OBITUARY: René Roch (FRA), Former President and Member of Honour
LAUSANNE, Switz., November 16, 2018 — It is with very great sadness that the International Fencing Federation (FIE) announces the passing on November 16 of René Roch, Honorary President of the FIE since 2008, President of the FIE from 1992 to 2008 and a Member of Honour of the FIE since 1989.
René Roch was born on the 28th of June, 1929, in Paris. He studied at Paris-Sorbonne University where he obtained a degree in law, followed by a diploma as a chartered accountant.
He practised as an auditor and was a member of the Paris Appeal Court.
A former foilist and sabreur, in 1949 he was French university senior and junior champion in sabre and, the same year, French university junior champion in foil. As a member of the French national team between 1950 and 1961, he took part in many international competitions, including the Coupe Santelli, World Championships and Student Games. Several times, he was French senior sabre champion and French junior foil champion.
In 1951, René Roch limited his sports activities to focus on his studies and fulfill his military obligations. From 1956, the year he was the military champion of France, until 1961, he again became a member of the French national team. In 1957, he was selected for the World Student Games and, that same year, took third place in the “Spartakiades” in Moscow in the sabre team competition. In 1959 he was selected to take part in the Senior World Championships. He competed in the Coupe d’Europe from 1970 until 1975.
It was in the 1980s that his career began as a sports administrator. He was the General Treasurer of the French Fencing Federation (FFE) from 1980 until 1984, then Vice-President of that Federation from 1988 until 1992. From 1992 forward, he was a Member of Honour of the FFE.
At the same time, he was Treasurer of the FIE from 1984 until 1992 and President of the FIE’s Promotion Commission from 1984 until 2000.
In 1999, René Roch was awarded Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honour and, that same year, the Republic of Senegal promoted him to the rank of Officer in the National Order of the Lion of Senegal in recognition of the impetus he provided for the development of fencing in Africa. In collaboration with the Senegalese Fencing Federation, he created the first International Fencing Masters’ Academy in Africa in Dakar. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded him the Olympic Order in 2009.
Throughout his career, he passionately defended the values of the sport of fencing that were initially created in France, worldwide. He instigated numerous modifications to the FIE’s rules and organisation of competitions.
René Roch’s contribution to the universality and development of fencing was incalculable. Under his presidency, the first FIE Veteran World Championships were organised in 1998 and, in 1999, women’s sabre became part of the Fencing World Championships. Wireless fencing debuted at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. He introduced video-refereeing at the Senior World Championships in Turin in 2006 and at the Olympic Games in 2008. In 1996, women’s epee was introduced into the Olympic programme in Atlanta and women’s sabre joined in 2004 in Athens.
With amazing perseverance, René Roch worked for decades to develop and promote fencing. Inspired purely by the urge to see fencing prosper, he never stopped giving his best with all his energy in the interest of its growth.
The International Fencing Federation and world fencing family have lost a remarkable and outstanding leader who tirelessly devoted and dedicated himself to the cause of our sport.
In his memory, the FIE is asking all competition organisers, officials and fencers to observe a minute of silence at all remaining competitions in 2018.
The FIE extends our most sincere condolences to René Roch’s family and friends, and to the French Fencing Federation, and ask them to accept our most heartfelt sympathies at this difficult time.