Monday, October 18, 2021

Marguerite Broquedis, “goddess” of tennis and the first French Olympic champion

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On the crumpled white sheet are a few lines scribbled by hand. His granddaughters had told him: “Grandma, you had an amazing life, you should write down your memories!” “ To please them, Marguerite sat down at her table and started at the beginning: “1893: Pau. “ The year and place of his birth. The rest is just as laconic. She didn’t even dwell on the mention “1912: Stockholm gold medal”, to quickly jump to the line below: “1914: war 14-18. “ It is the only episode which inspires him some details – on his brother Louis, of the 103e infantry, reported missing during the retreat from Belgium and never found “Despite all the requests and graves opened by the army”, and on his other brother Eugène “Seriously injured by a shrapnel to his right arm and his horse killed under him”.

The rest, obviously, bored him. After half a page and in the year 1917, the date of her first marriage, Marguerite put down her pen, put away her sheet and never took it out again. “She was lazy, explains Isabelle, one of her granddaughters. She had wanted to make an effort for us but it was shaving her. When we asked her to tell us about her life as an international champion, she replied: “Oh that’s okay, don’t overdo it! It’s old story. ” Grandma, it was not the type to brag. “ Marguerite Broquedis, tennis gold medalist at the Stockholm Olympic Games in 1912 and the first French Olympic champion in all disciplines, died in her bed and completely forgotten by the general public, on April 23, 1983, in Orléans, five days after having celebrated its 90 years.

In Orleans, Isabelle Delpierre, 69, lives in the apartment above the one where her grandmother spent the end of her life. She is an architect, like her husband, who works while smoking in a corner of the room. Her sister, Catherine Mounier, 66, joins her with her family albums and both of them spread out on the table what they have kept from Marguerite, the myth of the family.

Cover of number 323 of the magazine

The treasure includes piles of photos, yellowed newspaper articles, old magazines, medals and other silver trophies; several handwritten letters from Henri Cochet, one of the four famous “musketeers” of the French team – with René Lacoste, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon -; a huge cut, “The one that Grandma gave us for our wedding”, converted into a flower vase.

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