International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has presented an Olympic gold medal to a Belgian cyclist, 62 years after he won it, London’s Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Eugene Van Roosbroeck, 82, and his two team-mates – 81-year-old Lode Wouters and the late Leon De Lathouwer – were unaware they had won the team cycle race ─ a competition that included two road and four track events ─ at the 1948 Olympics in London.
The trio simply got on the bus after the 194 kilometers ride while the judges sorted out who had won the medals.
“It was complete chaos after the race – there was no ceremony or stage to collect the medals,” Van Roosbroeck recounted. “Lode Wouters finished third, Leon De Lathouwer was fourth and I was ninth.
“With these results we were first in the team standings but that was a result that they drew up only after many calculations.
“After the event we just jumped on the double-decker bus back to the barracks that served as the Olympic Village,” he added. “A day later I was back in Belgium.”
Van Roosbroeck said that the three weren’t even aware that medals were awarded for the event, which was officially started by the then Princess Elizabeth, now Elizabeth II.
“It was only afterwards that we heard we were the best team. None of us thought that there was a medal awarded for the team event.
“The honor was enough for us.”
While Van Roosbroeck, who pursued his claim for him and his teammates to be awarded the gold medal after reading about a sailor from the 1960 Olympics who received replica medals after his originals were lost in a fire, has received his medal, Wouters will be awarded his later as he was too sick to attend the ceremony.
Van Roosbreck, who along with his team-mates had to even hand back their Belgian team sweaters after the Games were over in an era when the Olympics were strictly amateur, was just relieved to have the medal in his hands at last.
“Better late than never,” he said.