With it being Internation Women’s Day this week – I have chosen to highlight seven British Sports women, born this week, many of whom you may not be aware of.
5th March – Judy Grinham – born in 1939 in Neasden, London.
Judy was also known by her married name, Rowley, and is a former swimmer who represented Great Britain in the Olympics and European Championships as well as competing for England in the Commonwealth Games.
Her first success came in 1953 when she won the Middlesex girls 100 yards backstroke as a member of Hampstead Ladies Swimming Club. She never reached the final of an ASA junior event but had already won two international races for Britain when she won her first national title in 1955. A successful round of internationals galas and the retention of her ASA title in the summer of 1956 secured her place in the team for Melbourne Olympics. At the Games, Judy won the 100m backstroke in 1:12.9 seconds, which was the first world long-course record for this event, she was also the first British woman swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal for 32 years.
As a relief from the pressures of world-class backstroke swimming, Judy turned to the freestyle event in 1957, winning the ASA 200 yards title, but the following year she reverted to her former stroke, enjoying an outstanding season. At the Commonwealth Games she won the 100 yards backstroke in a new world record time of 1:11.9 seconds, which was also ratified as a record for the marginally shorter 100m distance. She followed this with a second gold medal and a share in a second world record in the medley relay, before completing her medal haul with a bronze in the freestyle relay.
Later in the season, she won the 100 metres backstroke at the European Championships to become the first woman ever to hold the Olympic, European and Commonwealth titles. At the European Championships, she also won silver in the freestyle relay and bronze medals in the individual 100m freestyle and the medley relay. In 1957 she gained a further award as she was voted Daily Express Sportswoman of the year
Judy, who in addition to her international championship honours won seven ASA titles, retired from competitive swimming on her 20th birthday and married the journalist Peter Rowley soon afterwards.
In 1959, she appeared as a PT instructress in the Associated British Technicolor war time service comedy “Operation Bullshine”, alongside stars Donald Sinden; Barbara Murray; Carole Lesley; Joan Rice and Dora Bryan – her one and only foray into the world of film.
As a sports personality Judy’s fame saw her opening new swimming pools and appearing at various galas and competitions as guest of honour. One of the more unusual things she was asked to do was to help demonstrate the new portable lung. She is pictured below on 23rd May 1960 at the headquarters of the Society for the Prevention of Accidents, showing how Dr Bernard Lucas’s invention would provide an advantaged method for artificial respiration in cases of “drowning, gassing or electrocution”
She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an “Honour Swimmer” in 1981. In 2007, she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, 50 years after winning gold in Melbourne.
6th March – Agnes Mary “Agatha” Morton – born in 1872 in Halstead, Essex
Although born and baptised Agnes Mary, she was known as Agatha from an early age and that is how she was known throughout her tennis career. The daughter of a solicitor from Berwick-on-Tweed Agatha learned her tennis at Halstead from an early age and was coached by her father and the former Scottish and Welsh champion Helen Jackson.
Agatha first hit the headlines in 1902 when she won the All-England women’s doubles title with Charlotte Sterry-Cooper. In 1914, when the doubles had full championship status at Wimbledon, she teamed up with the American Elizabeth Ryan to capture the title, beating the British duo of Edith Hannam and Ethel Larcombe 6-1, 6-3. Like the women’s doubles, the All-England mixed doubles was not granted full championship status at Wimbledon until 1913 but Agatha and Herbert Roper Barrett won the title in 1909 when it was held as part of the Northern Tournament at Manchester.
Agatha made her Wimbledon debut when she was 29 in 1901 and played there 13 times. She reached the final of the all-comers singles championship on four occasions, losing to Muriel Robb 2-6, 4-6 in 1902, and to Charlotte Sterry-Cooper in two sets in 1904. She lost to Sterry-Cooper again in two sets in 1908 and in 1909 took [Dora Boothby] to three sets before losing 4-6, 6-4, 6-8 in one of the longest ladies finals seen at Wimbledon at that time. In those latter two years, she would have been proclaimed champion had she won the all-comers finals, as the reigning champions failed to defend their titles. At Wimbledon in 1908 during the Olympic competition, she lost in the quarter-final of the singles to Dorothea Lambert Chambers 2-6. 3-6.
