Colette BESSON

France FRA

Athletics

  • Olympic Medals
    1 G
  • Games participations
    2
  • First Olympic Games
    Mexico City 1968
  • Year of Birth
    1946
Olympic Results

Biography

Colette BESSON

On 16 October 1968, French athlete Colette Besson pulled off an eye-catching victory in the women’s Olympic 400m final in Mexico City.

A surprise success

Many French athletics fans still treasure the memory of 16 October 1968, the day that Colette Besson (FRA) secured a place in her country’s sporting folklore at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City.

It was around 5.30 p.m. when the unfancied 22-year-old pushed off from the starting blocks in Lane 5 of the women’s Olympic 400m final, with her sights set on the favourite, Lillian Board (GBR), who was drawn in Lane 1. Emerging from the final bend, Besson found herself back in fifth position, while Board looked to have the race all wrapped up. However, the Frenchwoman then proceeded to surge past her fellow runners in the final 100 metres, pipping Board at the post by 0.1 seconds to win in an Olympic record time of 52.00, taking a full 1.5 seconds off her personal best. The Soviet Union’s Natalya Pechonkina finished third to complete the podium.

No ordinary Games

“These were no ordinary Games,” explained Besson. “Mexico City’s altitude is 2,200m – you had to be able to adapt. I was incredibly lucky, because all of the schools had shut in France due to the political events of May 1968, and so as a teacher I was able to go and train at altitude much earlier than planned, at Font Romeu in the Pyrenees.”

Olympic Results

More results
Olympic Results
Results Event Sport

Munich 1972

#5 h2 r2/4
400 metres
400 metres Athletics
#4
4 x 400 metres Relay
4 x 400 metres Relay Athletics
Olympic Results
Results Event Sport

Mexico City 1968

G
400 metres
400 metres Athletics