Muriel Cornell (nee Gunn) 1906 – 1996

Athlete, Administrator, WAAA Hon. Treasurer, WAAA, Hon. Secretary
Muriel Cornell portrait.
Photo: private collection, courtesy of Cornell’s family

In 1926 at the age of 19 Muriel became a founder member of the ladies’ section of Mitcham Athletic Club. She long jumped 4.65m in her first competition but progressed so quickly that in August she twice exceeded the listed world record with 5.48m and ended her season with a European record of 5.57m, a distance she equalled in 1927 and which was ratified as a new world record.
Also that year she won the 100 yards hurdles as well as long jump in her first WAAA Championships.

In 1928 Britain did not send a team to the Amsterdam Olympics but in 1929 she set a European record of 5.77m at the WAAA Championships – but her best year proved to be 1930. She improved to 5.80m, it was the first 19ft jump by a European and a distance which would remain the British record until 1952. She won the long jump and 80m hurdles at the WAAA Championships, having earlier equalled the world record.

In 1933 Cornell gave birth to a daughter, Lorna who herself became WAAA junior long jump champion, although her main sport was tennis and she twice won the Wimbledon junior title. Cornell’s hopes of an international comeback in 1934 were dashed by a severed Achilles tendon. However, she contributed to her sport in other ways. She served as Hon. Treasurer of the WAAA between 1931 – 33 and then Honorary Secretary from 1934 – 45. Cornell was the women’s team manager at the 1936 Olympics and after the war played a significant role in setting up a national coaching scheme.

Cornell in her Mitcham AC kit with daughter Lorna circa 1935. Lorna would herself become WAAA junior long jump champion and go on to win the Wimbledon junior title twice.
Photo: private collection, courtesy of Cornell’s family

Cornell passed away aged 89 in 1996. She was posthumously inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.