Blast from the past: A winner without a medal

Wimbledon ladies singles champion Charlotte Sterry (nee Cooper) in action at Wimbledon.   Original Publication: People Disc - HH0210   (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Wimbledon ladies singles champion Charlotte Sterry (nee Cooper) in action at Wimbledon. Original Publication: People Disc - HH0210 (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

The Olympic Games are full of champions, records and wonderful stories, but they’re also an incredible encyclopaedia of strange, funny, emotional and sad moments. We’ll dig some out every week to put a smile on your face or a tear on your cheek. This week: where is her medal?

A female pioneer

The scene is Paris 1900, the first Olympic Games in which women could compete. One female tennis star has already been shining on the international stage and does the same at the Olympics. Her name: Charlotte Cooper.

Cooper, from Great Britain, won the Olympic tournament after defeating her French rival Helene Prevost in the final. But the tennis star did not receive a medal, because medals were not given out until the next Games in St. Louis 1904.

British tennis player Charlotte Cooper (1870 - 1966), the first female Olympic tennis champion, attends the Wimbledon Luncheon for former champions, London, UK, 18th June 1961. The luncheon celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Wimbledon tennis championships. (Photo by Robert Stiggins/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British tennis player Charlotte Cooper (1870 - 1966), the first female Olympic tennis champion, attends the Wimbledon Luncheon for former champions, London, UK, 18th June 1961. The luncheon celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Wimbledon tennis championships. (Photo by Robert Stiggins/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Queen of Wimbledon

Cooper is not only an Olympic legend, but an icon in her sport. She won five individual Wimbledon titles and reached the final every year from 1895 to 1902. The last time she conquered Wimbledon was in 1908, when she was 37 years and 282 days old, which is still a world record.

Besides that, she won the Irish Lawn Championships in 1895 and 1898.

What did the ball sound like?

Her story is even more inspirational when you take into account that she lost her hearing and became deaf at the age of 26. "In a sport where the sound of a ball coming off the strings is such an integral part of playing, Cooper captured all but one of her titles without the benefit of sound, paramount in recognizing the pace of an opponent's shot", said the International Tennis Hall of Fame.