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Olympic 400m champion loses cancer battle

Frenchwoman Colette Besson, 59, who won 400 metres gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, has died from cancer, the French Athletics Federation said on Tuesday. Besson was 22 when she won gold in Mexico with a fantastic lap, catching up all her rivals on her way to a totally unexpected victory.

Her best time before the Games was 53.8 and she won in 52.03, 0.09 ahead of Britain's Lillian Board, the favourite.

Board, who was 19 in Mexico, contracted cancer in 1970 and died in a Munich clinic 13 days after her 22nd birthday.

Besson had become involved in the fight against doping and was an active supporter of France's bid to stage the 2012 Olympics.

Her illness had prevented her from going to Singapore last month for the vote by the International Olympic Committee, in which London beat Paris.

"A great champion has left us," said French Sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour. "With her determination and her will to serve sport, she was an example for all of us."
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