Sir James Heath Challenge Cup Javelin Throwing WAAA Championship

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

The Story of the Event
Spectators of the javelin competition in 1923 would have encountered a rather different spectacle to today’s competition. Accepted technique, as described in Athletics for Women and Girls, written by the first Women’s Amateur Athletic Association champion and wife of the donor, Sophie Eliot-Lynn, required the hand of the non-throwing arm to act as a guide for the throw, with the thumb and fingers creating a circle through which the javelin was thrown.

Silver cup shaped trophy, engraved with the words, The Sir James Heath Challenge Cup Javelin Throwing Championship WAAA
Photo credit: Ruth Brennan

Gladys Lunn, winner in 1937, was the first Empire (later Commonwealth) Games champion in 1934. Several of the winners have been multi-talented athletes, notably Eliot-Lynn, who was also world record holder in the high jump, and Bevis Reid, champion in 1948. Reid returned home from her job as Secretary of the British Council in Rome to win all three women’s throws in that Olympic year, javelin, shot, and discus, a decade after her first victories in the heavier events. Britain’s Tessa Sanderson, awarded this trophy on nine occasions, broke the Commonwealth heptathlon record twice in 1981, the year in which she was also ranked in the top six for 100m and 400m hurdles at national level. Her achievement of competing at six Olympic Games, claiming victory in Los Angeles in 1984, remains unmatched by British athletes.

Interspersed with Sanderson’s victories are the six titles won by Fatima Whitbread, World Champion in Rome in 1987, having finished with a silver medal at the inaugural championships four years previously.  At the European championships in Stuttgart in 1986, Whitbread qualified for the final in style setting a world record, before going on to win the final. 2014 winner of this trophy, Goldie Sayers, was also Olympic bronze medallist in javelin at Beijing 2008.

The Donor
Sir James Heath’s association with athletics can be attributed to his marriage to the charismatic Sophie Eliot-Lynn, donor of the discus trophy. He was 75 and on his third marriage; she was 31 and on her second. By this time Heath was a millionaire, based on his business as an, “ironmaster and colliery proprietor,” as described by The Times in his obituary. From 1892-1906 he served as a conservative MP for North-West Staffordshire.

There is no evidence that Heath took part in athletics himself, but he was a generous supporter of Sophie Eliot-Lynn’s activities while they were married, including her career as a record-breaking pilot. 

History of the Trophy
WAAA champions in the javelin received this trophy from 1923, when the women’s championships were first held, until 1995. Since 2010 the trophy has been presented to the winner of the England Senior Championships Javelin.

Previous Winners

1923 S.C. Eliott-Lynn1950 D. Coates1972 Pru. French
1924 S.C. Eliott-Lynn1951 D. Coates1973 S. Corbett
1925 I.M. Wilson1952 D. Coates1974 E. Janko
1926 Louie Fawcett1953 A. Collins1975 T. Sanderson
1927 E. Willis1954 A. Dukes1976 T. Sanderson
1928 K. Hotimi1955 D. Coates1977 T. Sanderson
1929 (M. Weston)*1956 D. Orphall1978 A. Farquhar
1930 L. Rombout1957 A. Williams1979 T. Sanderson
1931 L. Fawcett1958 A. Williams1980 (T. Sanderson)*
1932 E. Halstead1959 S. Platt1981 F. Whitbread
1933 G. de Kock1960 S. Platt1982 F. Whitbread
1934 E. Halstead1961 S. Platt1983 F. Whitbread
1935 R. Card1962 S. Platt1984 F. Whitbread
1936 K. I. Connal1963 A. Gerhards1985 T. Sanderson
1937 G. Lunn1964 A. Gerhards1986 F. Whitbread
1938 K.I. Connal1965 A. Koloska1987 F. Whitbread
1939 K.I. Connal1966 S. Platt1988 S. Gibson
 1967 S. Platt1989 T. Sanderson
1946 M. Lasbrey1968 S. Platt1990 T. Sanderson
1947 M. Taiblova1969 S. Platt1991 S. Gibson
1948 B. Reid1970 A. Koloska-Isermeyer1992 T. Sanderson
1949 E. J. Allen1971 I. Fallo1993 S. Holroyd
  1994 S. Holroyd
  1995 L. Jackson
2010 L. Whittingham2013 R. Semenytsh2016 J. Blair
2011 T. Ward2014 G. Sayers2017 L. Whittingham
2012 I. Jeffs2015 L. Whittingham2018 E. Hamplett
  2019 E. Hamplett

*N.B. Names are as recorded on the trophy and are not always as recorded elsewhere, thus, Hotimi for Hitomi, and Card for Caro.  The winners of 1929 and 1980 are not recorded on the trophy and appear here in brackets with an asterisk.