To continue my series on British women who have proved themselves in the Olympic Games or are strong hopes for 2012, today’s subject is Charlotte Cooper.
Charlotte Cooper may not be at all familiar to you. She is, however, an unsung British Olympic legend from the early part of the last century. Born in Ealing she was a member of the Ealing Tennis Club and won her first Wimbledon Championship in 1895. She would go on to win four more.
Charlotte won the Olympic tennis title (there weren’t medals in 1904) in Paris in 1900, becoming the first woman to win anything at an Olympics. She followed this up with a second gold medal, winning the mixed doubles with partner Reginald Doherty.
These extraordinary achievements are made all the more impressive when you consider that the kit for female tennis in those days was an ankle length dress and shirt.
On 12 January 1901 she married Alfred Sterry with who she had a son, Rex, in 1903 and a daughter, Gwynn, in 1905. Her daughter also went on to compete at Wimbledon. That year she captured the Wimbledon championship for the fourth time. After time off for family, she returned to active tennis, winning her fifth Wimbledon singles title in 1908 at the age of 37 years 282 days, an age record that still stands. In 1912, at age 41 she was still one of the best players in the game and that year once again made it to the Wimbledon finals.