Everyone likes to win a trophy; they’re great to show off with, to take pride in and just generally good news. Trophies are used in a wide range of sports and events to mark achievement and victory and to reward excellence and hard work in the field. We’ve all seen athletes, footballers, racing drivers, tennis players and many others proudly holding their trophy aloft above their heads to signify their defeat over their opponents.
Of course, today the defeats take place on the sports field or the racing track or other event arena but originally the defeat was much more brutal and took place on the battlefield. The term ‘trophy’ originates from a Greek word for ‘change’ and this referred to the type of change that happened when one army defeated another and their lands and other possessions were taken by the victors. These lands and possessions were the original trophies and they were won at a high price.
The concept of the trophy quickly transferred over onto the sports field though and winners at the ancient Olympic Games were awarded garlands and wreaths to denote their success. Later, cups and chalices were used and, of course, we still use this symbol in many events today – the World Cup in football, the Ryder Cup in golf and the Davis cup in tennis.
Many other symbols are used today to create trophies. Often the trophy will bear a depiction of the valiant sportsman to display clearly what the trophy has been won for. So, you will see pedestals with golfers in mid-swing or footballers in mid-kick, all portraying energy and vitality. Some trophies use national symbols to reflect where the trophy was won and to indicate that the event took place at a high level of competition. Others may depict an obvious symbol of the sport or activity such as a boxing glove mounted in a stand or a football boot balancing on its toe. Shields are another common form of trophy and, here, the military heritage can be seen clearly. The range of trophies available today is quite staggering.
The materials used in trophies serve to symbolise the rarity and prestige of the occasion. As such, trophies are very often made from gold and silver, or at least gold and silver finishes. The golden cup or the silver cup being raised above the victor’s head is an image that we’re all familiar with. Many modern trophies, however, are made in more contemporary designs using materials such as crystal, glass and acrylic.
A final point about the trophy is that of the engraving. There’s no point winning a trophy is no one knows what it’s for and, more importantly, who won it. So most trophies will bear some form of plaque that is engraved with the name of the winner and maybe last year’s winner too as well as engravings of the event where the trophy was won.