The Mary Amies Memorial Trophy Women’s Hammer

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

Story of the Event

Athletics trophy, silver bowl with scrolled handles. Engraved with the words The Mary Aimes Memorial Trophy
Photo credit: David Rowan

Hammer throwing, unlike the ancient Greek throwing disciplines of discus and javelin, has its roots in northern Europe. Irish legends speak of the hero Cú Chulainn outdistancing his rivals when throwing a chariot wheel on its axle at the Tailteann Games, an event even more ancient than the original Olympic Games, and Scandinavian stories describe the exploits of the god Thor throwing his hammer. Historical sources show that the wheel was later substituted by a boulder attached to a wooden handle and the event is still contested in the Highland Games, although the implement has a fixed handle.

Hammer throwing in today’s competitions owes its form to one of the most influential figures of modern athletics, J.G. Chambers, the donor of the men’s walk trophy. Chambers was responsible for setting the rules for a wide range of events and the forms he laid down are still used in championship athletics today. In 1878 he introduced the hammer circle, although it was not internationally accepted until the 1908 Olympic Games in London. Before this, throwers were allowed a run-up and follow-through. The Waddell brothers, donors of the men’s steeplechase trophy, introduced the idea of a hammer square in the 1870s but it was the circle that eventually stuck.

Hammer throwing for women was not ratified as an event until the 1990s, after a successful introduction through Masters competitions. As has often been the case, the Women’s Amateur Athletics Association (WAAA) introduced the event to its programme some time before it appeared internationally; the event was only contested for the first time at a World Championships in 1999 and at the Olympics in Sydney 2000. The first winner of the WAAA title, and the first Commonwealth champion in 1998, was Australian athlete Debbie Sosimenko, with Lorraine Shaw (GB) finishing in 3rd place. Shaw would become British record holder, Commonwealth Champion, and, on her retirement, a successful coach, however her name does not appear on this trophy due to the hiatus in the late 1990s.

In 2016 Sophie Hitchon, the 2014 champion and British record-holder, won bronze at the Rio Olympics, building on a successful international junior career. Prior to this, Britain’s only previous Olympic throwing medals for women had come in the javelin.

The Donor
An active competitor and even more active administrator, Mary Amies was Honorary Secretary of the WAAA from 1953-1960 and the first WAAA representative at the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). She was a strong advocate for women’s athletics, unafraid to enter into debate with her counterparts in the men’s organisation. By 1959 she was arguing with the knowledge that the WAAA was organised with sufficient financial care to allow them to help out the Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) when they sought financial help.

At a time when international women’s sport was far more limited in its scope than today – in 1960 women could compete in only 7 sports at the Olympics – the high standards of organisation and team-spirit amongst British women’s athletics teams were noted by contemporaries. Mary Amies managed the women’s teams at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and the 1960 Rome Olympics, from which the team returned with 4 medals from the 10 disciplines contested.

History of the Trophy
WAAA champions in the hammer were first awarded this trophy from 1993-1995. Since 2010 the trophy has been presented to the winner of the English Senior Championships Hammer Throw. The trophy seems initially to have been used for winners of the Intermediate Girls’ 100m and a plinth for this trophy records the winners of that event. Confusingly the plinth has also been presented with the women’s pole vault trophy at times.

Previous Winners

1993 D. Sosimenko1994 L. Sprules1995 B. MacNaughton
2010 Z. Derham2013 S. Brown2016 R. Hunter
2011 S. Holt2014 S. Hitchon2017 S. McKelvie
2012 S. Holt2015 S. Holt2018 L. Marshall
  2019 J. Mayho