Through 2008, fifty-three-year-old Sybil “Queenie” Newall is the oldest woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal. Like Willy Dod, the 1908 men’s champion, Queenie Newall came from one of the oldest families in England – the Newalls are recognized by the College of Arms back to the time of Henry IV in the 14th century. Queenie was the eldest of seven daughters of John and Maria (Fenton) Newall, who maintained a large country estate at Hare Hill in Lancashire. The Fentons were also a prominent Lancashire family and Queenie’s maternal grandfather, John Fenton, twice served as the Liberal MP for Rochdale. Having left Lancashire, Queenie joined Cheltenham Archers in 1905 and made spectacular progress. In 1907 she shot at all five regional meetings, making the highest score in four of them and being placed second in the fifth. At the 1908 Olympic Games, the women archers encountered the same adverse weather conditions as the men and at the end of the first day Queenie Newall trailed the multitalented Lottie Dod by 10 points, but Newall soon moved into the lead on the second day and went on to win the gold medal by 43 points. In less than three years, she had risen from being an obscure archer at a provincial club to become Olympic champion. The greatest British woman archer of all-time, Alice Legh, who won 23 Grand National titles in a 41-year span between 1881 and 1922, chose not to compete at the 1908 Olympics, but the following week in the Grand National meeting at Oxford she defeated Newall by the huge margin of 151 points. Newall’s success at these championships would come later; she won the title in 1911 and 1912, and in 1914 she only missed a third victory by just three points. She continued shooting after the war and her last recorded score was with the Cheltenham Archers in September 1928 at the age of 74.
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