Agatha won many provincial tournaments around England including the North London championship nine times in succession between 1906-14 and in that same period she won the Suffolk championship nine times. She also won the Essex championship six times between 1904-11. In addition, she won tournaments on clay in Germany and France. In 1903 the famous tennis correspondent A Wallis Myers described her as a ‘careful, steady and improving player’
The War put an end to Agatha’s competitive career, and in 1925 she married Sir Hugh Houghton Stewart, the 4th Baron Stewart of Athenree, and she acquired the title Lady Stewart. She died at the age of 89 on 5th February 1962.
7th March – Charlotte Gilmartin – born in 1990 in Redditch, Worcester
A British short track speed skater who competed at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics. She was spotted as a potential star by a trainer when she visited an ice-rink for a friend’s party in 2001. She began competing as a junior speed skater for Great Britain aged just 15, after that she rose through the ranks to regularly compete on the world stage as a senior – winning an individual 1500m bronze at the 2013 European Championships in Malmo.
She made her Olympic Winter Games debut at Sochi 2014, finishing 16th in the 500m and 28th in the 1500m and in January 2016 won 3000m gold and overall silver at the European Champs and added 500m bronze the following year. Charlotte admits to having found the whole qualification process for Sochi incredibly stressful, she found herself shaking on the start-line with overwhelming nerves, something needed to be done – so she adopted a more relaxed attitude, which soon started to pay off and she felt like she was on the brink of breaking into the top eight – from which anyone would be capable of winning a medal.
The ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup 2017-2018, in four rounds, served as the qualifiers for the Short track speed skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics. In the first round, in Budapest, Gilmartin finished 13th in the 1500m and 11th in the 500m. In the second round, in Dordrecht, she finished second in the 1000m. She finished 15th in the 1500m. She finished 11th in the 500m. In the third round, in Shanghai, she was disqualified in the B final of the 1500m – coming 12th and finished 19th in the 1000m. She came 19th in the 1000 metres.
Charlotte was jubilant after achieving a long-term goal of being selected for her second Winter Games, especially as it was being held in what is regarded as the fanatical home of the sport – South Korea. She was one of five short-track speed skaters chosen for PyeongChang by the British Olympic Association, as British number two behind Elise Christie. At the Games she competed in the 1000m where she was placed 23rd and the 1500m, finishing in 14the place
8th March – Ann Callaway – born in 1960 in Sussex
Also known as – Dr Elizabeth-Ann Redgrave, Lady Redgrave (née Callaway); she is a former Olympic rower, ex-Chief Medical officer to GB Rowing, a surgeon, osteopath and wife of rower Steve Redgrave. She was elected a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta in 2016.
Having taken up the sport in 1981, Ann rowed in the women’s eight at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the boat finished in 5th place, behind USA, Romania, Netherlands and Canada.
She qualified as a doctor from Charing Cross Hospital Medical School, London in 1984 and entered a career in orthopaedic surgery, with an interest in sports medicine. However, due to her own international rowing commitments, she took a sabbatical in 1988 for the Seoul Olympic Games. During which time she developed an interest in osteopathy and trained at the British School of Osteopathy following her year out, qualifying in 1990, she then established The Redgrave Clinic in Bourne End in late 1990. Ann and Steve have three children and their eldest, Natalie, rowed with the Oxford University Women’s Boat Club which won the women’s boat race at Henley Boat Races in 2011.
Ann has three Honorary Degrees: the first from Loughborough University in 2001, a second in 2004 from the University of Staffordshire, and finally from Exeter University in 2010. Upon her retirement as Chief Medical Officer of GB Rowing in 2001, she was awarded the British Rowing Medal of Honour.
