Robert Alexander "Sandy" Blythe, OAM[1][2] (24 February 1962 – 18 November 2005) was an Australian wheelchair basketball player. He became a paraplegic due to a car accident in 1981, and went on to participate in the Australia men's national wheelchair basketball team at four Paralympic Games, captaining the gold-medal-winning team at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. He committed suicide in 2005 at the age of 43 after a long illness.

Sandy Blythe
141100 - Wheelchair basketball Sandy Blythe action - 3b - 2000 Sydney match photo.jpg
Sandy Blythe in action during competition at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics
Personal information
Full nameRobert Alexander Blythe
Nationality Australia
Born24 February 1962
Geelong, Australia
Died18 November 2005(2005-11-18) (aged 43)
Melbourne, Australia
Blythe smiling as he autographs a fan's item at the Welcome Home Parade after the 2000 Summer Paralympics
Blythe looks to make a pass in the gold medal game against Great Britain at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games


Blythe was born in Geelong on 24 February 1962.[3] He grew up in a farm outside the Victorian town of Derrinallum and was a champion Australian rules football player as a teenager. He played in the Teal Cup and was later part of the St Kilda Football Club country squad.[4] In 1981, he began studying at the Ballarat College of Advanced Education, but later that year, he was involved in a three-car collision that rendered him paraplegic.[4][5] In 1984 he obtained his physical education degree on schedule, despite his six-month rehabilitation at Austin Hospital.[5]

He was part of the Australia men's national wheelchair basketball team at the 1988 Seoul, 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, and 2000 Sydney Paralympics.[6] He was the captain of the team when it won a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games and was co-captain with Priya Cooper of the Australian Paralympic team at the 2000 Sydney Games.[7][8] He had an Australian Institute of Sport scholarship in 1998 for wheelchair basketball.[9]

Blythe was also a motivational speaker who formed and worked in several businesses that improved public awareness of people with disabilities.[4][5] In 2000, he released a memoir, Blythe Spirit.[10]

On 18 November 2005, Blythe committed suicide; he had been suffering from depression and chronic fatigue syndrome for several years.[4][11] He was survived by his partner of eight years, wheelchair basketballer Paula Coghlan.[12]


Blythe received a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997 for his 1996 gold medal.[1] In 2000, he received an Australian Sports Medal.[2] The Sandy Blythe Medal, awarded to the best player of the year in the Australia men's national wheelchair basketball team, is named in his honour.[13] In 2010, he was posthumously inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Blythe, Robert, OAM". It's an Honour. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Blythe, Robert Alexander: Australian Sports Medal". It's an Honour. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  3. ^ "Australians at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics: Wheelchair Basketball". Australian Sports Commission. Archived from the original on 19 January 2000.
  4. ^ a b c d Petrie, Andrea (19 November 2005). "Disabled basketball champion dies at 43". The Age. p. 7. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Campbell, Di (20 December 2005). "Sandy Blythe". University of Ballarat. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  6. ^ Results for Blythe from the International Paralympic Committee (archived). Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Sandy Blythe". Basketball Australia. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  8. ^ Grant, Freya (6 December 2000). "Blythe shares early lead – name a supercat". The Daily Telegraph. p. 18.
  9. ^ Nihil, G. (2006). Australian Institute of Sport : celebrating excellence. Focus Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 1-921156-16-3.
  10. ^ Blythe, Sandy (2000). Blythe Spirit. Sydney: Pan MacMillan. ISBN 9780732910273.
  11. ^ Petrie, Andrea (25 November 2005). "Farewell to a champion athlete for whom life had lost its crucial blithe spirit". The Age. p. 8. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  12. ^ Edmund, Sam (22 November 2005). "Tributes flow for trailblazer; Tragic death of Paralympian". Herald Sun. p. 9.
  13. ^ "Groenewegen named Sandy Blythe medalist". Basketball Australia. 25 May 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2012.