BOIS COLOMBES : '' I'M VERY PROUD ,'' - torchbearer Coste. The cyclist will be doing the honour 76 years after winning the gold.

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

Costa, who will turn 100 on February 8, pedalled 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 and is hoping to do his bit for Paris in 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 metres.''

Costa 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,'' says Coste, who is some way from being the oldest living Olympic champion.

That honour currently rests with Hungarian gymnast Agnes Keleto who turned 103 on January 9.

'' There were hardly any studios. We only arrived three days before our event.''

''England was still traumatised 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 that included Serge Blusson, Pierre Adam and Fernand Decanali, none of whom remains to accompany Coste on the torch relay.

'' We raced several times at the London track to get to know it well,'' said Coste.

'' I was with my mates Blusson, Adam and Decanali. We made up a very strong, close-knit team.

''First we had to beat the English, who were the favorites in front of their home crowd.

''Then, in the final, I got off to a bit of a slow start but we picked up our speed after that and the Italians finally gave up.

'' When we got the medal, it was the crowning glory. It was our dream and we'd just made it come true.

'' My mother used to say that when I was 10 or 12, I would tell her I would be a General or an Olympic champion.'' [AFP]


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