She considered her rowing career highlight to be London 2012, after being involved with GB rowing for such a long time, both as an athlete and doctor, she watched the amazing transition of the sport from 1984 onwards.
Ann always considers that sporting success is a mix of luck, hard work and talent. Taking her own rowing experiences as an example she says that although she didn’t win any medals she was in the right place at the right time and it became her life thereafter. Once the decision to be part of a sport is made then talent obviously helps and then you have to work very hard to make it to the top and stay there – so a combination of all three, you can’t take one element away and expect the same outcome.
9th March – Lisa Lomas – born in 1967 in Dunstable, Bedfordshire
A table tennis player Lisa competed in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics and won silver at the 1992 European Table Tennis Championships, losing to Bettine Vriesekoop in the final. She won the women’s singles event at the English National Table Tennis Championships four times, and the women’s doubles event nine times.
Lisa and her sister Jackie Bellinger hold the record for most balls hit back and forth in 60 seconds – 173 – a record they set in 1993 at the Ipswich Northgate Centre. The Luton pair had set a previous record in 1989 of 18 shots.
In 1994 ENGLAND’S women, whose runners-up position in the European Super League earlier in the year was a competition-best, started their campaign to go one better with a 4-1 victory over Poland at Ashford in Middlesex last night. Lisa was the outstanding player of the team. Producing a mixture of defence, attack and counter-attack to gain three victories. She put England 2-0 up by overcoming the former Polish champion Agnieszka Gierage 21-11, helped Andrea Holt win the doubles then prevailed 21-9 21-9 against the Polish champion Anna Januszyk.
At the Olympics in 1996, Lisa’s hopes of challenging for a medal ended when she was beaten in straight games by the Olympic champion, Deng Yaping. She had previously lost her best chance of qualifying from her group when she was beaten by Sweden’s Marie Svensson, but a useful start against her Chinese opponent raised hopes of a surprise. Lisa took an early one-point lead, stayed on terms until 8-8 and stayed in touch with Deng, known as the “pocket rocket” until the Chinese player produced two unreturnable spin services to take her to 14-11 and then the match rapidly ran away from the then British No 1.
10th March Lisa York – born in 1970 in Rugby, Warwickshire
Lisa was best known in athletics circles as a cross-country runner but she was also a middle-distance track athlete and competed in the 1992 Olympic 3000m, where she failed to meet the final.
In July 1992 at the Inaugural European under 23 Cup in Gateshead, Lisa managed to give the team a pre-Olympic lift, showing her class with a victory of the highest order in the 1500m.
She retired soon after the Olympics, because, it is said, that she was thoroughly disillusioned with the Chinese athletes who she considered where setting times that were practically unreachable naturally.
She ran for Leicester Corinthians and was often seen on the local track running distances between 800 to 3000m. Her 1992 Olympic run of 8:47.71 is her PB for the distance, which leaves her 5th on the all-time British list. Her 1500m PB was set in Gateshead on 18th July 1992 at 4:09.34. She also ran indoors, clocking 4:33.50 for the mile in March 1992 at Birmingham. Lisa was coached by the well-known and respected Bud Baldero, who retired early from teaching to take up the post of endurance coach at the University of Birmingham as well as holding such key posts as the national cross country and marathon coach.
Lisa was the English Cross Country champion in 1992 in March of that year represented her country at the World Cross Country Championships in Boston, USA. The failure of team-mate Liz McGolgan to come anywhere near the top of the field, in fact she finished as an also-ran in a lowly and disappointing 41st, dominated the headlines – however Lisa, on a snow-covered course, frozen in places and swept by a chilling wind, came in ahead of McGolgan in 34th place.
