France steals from the United Kingdom a silver medal awarded during the Paris Olympic Games… in 1900

The Olympic rings installed on the Eiffel Tower on June 7 in Paris. AURELIEN MORISSARD / AP

Already one more silver medal for France! The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Thursday June 13 that it agreed to “rectify its records so that they reflect the fact that a silver medal won during the 1900 Paris Olympic Games will henceforth be credited to France and not Great Britain”.

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This medal was won by cyclist Lloyd Hildebrand who took second place in the 25 kilometer event. But two countries, France and the United Kingdom, have since claimed the medal. “Sometimes presented as French, he was a British citizen, although he lived in France most of his life and was married to a French woman”, wrote again on Friday morning, the British National Olympic Committee on the page of its website dedicated to cyclists. The page has since been deleted.

The British are right: Lloyd Hildebrand was indeed one of them. He was born in Tottenham, England, in 1870, and was still of English nationality two years after his medal, according to his marriage certificate, explains Stéphane Gachet, author of Summer Olympics, all French medalists from 1896 to the present day (Talents éditions, 2023), who delved into the history of the cyclist.

“This medal had to be re-awarded”

However, this historian of amateur sport sent a letter at the end of March to the IOC to request that the medal be returned to France. Because, as the IOC points out in its press release, “the rule wanted at the time [que,] To participate in the Games, athletes only had to send their license number established by the national federation for which they regularly competed and pay the registration fee. The National Olympic Committees were not involved in the process as is the case at present”underlines the instance.

However, Lloyd Hildebrand, who spent his childhood in France and has almost always lived there, “has always run under the colors of the Sports Club, the sports society of his town of Levallois-Perret”, notes Stéphane Gachet in his letter. What the IOC seems to confirm in its Thursday press release: “Recent research has concluded that although Lloyd Hildebrand was a British citizen, he was born and raised in France, and competed for a French club before and after the 1900 Paris Games. »

“It seemed obvious to me that this medal had to be reallocated”explains Stéphane Gachet, who says to himself “delighted to see that it was able to bear fruit”: “An Olympic medal testifies to the strength of a country, as we can see through the medal table. The more medals we have, the more important we are in the eyes of the world. At least that’s how it’s sold. It is therefore important that this medal is French, because the rules justify that it is.”, he analyzes. With this new silver medal, France now has 115 medals during the 1900 Olympic Games, according to the new IOC count.

Deprived of gold at the 1904 Olympics

This is not the first time that a French medal is the work of a foreign athlete. “Around thirty foreigners have won an Olympic medal for France”says Stéphane Gachet, who notably gives the example of Luxembourger Michel Théato, winner of the marathon during the same 1900 Olympics. Luxembourg had also made a complaint to the IOC to recover the medal, but it had been rejected in 2004. Here too, the marathon runner was licensed in a French club and the gold medal remains, to this day, French.

Also read our archive (2009) | An American winner at the 1904 Games was actually Australian

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Conversely, the French were deprived of a gold medal during the 1904 Olympic Games, which took place in Saint-Louis, in the United States, still in the marathon event. Presented as an American, the winner, Albert Corey, was in reality French, but ran under the colors of a Chicago club, revealed Clément Genty, associate researcher at the National School of Arts and Crafts, which was confirmed the Olympic Studies Center, one hundred and sixteen years after the event, in a letter reported by France 3: “It is unfortunate that his nationality could be confused with the country he competed for. It is, however, entirely correct to say that Mr. Corey is the only French Olympic participant and medalist during the 1904 edition.”

Gregor Brandy

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