- 1st Female Olympians
Croquet has only been played once in the history of the modern olympics but can claim one honour involving the sporting inclusion of women.
The Games of 1900 were held in Paris as part of the Exposition Universelle Internationale - the Paris Worlds Fair.
The exposition organizers spread the events over five months and de-emphasised their Olympic status to such an extent that many athletes died without ever knowing that they had participated in the Olympics.
Here women made their first appearance in the modern Games. The first to compete were Mme. Filleaul Brohy, Mlle. Marie Ohnier and Mlle Desprès of France in croquet.
In all there were ten competitors who played in three events. Singles (one ball and two ball) and doubles. Nine of the competitors were from France and the other from Belgium
Report of Croquet at the II Olympiad, Paris 1900. (Unattributed)
"This game, French in name and origin (though some writers, more fashoinable than athletic, affect to call it crocket) has hardly any pretensions to athletism and the reason it joined the USFSA (The Union of French Sports Clubs) is due to the fact that its governing body wished to elevate this gentle pastime to the rank of a sport by holding annual croquet championships. One would be wrong however, to disdain croquet. It develops a combinative mind - one has only to see it transform young girls into reasoners, and from reasoners into reasonable people.
Mr. Andre Despres, civil engineer by profession and the legislator of croquet, lavished the most enlightened and devoted care on the Exhibition tournament. Baron Gourgand provided him with a sand court built specially for the occasion, not without expense, in a pretty corner of the Cercle du Bois de Boulogne. The best players in Paris competed there, and were very pleased with the facilities. One must admit that there were not many players, about a dozen. The obstinacy of the Paris 'set' in spreading the different competitions over several weeks totally ruled out any players from the provinces and overseas. Spectators were not at all numerous, although I must mention an English lover of the game who made the journey from Nice to Paris to watch the first matches of the competition; unless I am very much mistaken, however, this gentleman was the only paying spectator.
The Exhibition competition did however have one result; it brought together players who did not know each other and enlarged this sport's rather restricted group of experts.
Six (sic) people made up the Technical Commission in charge of croquet at the Games;
Messrs. Despres, A. Foucault, G. Foucault, Gaullet, Dumont, Johin, and de Saint-Cyr.
Play started on Wednesday 24th June and continued every Sunday thereafter until 15th August. There were four events.
Singles Championships - 3 Francs
Doubles Championship - 5 Francs per team
Handicap - 1 Franc.
(Note: at 1999 prices a Franc was worth £5 GBP).
Entry closing date: 31st May 1900
Venue: Cercle du Bois de Boulogne (Pelouse de Madrid)
Vignerot (FRA) bt Desprès (FRA) 2-0 (42-40)
Sauterau (FRA) bt Blachère (FRA) 2-0 (41-19)
Waydelich (FRA) w/o Filleaul Brohy (FRA)
The second round was conducted as a round-robin.
Three winners and one loser from the 1st round
Waydelich bt Vignerot 2-1 (42-41)
Waydelich bt Sautereau
Waydelich bt Blachère
Vignerot bt Sautereau 2-1 (42-41)
Vignerot bt Blachère (Walk Over)
Sautereau bt Blachère
1. Waydelich (FRA)
Gold Souvenir Medal
A presentation croquet set and 2 mallets.
2. Vignerot (FRA) Silver
3. Sautereau (FRA) Bronze
4. Blachère (FRA)
5. Desprès (FRA)
6. Filleaul Brohy (FRA)
This event was not held as only one double partnership from France entered and therefore they won by walkover.
Aumoitte and Johin (FRA)
2 Gold Souvenir medals
4 Presentation mallets
The top four advanced. Four players, including two of the three women and the only Belgian player, did not finish the round. The scoring mechanism is unrecorded.
