Charles Coste to carry Paris 2024 torch, 76 years after Olympic gold

The oldest living French Olympic champion will have the honour of carrying the flame to Paris 2024 as he approaches his 100th birthday. Coste won the gold medal in the pursuit cycling event at the 1948 Olympic Games in London.

“Proud, as proud as it could be.” This is how Charles Coste, the oldest living French Olympic champion, feels. He will carry the Olympic torch for Paris 2024, 76 years after winning gold in the pursuit at the 1948 London Games. Coste, who was only 23 when he achieved Olympic glory, will turn 100 on 8 February. “It will be unforgettable. I’m very proud,” Coste said in comments reported by AFP. “Now I have to prepare myself physically. My knees are limiting me. But I’ll try to carry the flame for a few metres”. 

Coste will not going to miss riding in Paris. Everything has changed, but memories are not forgotten. “They weren’t the great games we have today,” said the veteran cyclist. Despite his achievements, he is far from being the oldest Olympic champion. That distinction currently belongs to Hungarian gymnast Agnes Keleti, who turned 103 on 9 January.

“There were hardly any radios at all. We arrived three days before the event,” he recalled. Coste was 23 at the time and, as French pursuit champion in 1947, he was appointed captain of the team, which also included Serge Blusson, Pierre Adam and Fernand Decanali. None of them are still with us today. 

“First we had to beat England, who were favourites in front of their home crowd. Then, in the final, we picked up the pace and the Italians finally gave up. When we got the medal, it was the crowning glory. It was our dream. We had just achieved it.

Even greater are the memories that Coste recounts. “The cyclists received their medals in a box, not around their necks”. The veteran medallist can still explain what happened to him on that unforgettable day. “There will be no Marseillaise, because we can’t find the record!,” they said regarding those organisational problems in Herne Hill Velodrome. 

Coste turned professional the following year and he competed twice in the Tour de France and won the Grand Prix des Nations time trial in 1949.

Two years ago, Coste finally got his Marseillaise when he was belatedly awarded the Legion d’Honneur by Tony Estanguet. “I am very grateful to him. He gave me a beautiful Marseillaise. It was a great honour for me. Tony Estanguet and I have become friends. We write to each other and he calls me from time to time,” he said.

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