ROANNE - Less than a year after being inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame, former French player, referee and technical official Robert Blanchard has passed away at the age of 86.
A former French Championship winner in 1948, he found even more success and recognition when she swapped his playing shoes for a whistle - eventually officiating for some 25 years in French basketball and evolved into the leading official of his era.
He also made a name for himself worldwide with two decades of refereeing on the international stage, whistling a total of 236 international games - including eight at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and the Final itself. Indeed he still remains the only French referee to have accomplished this feat. He also officiated at the 1959 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Santiago, as well as an array of other major tournaments and European club competitions for both men and women.
Blanchard made valuable and significant contributions to the French Referee Technical Commission which he served for a remarkable four decades between 1950 and 1993. His expertise also led to him being the French Basketball Federation's (FFBB) Technical Commissioner for 30 years and he appeared as a FIBA Technical Commissioner 71 times. Elected as a member of the French Basketball Academy in 2004, it further highlighted his capabilities and the respect he commanded.
Speaking after being inducted into FIBA's Hall of Fame last September, he said: "I want to say thank you to FIBA and to the French Basketball Federation. It's a big honour, a good accolade.
"I refereed for 20 years at the international level, it makes me happy to see people I have refereed. I was in that environment all the time, it really made me happy to respond to this invitation. For me, it's beautiful. Being next to names like Michael Jordan and Antoine Rigaudeau is an honour."
Blanchard actually landed a plethora of individual awards and accolades during his career, including the FIBA Silver Whistle in 1975 when he retired from officiating. He was then honoured with the FIBA Order of Merit 20 years later.
Meanwhile his global recognition was also mirrored on home soil where he received the Gold Medal from the French Basketball Federation with the 'Coq d'or' in 2008, as well as the silver medal of Youth and Sports.