Charlie Bazzano, king of the cycling track

Champions: Charlie Bazzano (left) in his last championship race, talking to national sprint champion John Tressider, of Newcastle, Olympian Roy Moore, of St George, and Olympic gold and silver medallist Lionel Cox. Picture courtesy: Harry Willey
Champions: Charlie Bazzano (left) in his last championship race, talking to national sprint champion John Tressider, of Newcastle, Olympian Roy Moore, of St George, and Olympic gold and silver medallist Lionel Cox. Picture courtesy: Harry Willey

FORMER cyclist Charlie Bazzano, who died last Thursday night after a heart attack, was the oldest-surviving member of the 1948 Olympic team that travelled to London, where he finished fourth in the 1000-metre sprint.

Bazzano, who lived in Cronulla for more than 60 years, was associated with cycling for a long time and competed with and alongside Sid Patterson and Russell Mockridge.

The son of Jack Bazzano, he was born in Morano, east of Turin in northern Italy, and arrived in Australia with his brother Leo at age three.

Jack was industrious and started Velox Engineering Works. Charlie and Leo became tradesmen, manufacturing cycling components, including aluminium hubs, brakes, handlebars, stems, seat posts, pedals and chain sets.

The VEW hubs were world-renowned and were part of the famous Malvern Star bikes for many decades.

Charlie first won a medal in a NSW title when he was 19.

By 1944, Charlie, then 21, was the king of NSW sprinting, winning seven sprint crowns over the next five years, including the 1km time trial, before winning selection to compete in the London Olympics.

Charlie built most of his own bikes and raced with incredible success, winning seven NSW sprint titles for the Marrickville Club before competing in the 1948 Olympic Games, racing through to the semi-finals before he was eliminated by the great Reg Harris, regarded by many as the greatest sprinter of his era.

He also competed as a sprint cyclist at the 1950 Empire Games, (now the Commonwealth Games) and finished fifth in the sprint title, with fellow teammates Russell Mockridge and Sid Patterson taking the gold and silver medals.

Charlie won medals in state championships for 12 seasons and did much to encourage up-and-coming future stars like Lionel Cox.

In 1971, he became NSW coach along with his good friend George Moore and did much over the next few years to assist younger riders such as Garry Sutton, Greg Barnes, Kevin Nichols, Greg Williams, to develop their skills and ability.

In 1974, Charlie attended the Christchurch Commonwealth Games 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 when his nephew Matt Bazzano emerged in the sport in the 1980s. He went on to win the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic, race internationally and qualify for the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

Charlie was also a big influence on the stellar career of Olympian Clayton Stevenson, just one of many international cycling stars who came into contact with a very charming man.

Charlie died aged 90. His beautiful wife Heather had died several years earlier and he had been wheelchair-bound for the past few years.

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

A funeral service will be held for Mr Bazzano at Olsens Funeral Home, Princes Highway, Sutherland, today Friday, January 17, at 1.30pm.

— Phill Bates, AM

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