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Friday, 5 September 2014
15:06 PM BST

Throwback Thursday: Lottie Dod the little wonder

By Sarah Kirkham

Wimbledon's Throwback Thursday series discusses Lottie Dod, one of Wimbledon's highest-achievers. explains...

There is perhaps only one Wimbledon Champion that can boast success in several sports. Nicknamed ‘The Little Wonder’, Lottie Dod is perhaps one of the most accomplished figures in Victorian sport.

Here at Wimbledon, we know her as the youngest competitor to have won the main event. In 1887, at the age of 15, she became the Ladies’ Singles Champion on her first attempt and carried on to win the title another four times. This makes her the first Champion to have won Wimbledon five times with three of those in a row. Her style of play strayed from the norm of Ladies’ tennis. Unlike other female players at the time, Lottie favoured the forehand drive and was the first woman to volley and smash.

As well as her playing style, her clothing was also unique. Due to her age she was permitted to wear clothing similar to her school uniform. This consisted of black stockings and shoes, a cricket cap, and a calf-length dress. This gave her more freedom of movement and allowed her to race across the court; which was a particular advantage when it came to running backwards in an attempt to return the ball. Her opponents wore floor length skirts as well as several covering layers which restricted such vigorous movement as displayed by Lottie.

However, Lottie did not only dominate Wimbledon but also a number of other sports throughout her career. Her greatest successes came in golf, field hockey, archery, ice-skating, tobogganing and mountaineering.

In terms of winter sports, she became the first female to hurtle down the famous ‘Cresta Run’ in St.Moritz, Switzerland. She also passed the Ladies’ AND Men’s Skating Test, two of the most prestigious figure-skating events at the time. On the sideline she developed her skills as a mountaineer, scaling two mountains over 4,000 meters in 1896.

She gained a noteworthy reputation in both golf and field hockey.  In 1904 she won the British Ladies’ Amateur Golf Championships, becoming the only Singles Champion to win a major event in two sports. In field hockey, she was not only Captain of the Cheshire County Team, but also gained caps for the England team playing against Ireland in 1899 and 1900.

Lottie also competed in the Grand National Archery meeting in 1906, 1907 and 1908. Her aptitude and precision gained her a place on the 1908 Olympic Archery team where she won silver.

If achievements in sports were not enough, she was also an accomplished contralto singer and musician – playing the piano and banjo. She later served as a nurse in World War One, receiving a Red Cross gold medal for her service.

Want to learn more about Wimbledon's history? Why not visit the Museum...