is so important as it recognises influential women and shows in the younger generation that females can be as successful as they want to be and women have the power to do anything and everything.
"I got into hockey to keep active and make friendships that last for life! Your team are your family.
"My favourite female sportspeople are Laura Kenny, Pippa Funnell and of course all of the women’s GB hockey team - especially Maddie Hinch."
Margaret Harvey, is a member of Sudbrook Moor Golf Club and current holder of The Leglines Championship. In County Durham, as a young mum, with her husband away on business, Margaret desperately needed an outlet, to get out of the house, while her son was at school.
A friend encouraged her to go with her to the local golf club. Margaret has never looked back and has played ever since, as well as having been Lady Captain of a previous club in the Merseyside area.
Margaret reflected and felt that she had been inspired by past names in women’s tennis.
She said: “When considering equality in sport, women’s tennis today commands the same fame and popularity as that of the men’s tennis world.
Margaret remembers, from her school days, the inspiring women in English tennis, like Ann Haydon-Jones, Christine Truman and Virginia Wade, who were of national fame.
She added: “We should always celebrate women’s achievements.”