View Full Version : Magdalena Rollin Coquerque (1903-1994) - An early Dutch sports star

Sep 23rd, 2010, 09:56 PM
This is a translation from the Dutch of a biographical piece on Magdalena ("Madzy") Rollin Couquerque, the early Dutch tennis and hockey star. It has been posted in this website before, but never archived.

Magdalena Rollin Couquerque

Magdalena (“Madzy”) Rollin Couquerque was born in Gravenhage, the Netherlands, on 14 April 1903, to Louis Marie Rollin Couquerque, a civil servant in the ministry of the colonies, and Helena del Camps, known as Camp.

Madzy Rollin Couquerque grew up with her brother, Louis, in a family which belonged to one of the better social circles in the Hague. She came into contact with sports through her classmates in secondary school in the Hague. It was above all at the boarding school in Bloemendaal, where her father sent her in 1918 after the death of his wife, that Madzy’s sporting talents became apparent. She excelled at hockey and tennis, two sports which at that time were played together for obvious reasons. In April the tennis courts were opened, while the hockey competitions began in September.

Rollin Couquerque’s authoritarian father showed no interest in and provided no support in relation to sport, which for him was a subject not to be spoken about and one on which he looked down with disdain. Soon after being complimented on Madzy’s success at a meeting of the men’s club called De Witte he made his way one Sunday to the tennis courts. After watching a game for a short time he left again without even having seen his daughter play. This failure on her father’s part to recognize her talents wounded Rollin Couquerque deeply, and the memory of it could still hurt her in old age.

From 1921, the year in which she returned from boarding school, Rollin Couquerque worked in various administrative positions, in particular in the area of bookkeeping for various companies in the Hague, and also sometimes at the insurance company where her brother worked. However, these jobs were only a means of financing her sporting activities. For her, sport was more than a leisure time activity – it was her life. She shone at it and here received the recognition she thought would otherwise be withheld from her. Rollin Couquerque would continue to do office work as a necessary evil until she retired. Even after her sporting career was over she continued to think of office work in this way and avoided talking about it even with her closest friends.

Rollin Couquerque was naturally talented at sport. In 1921, she became a member of the first team of the HOC hockey club, which won the Dutch championships. The HOC remained unbeatable and national champion without interruption until 1935. Rollin Couquerque also took part in the first trans-national hockey tournament in Brussels in 1926. The players were given a rough orange material from which to make shirts. The team had to provide the rest of their gear and equipment themselves. Until the Second World War made international matches impossible, Rollin Couquerque played in 37 of a total of 40 international competitions, by preference as a left-back. Due to her height and her great hitting power, she was easily able to see over the field and play the ball forward. She was captain of the team in the 1930s.

The series of victories of “Ms Rollin Couquerque” – as she had herself styled – as a tennis player began rather late. Gerard Scheurleer, a famous coach at the time and related to Rollin Couquerque by marriage, saw his niece playing and took her under his wing. His pupil had a great deal of talent, but not much technique or tactics. Due to the helpful lessons she received, in 1927 she won the national ladies’ singles title, the first in a series of forty national championships she carried off in 25 years. The years 1932-1935 above all were glorious – Rollin Couquerque became national champion in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles. She also won the triple in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1942. In 1933, according to an opinion poll, she was the most popular sportswoman in the country after the female swimmer Willemijntje “Willy” den Ouden.

In her glory years Rollin Couquerque played at Wimbledon seven times, but was never able to reach the final. She herself attributed this lack of success to the circumstances in which she had to travel to the tournament. After finishing her office work she would travel by train and night-boat to Harwich in the evening before the day on which she had to play, go from there straight to the stadium, play her match and, if she lost, go straight back by train and night-boat in order to report for work the following day. Holidays were infrequent (and unpaid) and extra time off was difficult to come by.

As a working woman, Rollin Couquerque could only really play her sports on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. She hardly trained at all, at most once in the middle of the week, and thus depended on her talent and experience. She spent a lot of her evenings doing organisational work in the service of sport. In this respect, from 1927 to 1941, she was a committee member of the Dutch Ladies’ Hockey Association and was also a member of the board of the Leimonias tennis club in the Hague from 1932 to 1955. In these roles she proved to be a perfectionist, critical of herself and of others, an organiser who was not inclined to ask for help from other people, but who fulfilled her tasks in an outstanding manner.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War Rollin Couquerque made no secret of her anti-German attitude. In February 1937, the Dutch national ladies’ hockey team played a match against Germany in Frankfurt am Main, which the Dutch won 3-1. At the end of the end of the match Rollin Couquerque as captain received a bouquet of flowers to which a ribbon was attached in the colours of the German flag with a swastika. She took a scissors and cut the ribbon into eleven pieces, declaring that each player had a right to a share in the trophy. The dumbfounded German officials could only look on helplessly.