Former British number one and Olympic Champion, Kelly Holmes, credits Lisa with inspiring her to return to the track after life in the army. After watching Lisa in Barcelona in 1992, Holmes remembered how, as a youngster in the English Schools competitions, she used to beat Lisa. So although Lisa disappeared quite quickly she left the sport the legacy of helping to persuade Holmes to make a comeback and the rest they say is history.
11th March – Joanne Conway – born in 1971 in Wallsend, North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear
A six-time British national figure skating champion, Joanne competed at two Winter Olympics, came as high as 4th in the European Championships (1991) and 7th at the Worlds in the same year. Adept at figure skating by the age of 12, she won her first National title at 14 and made her major international championship debut at the 1986 Europeans, where she finished 11th. Her Olympic experiences saw her placing 12th in 1988 and 18th in 1992. She is credited as being the first British female skater to land a triple flip successfully in competition (1991 European Figure Skating Championships).
In 1985 she attended summer training in the USA with Robin Cousins’s coach, Carlo Fassi, before she went on to win her first British title. A newspaper report of the time proclaimed her the toast of New York, when the morning after her win a bottle of champagne was left on the doorstep of her home, along with the milk, by an admirer. New York, Northumberland, this is! She mother, Miriam was reportedly amazed at the confidence in which her daughter performed in Solihull at the British Champs, deposing Nottingham’s Susan Armstrong – “She took everything in her stride, I can’t believe how well she coped. Susan skated as well as I’ve ever seen her, but our Joanne simply onto the ice and gave it everything. There was no trace of any nerves.” Mrs Conway attributed her level-headed daughter’s remarkable progress to the coaching sessions with Carlo and Krista Fassi.
Joanne shot to fame after this win and was soon in demand for newspaper interviews and fashion photo shoots. Later in 1985, she was awarded a £20,000 scholarship which enabled her to train more often in Colorado Springs with the Fassi’s. “It is the best Christmas present I have ever had and an enormous relief to my parents,” Joanne told reporters in Gillingham as she prepared to star with Cousins in a special show to raise more money to help her compete with the world’s best.
Joanne was coached by Cousins himself for a short while in 1989 at his ice school in Lake Arrowhead, California, but the partnership was dissolved when she was branded “gutless” by Cousins at the European Championships in Birmingham. The accusation followed her free skating display which left her a miserable sixth, in the end, a medal was not forthcoming and Cousins felt sorry that Joanne had decided to move on but he felt he had done all he could under the circumstances. Her father blamed the media for contributing to the pressure on his daughter, stating that he felt the press “crucified her” and that there was no truth to the suggestion that she would now retire.
It was in fact in 1992 at the grand old age of 16 that she retired from competitive skating and turned professional – ravelling the world and performing in dozens of shows, including Hot Ice, at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, where she dazzled audiences with her skills on the ice and where she was appointed head coach in 2005. Three years later, she left these shores to live and coach in Spain, when her husband at the time John Dunn was appointed the new national ice skating coach. Speaking form the British Figure Skating Champs in Sheffield just before her departure Joanne said “My husband and I have had enough. Ice skating is suffering in this country. It has been declining over the last 10 years. When I appeared in the British Championships it was very busy, but this year the audience figures have been very quiet. The television show Dancing on Ice has helped get more young people interested in ice skating, but in the North there are only two ice rinks . . . at Billingham in Teesside and Whitley Bay. We need a brand new development to encourage more kids to start ice skating. It is one of the reasons we are emigrating to Madrid in Spain. The support out there is brilliant. They have provided us with a house and car and we are learning the language. The local and national governments plough money in to support the kids.” Joanne had been shocked to discover how advanced facilities and training opportunities were in Spain compared to the UK.
In 2012, she returned to the UK and since 2013 has worked as a coach and is also the current Arena Manager at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. “I have skated around the world and come back to Blackpool because I feel as though this is where I belong” she says “The arena has been teaching people to skate for more than 70 years and I want to be part of the next generation who teaches them a skill and help them use it to the best of their ability”