Selfridge & Co. Perpetual Challenge Cup

Women’s Amateur Athletic Association Perpetual Challenge Cup High Jump
Presented by Selfridge & Co. Ltd. 1929

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

The Story of the Event

The Women’s Amateur Athletics Association High Jump champions include among their number some of the most important figures in the sport’s history in England. The first champion, Sophie Eliot-Lynn, the donor of the WAAA Discus Trophy, was a flamboyant character who held two very different types of record for height. She set a world record of 1.485m for the high jump and of 16,000 feet for altitude in a light aircraft with Lady Mary Bailey, fellow athlete and donor of the WAAA Steeplechase trophy, as her co-pilot; the latter being a record for both men and women at the time. In addition to her athletic talents, Eliot-Lynn served as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for the WAAA in its early days. Another notable winner in the early years, Phyllis Green, the champion from 1925-1927, set a world record to win the 1925 championship.

Dorothy Odam (later Tyler) won eight WAAA titles between 1936 and 1956. In between she won two Olympic silver medals, the first at the 1936 Berlin when she was only 16 years old. This medal was the first for a British woman and, under present rules, would have been gold; Odam cleared 1.60m at the first attempt, while two other competitors took two or three attempts, leading to a jump-off which was ultimately won by Isola Csak of Hungary. 12 years and a rule change later at the 1948 London Olympics Odam and American athlete Alice Coachman both jumped 1.68m, but with the competition now decided on countback rather than a jump off Odam again came second, with gold going to Coachman.

The champions whose names appear between Tyler’s post-war victories, Sheila Lerwill and Thelma Hopkins, also won Olympic silver medals, with Hopkins becoming Commonwealth champion for Northern Ireland in Vancouver and European champion in Berne in 1954; she set a world record to win the event in 1951. The five-time champion, Dorothy Shirley, would continue the Olympic silver trend in Rome in 1960. Mary Bignal (later Rand)’s 1958 victory in the high jump was her first AAA victory in a career that would reach its peak with gold in the long jump, silver in the pentathlon, and bronze in 4 x 100m relay at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. Iolanda Balas of Romania, winner of this trophy multiple times throughout the 1960s, improved the high jump record 14 times from 1956 to 1961, more than any other athlete. Her final record remained unbeaten for over ten years. She was Olympic Champion in Rome 1960 and again in Tokyo in 1964 and the first woman to clear 6 feet.

Photo credit: David Rowan

The Donors

The department store, Selfridge’s, was established on Oxford Street in 1909 and brought a new approach to shopping to London, central to which was an understanding of the powers of publicity and of providing training and leisure opportunities for their staff. Employees of the store could join the company’s athletic club, which regularly competed in relay championships during the inter-war years.  From its daily column in The Times, written by the columnist known as Callisthenes, the company’s thoughts on ‘policies, principles, and opinions’, with subjects including the opening ceremony of the Amsterdam Olympic Games, acted as thinly veiled advertisement to shop at the store.

The first winner of this trophy, Sophie Eliot-Lynn, was a member of one of the earliest women’s athletics clubs at Kensington and it is likely that members of this club convinced Selfridge’s that donation of a trophy to the WAAA would only increase footfall at the store.

The History of the Trophy

WAAA champions in the high jump received this trophy for the event first contested in 1924 until 1995. Since 2010 the trophy has been presented to the winner of the English Senior Championships High Jump.

Previous Winners*

1924. S.C. Eliott-Lynn 4’9”1953. S. Lerwill.1974. V. Harrison
1925. Phyllis A. Green 4’11”1954. S. Lerwill.1975. D. Brown
1926. Phyllis A. Green 4’10”1955. T. Hopkins.1976. D. Brown
1927. Phyllis A. Green 5’2¼”1956. D. Tyler.1977. B. Gibbs
1928. M. Clarke1957. T. Hopkins.1978 C. Mathers
1929. M.F. Okell1958. M. Bignal1979. B. Simmonds
1930. C. Gisolf1959. N. Zwier1980 A.M. Devally
1931. M. Okell1960. D. Shirley1981 A. M. Cording
1932. M. Milne1961. D. Shirley1982 B. Simmonds
1933. M. Milne 4’11”1962. I. Balas1983 G. Evans
1935. M. Milne 5’1”1963. I Balas1984 D. ELLIOTT
1936. D. Odam 5’0½”1964. F.M. Slaap1985 D. DAVIES
1937. D. Odam 5’43/8”1965. F.M. Slaap1986 D. DAVIES
1938. D. Odam1966. D. Shirley1987 H. HAUGHLAND
1939. D. Odam1967. L. Knowles1988 J. BOYLE
1946. D. Gardner1968. D. Shirley1989 D. Davies
1947. G.E. Young1969. B. Inkpen1990. L. Haggett
1948. D. Tyler.1970. D. Shirley          D. Marti
1949. D. Tyler.1971 D. Brill.1991. D. Marti
1950. S. Alexander1972 R. Few1992. L. Haggett
1951. I.S. Lerwill.1973. I. Gusenbauer1993. D. Marti
1952. D. Tyler. 1994. J. Bennett
2010 Vikki Hubbard2013 E. Nuttall2016 B. Partridge
2011 Moe Sasegabon/ Frances Smithson2014 I. Pooley2017 E. Nuttall
2012 I. Pooley2015 A. Jennings2018 E. Race
  2019 N. Manson

*N.B. Names are as recorded on the trophy and are not always as recorded elsewhere.  The victory of Gretel Bergmann in 1934 is not recorded.