1. Waydelich (FRA) 11
2. Johin (FRA) 13
3. Blachère (FRA) 17
4. Aumoitte 18
6. Filleaul Brohy (FRA) DNF
7. Marcel Haentjens (BEL) DNF
8. Marie Ohnier (FRA) DNF
9. Sautereau (FRA) DNF 1. Johin (FRA) 13
2. Aumoitte (FRA) 18
3. Waydelich (FRA) 11
4. Blachère (FRA) 17
Waydelich and Blachère were eliminated in the second round. Waydelich, in third place, is now considered by the International Olympic Committee to be the bronze medallist.
Aumoitte bt Johin 1-0 (21-15)
1 Gold Souvenir Medal
1. Aumoitte (FRA) Gold Souvenir Medal
2. Johin (FRA) Silver
3. Waydelich (FRA) Bronze
4. Blachère (FRA)
5. Desprès (FRA)
6. Marcel Haentjens (BEL)
7. Sautereau (FRA)
8. Marie Ohnier (FRA)
9. Filleaul Brohy (FRA)
Gold Souvenir Medal
THE FIRST TWO WOMEN OLYMPIANS
by Bill Mallon
Mallon, Bill. "The First Two Women Olympians" in Citius, Altius, Fortius, Autumn 1995, No. 3, p. 38.
Until very recently, it has always been stated that the first females to compete at the Olympic Games were the tennis players (7) who competed from 6-11 July 1900 at the 1900 Paris Olympics. Later that year, on 3 October, 10 women golfers also competed in the Olympic golf event.
There has also been the suggestion that one women sailed aboard a yacht in 1900. With the 1900 yachting events having taken place from 22-26 May this would make Helen de Pourtalès (SUI) the first female Olympian. However, her participation cannot be well documented. Ian Buchanan has made extensive studies of the 1900 yachting events and has never found a reference to Mme. de Pourtalès and does not feel that she actually “competed.”
In 1900, as with chariot racing at the Ancient Olympics, some of the yachtsmen listed in the reports were actually the wealthy yacht owners who did not actually race or compete, but simply hired sailors to race their yachts for them. Mme. de Pourtalès’ husband, Hermann Alexandre de Pourtalès, apparently skippered the yacht, Lérina, for Switzerland, and won the l-2 ton class at Paris. He was also the owner of that yacht. It is possible that his wife was a co-owner of Lérina and would fall into this category but this hardly seems to qualify her as an“Olympian.”
Recently, however, I have found two other women who competed in the 1900 Olympic Games, and preceded the women tennis players. They competed in croquet which began on 28 June, and they competed against the men in the same competition. Thus they would be the first female Olympians. Their names are listed in the Paris daily sporting journal of the time, Journal des Sports. They are Mme. Filleaul Brohy (goddaughter of Brohy) and Mlle. Marie Ohnier.
One of the two croquet competitions for singles, simple à une boule (singles with one ball) began on 28 June and was apparently contested as an elimination event with several rounds. After each round, the lowest finishers were eliminated and the leaders advanced.
In round one there were nine (9) croquet players, among them Mme. Brohy and Mlle. Ohnier. Both are listed as not having finished the round, and thus not advancing to the second round. The first round was won by Waydelich with 11 points. Four croquetists advanced to the second round, where Waydelich was eliminated. There were three rounds until Aumoitte was declared the champion by defeating Johin 15-21 in the final round.
The other singles croquet event in 1900, simple à deux boules (singles with two balls),
was held on 4 July 1900. Both Mme. Brohy and Mlle. Ohnier were entered. Mme. Brohy competed, per Journal des Sports, but retired and forfeited her first round match with Waydelich who eventually won the championship. Mlle. Ohnier was scheduled to meet Marcel Haentjens (BEL) in a first round match in this event on 11 July. No result was ever published for this match, so it cannot be certain if she competed.
I have never found the names of Brohy or Ohnier in any other source for the Paris Olympics, and I have looked at most of the primary sporting newspapers of the times, as well as all the standard daily Parisien newspapers. This is not unusual, however, as I have never seen the croquet event covered in any detail at all except in Journal des Sports. I now consider Mme. Brohy and Mlle. Marie Ohnier to be the first women Olympians.