Joyce Cooper’s father was a wealthy tea planter in Sri Lanka and it was in the Indian Ocean that she first learnt to swim. She made her championship début at the 1927 European Championships where she was narrowly beaten to the 100 m freestyle title but then went on to anchor the relay team to a gold medal. At the 1928 Olympics she helped the British relay team finish second, albeit by a large distance, to the Americans and was bronze medallist in both her individual events. Her third place in the 100 freestyle was controversial because observers thought she was beaten to the touch by teammate Jean McDowall, but the judges voted 3-2 in her favour. Cooper was the outstanding female performer at the inaugural British Empire Games in 1930 and won all four events she entered.
She also won four medals at the 1931 European Championship although this time she had to be content with three silvers and a bronze. Cooper added another Olympic medal in 1932, a bronze in the relay, and reached another two individual finals in what was to be her final championship appearance. In 1934 she married Olympic rowing champion Felix Badcock. Their son, also named Felix won a bronze medal as part of the English rowing eight at the 1958 British Empire Games.