Abdoulaye Seye: the Senegalese star of Societe Generale's Athletics Club
August 1960. After a historic race, Abdoulaye Seye lands the bronze medal in the 200 metres at the Rome Olympics. The young sprinter affiliated with Societe Generale's Athletics Club (CASG) becomes the first African athlete to win an Olympic medal.
Born in 1934 in Saint-Louis, Senegal, Abdoulaye Seye left for France at age 20 to complete his military service. On the garrison training grounds in Toulon, the young man was immediately recognised for his athletic skills, particularly his phenomenal running speed. In 1956, he joined the Armed Forces' sports centre, which would later become the Joinville Battalion, before becoming affiliated with Societe Generale's Athletics Club (CASG).
With his strong personality and unrelenting optimism, "Abdou", as he was known, quickly became one of the best hopes for French athletics. At the French championships held on the track of the Colombes stadium, success was on the cards. In 1956, he won the gold medal in the 200 metres. Three years later, he repeated his performance and also took home the 100 metre gold medal.
A multiple French record-holder in various sprinting events, he solidified his reputation in the summer of 1959 by winning the 100 metres at the Mediterranean Games in Beirut. The following year, Abdoulaye Seye found himself among the favourites in these key Olympic disciplines. In Rome, former glory Jesse Owens arrived in person to greet him. He competed under the French flag, as Senegal had become independent just days before the Opening Ceremony and did not yet have an Olympic committee.
Despite a promising showing in the qualifiers, Seye had to content himself with a bronze medal in the 200 metres. Nonetheless, it was a race that went down in history, in more ways than one. For not only was he the first African athlete to win a medal at an Olympics, to this day he remains the only sprinter to have won France an Olympic medal in a men's individual race.
Pictures from left to right: © Presse Sports; © Archives historiques Société Générale