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Oldest surviving 1948 Olympian Charlie Bazzano passes away

Charlie Bazzano, John Tressider, Roy Moore and Lionel Cox finalists in NSW 1 mile title 2 February 1953 at Hurstville Oval

Charlie Bazzano, John Tressider, Roy Moore and Lionel Cox finalists in NSW 1 mile title 2 February 1953 at Hurstville Oval (Image credit: Harry Willey)

Charlie Bazzano, who passed away last week, will be remembered as the oldest surviving member of the 1948 Olympic team that travelled to London. Bazzano finished fourth in the 1000m sprint. In his career, Bazzano competed with and along side Sid Patterson and Russell Mockridge and was associated with the sport in Australia for the majority of his life.

The son of Jack Bazzano and born in Morano, east of Turin in Northern Italy, Bazzano arrived in Australia with his brother Leo at three-years-of-age. Jack started a firm named Velox Engineering Works and Charlie, along with Leo became tradesmen manufacturing cycling componentry including aluminium hubs, brakes, handlebars, stems, seat posts, pedals and chain sets. The VEW hubs were world renown and were part of the Malvern Star bikes for many decades.

Charlie Bazzano medalled in a NSW title for the first time as a 19-year-old finishing third in 1942 in the half-mile sprint title before finishing second in both the sprint and mile titles the following year. By 1944, at 21-years-old, Charlie Bazzano was the king of NSW sprinting winning seven sprint crowns including the 1km time trial over the next five years and won selection to compete in the London Olympics after winning back to back National Sprint titles in 1947 and 1948, defeating Sid Patterson who went on to win the World Sprint title in 1949.

Charlie built most of his own bikes and then raced with incredible success for the Marrickville Club before competing in the 1948 Olympic Games, racing through to the semi-finals before being eliminated by the great Reg Harris, regarded by many as the greatest sprinter of his era, but not before the English stooped to tactics in a bid to unsettle Charlie Bazzano.

Charlie also represented Australian at the 1950 Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) as a sprint cyclist and finished fifth in the sprint title with fellow team-mates Russell Mockridge and Sid Patterson taking the gold and silver medals.

Charlie medalled in state championships for 12 seasons and did much to encourage up and coming future stars like Lionel Cox and assisted the great Joe Buckley with the development of St George in the mid fifties.

In 1971 Bazzano became the NSW Coach along with his good friend George Moore and was instrumental in assisting younger riders such as Garry Sutton, Greg Barnes, Kevin Nichols, Greg Williams develop their skills and ability as cyclists. In 1974, Charlie attended the Christchurch Commonwealth Games with his wife Heather, and was very influential in guiding Dick Paris to a historic win in the time trial as well as the medal performances of Gary Sutton and Kevin Nichols.

Charlie was delighted in the 1980’s with the emergence of his nephew, Matt Bazzano, who went on to win the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic, race internationally and qualified for the 1990 Commonwealth Games. He was also a big influence on the stellar career of Olympian Clayton Stevenson, just one of many international cycling stars that came into contact with a very charming man.

Charlie passed away at 90-years-of-age having lost his beautiful wife Heather several years earlier and had been wheelchair bound for the past few years.

Charlie will be well remembered for his contribution to our sport as a champion cyclist, to the bicycle industry and anyone that came into contact with him would have walked away a better person for the privilege.