The war drew a line under Rollin Couquerque’s double set of international sporting activities. In March 1940 she played her last hockey competition in Brussels. In tennis she won another eight national titles in the first three years of the war, something she liked to joke about as she got older. Her anti-German feelings became strongest when the Dutch Ladies’ Hockey Association was merged by decree on 1 January 1941 with the Royal Dutch (Men’s) Hockey Association. The fact that she, with her long years of experience, was given no position on the board of the new association wounded her deeply. She blamed this situation on the German occupiers.

As if to make up for her enforced inactivity during the war years Rollin Couquerque in the summer of 1945 took what was for many a surprising step. The head of the Women’s Marine Department (WMD) founded at the end of 1944, Ms N. H. Schokking, obtained permission for Rollin Couquerque to join the department. Her recruitment was seen as an important weapon against criticism of women in the army. Here was someone with a double-barrel name from one of the better social circles in the Hague and also with a reputation as a great sportswoman. With the rank of WMD officer, second class – the equivalent of a junior grade lieutenant – Rollin Couquerque originally acted as an assistant to recruits in the department centre in Windsor in England. In 1946, she was appointed division head in Amsterdam. One year later she left for the Dutch East Indies to take up a leading position in the WMD department located there.

After her period of service had ended – she had signed up for five years – Rollin Couquerque returned to the Netherlands in 1950 after stopping off for one year in Australia, where she helped Dutch immigrants to get settled. In Australia she spent her leisure time at social tennis events. On her return home sport once again became the centre point of her life when she took up an administrative position in civilian life in order to earn her livelihood. It did not matter to her that, from the point of view of sport, she was now a veteran. She was to become a tennis champion twice more, in 1948 in mixed doubles with H. Wilton, and in 1951 in ladies’ doubles with E. van Berkel. She thus increased her total of national tennis titles to forty.

After 1950, Rollin Couquerque remained active for years as a hockey player at the HOC club, and also in club competitions at the Leimonias tennis club. However, this did not completely fulfil her; she thought it beneath her to play at such a level. This is why in August 1959, at the age of 56, she decided to register for the ladies’ singles event at the Dutch national tennis championships. With unchanged tactical insight, powerful strokes and a great deal of variation she overcame much amazement – and fear – to beat one opponent after the other. Only in the final did she bow to Mientje Vletter-Tettelaar, who was half her age and who used her youth to control the tempo of the match. A very disappointed Rollin Couquerque left the court at the end. However, her appearance at the event had made a deep impression. A report in the “Algemeen Dagblad” newspaper of 22 August 1959 stated that she was “a beacon towards which young Dutch players must set their course if the Netherlands ever wants to return to the international tennis scene”.

From then on Madzy Rollin Couquerque restricted herself to playing tennis at her club. Shortly before her seventieth birthday she was forced into inactivity. Her hips had become bad as a result of arthritis, as had her legs. In the end she was able to get about only in a wheelchair. However, she continually tried to involve people in the promotion of hockey and tennis. She followed the next generation with a critical eye.

In a private home she lived in a room full of memories of her younger years, because in her eyes everything had been better in her glory years. It was typical of this perfectionist that she herself wrote her own death notice; all that remained to be filled in was the date of her death. How ironic it was then that when this death notice was eventually published only the date of death was incorrect. Madzy Rollin Couquerque died in Gravenhage on 16 July 1994 at the age of 91.

Sep 26th, 2010, 04:30 AM
It really shows why so many women get married in amateur athletics at that time. Financial.

Oct 25th, 2011, 02:22 AM
After her period of service had ended she had signed up for five years Rollin Couquerque returned to the Netherlands in 1950 after stopping off for one year in Australia, where she helped Dutch immigrants to get settled. In Australia she spent her leisure time at social tennis events.
She played in the 1956 Australian Champs, losing in R1 of singles and (with Ken Fletcher) mixed doubles.