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Graeme Dudley French (Member 1998)
15 April 1926 - 9 March 2012
A farmers' son from the tiny hamlet of The Oaks near Hagley, Graeme by passed the amateur ranks to go in the tough professional circuit in 1943 as a 17 year old. He won the Burnie Wheel in 1944 and thus started a career which later led to him becoming a world champion.
In 1946 he went to Melbourne to advance his cycling career and he certainly did by winning the 1948 and 1950 all Australian title as the best all rounder at the national championship. He came back for the Coastal carnivals in 1947 and 1948, won the A grade scratch races at Latrobe and 1950 won the Latrobe Wheel from co-backmarker Mac Sloane.
Acting on the advice of the legendary Sid Patterson, French went to Europe in May 1954 to try his luck there. Australian riders were doing particularly well in most branches of the sport in Europe - the sprinters and the pursuiters, the madisons and in the six day events.
French tried most of them but had a fascination with the motorcycle paced events which he had experienced in Noumea. He had a lot to learn but he was a fast learner.
Steadily building up a name for himself in this unique discipline of the sport, this Tasmanian cyclist soon was a major drawcard on the continent. It is sporting history now that in Copenhagen in Denmark in August 1956 the shy young lad from a long way overseas, took on the world's best in the motor paced championship of the world and triumphed. In doing so he became Australia's first motor paced world champion and set the scene for others to follow.
Graeme was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1995 where he joined fellow Tasmanian cycling great Danny Clark - the only two Tasmanians so honoured.