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Carrying the flame for a golden age

Updated: 2024-02-05 08:48
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Coste, the oldest living French Olympic champion, poses with a figurine of a cyclist at his home in Paris on June 30. [Photo/AFP]

When the Olympic torch relay gets underway in France in May, keep an eye open for Charles Coste, France's oldest living Olympic champion.

Coste, who will turn 100 on Feb 8, pedaled his way to glory in the men's team cycling pursuit 76 years ago in the 1948 Olympics in London.

He has bad knees these days, but is still hoping to do his bit for Paris 2024.

"It will be unforgettable and I'm very proud," Coste told AFP.

"Now I have to prepare myself physically. I'm handicapped by my knees but I'm going to try to carry the flame for a few meters."

Coste also plans to watch the cycling in Paris, but if that still lies some months in the future, London'48 remains clearly imprinted on his memory.

"They weren't the grandiose Games of today," said Coste, who is some way from being the oldest living Olympic champion.

That honor currently rests with Hungarian gymnast Agnes Keleti who turned 103 on Jan 9.

"There were hardly any radios. We arrived just three days before our event.

"England was still traumatized by the war. London had been badly bombed, and we were billeted in a US Air Force training camp. There was no Olympic village. Each discipline was housed separately so, we didn't mix much with the other athletes."

Coste was 23 at the time and, as France's pursuit champion of 1947, was appointed captain of the team, which included Serge Blusson, Pierre Adam and Fernand Decanali, none of whom remain to accompany Coste on the torch relay.

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