Talented Clark setting US women’s basketball alight

Rising basketball star Caitlin Clark celebrates after leading her side to victory over LSU to...
Rising basketball star Caitlin Clark celebrates after leading her side to victory over LSU to advance to the Final Four of the NCAA women’s tournament. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

March Madness

Is there anything Caitlin Clark cannot do?

The Iowa basketballer is an absolute beast and led her college side to a 94-87 win over LSU to win the Albany regional final of the NCAA tournament and advance to the Final Four. It avenged Iowa’s loss to LSU in last year’s national championship final, and Clark is now just two wins away from finishing her college career as an NCAA champion. The All-American and NCAA all-time leading scorer finished the game with 41 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and two steals. She banged down nine three-pointers and broke the record for most career three-pointers, and assists, in NCAA women’s history.

There are not enough words to sum up Clark’s astounding talent. The 22-year-old has already been dubbed one of the greatest players in college basketball history and a once-in-a-generation talent. Speaking to her dominance, earlier this year Fox rolled out the "Caitlin Cam" — a camera devoted to tracking Clark during broadcasts of Iowa’s games and streamed on TikTok.

Sticking to it ...

Gymnastics New Zealand have listened to their people and made a significant change in allowing gymnasts to wear shorts or leggings over their leotards. Gymnasts will also no longer face penalties for having their bra straps visibly showing. It is a major shake-up for an association with a long history but one that is necessary to support the impact those issues might have on young athletes.

Retention of female athletes is a problem not just in gymnastics — it is happening everywhere in every sport right across New Zealand — and alleviating some issues that might be keeping them away can only be good. Gymnastics New Zealand chief executive Andrea Nelson said the changes were to ensure young gymnasts felt comfortable and ensured the sport was inclusive. It comes off the back of a research report from Massey University, which confirmed body image was considered one of the greatest issues for gymnasts in New Zealand.

There are other instances of sporting organisations changing from white shorts to a darker tone to allow women to play freely without worrying about their periods, but there is still more that can be done. More on that at a later date.

... like never before

Some are calling her crazy, some are calling her Superwoman. But Jasmin Paris is just out here showing women they can do anything. The 40-year-old mother of two became the first woman to complete the Barkley Marathons in Tennessee recently, finishing the gruelling 100-mile (160km) race in 59hr 58min 21sec, just 99sec inside the cut-off time. Only 20 people have ever finished the course, which includes about 16,500m of elevation — the equivalent of climbing Mt Everest twice.

It is the second time Paris has made headlines in recent years. She became the first woman to outright win the 268-mile Montane Spine Race, in the Scottish borders, in 2019.

Up the Wahs

After a five-year hiatus, the New Zealand Warriors will return to the NRLW in 2025 as women’s rugby league continues to explode. The Warriors will join the newly formed Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs as the competition expands to 12 teams next season.

Great for the development of elite rugby league players but are we about to see a lot more code swaps, too? Black Ferns sevens players Niall Guthrie-Williams (Gold Coast Titans) and Tyla King (Dragons) both had league stints before returning to union this year. Stacey Waaka is also set to join the Brisbane Broncos after the Paris Olympics. Male players have been swapping for years — think Brad Thorn, Sonny Bill Williams, Benji Marshall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck — so it is nothing new.

Cross your fingers

The ANZ Premiership begins next weekend, starting with the defending champion Northern Mystics facing the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic. Nice to see all teams — apart from the Stars — in Dunedin for the Southern Showdown recently and to watch some of the young talent coming through. Some teams looked super polished and others are awaiting the return of some key players from injury. Cross all your fingers and toes for the George Fisher-less Southern Steel this year.