Roland Matthes (17 November 1950 – 20 December 2019) was a German swimmer and the most successful backstroke swimmer of all time. Between April 1967 and August 1974 he won all backstroke competitions he entered. He won four European championships and three world championships in a row, and swam 19 world and 21 European records in various backstroke, butterfly, freestyle and medley events.[1][2] He was trained by Marlies Grohe.[3]

Roland Matthes
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J0411-0003-001, Roland Matthes.jpg
Roland Matthes in 1970
Personal information
Full nameRoland Matthes
Nickname(s)"Rolls-Royce of Swimming"
NationalityEast Germany
Born(1950-11-17)17 November 1950
Pößneck, Thuringia, East Germany
Died20 December 2019(2019-12-20) (aged 69)
Wertheim, Germany
Height1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight74 kg (163 lb)
Sport
SportSwimming
StrokesBackstroke
ClubSportclub Turbine Erfurt

As an Olympian in 1968, 1972 and 1976 he won a total of eight medals (four gold, two silver and two bronze): In 1968 and 1972 he won gold in both the 100 m and 200 m backstroke, while in 1976 he was third in the 100 m backstroke. In addition to these individual events, he won the 4 × 100 m team medley silver in 1968 and 1972, and a bronze medal for the 4 × 100 m freestyle relay.[4] At Montreal, he was the only East German male swimmer to win a medal.

In 1973 in Belgrade he became the first world champion holding the titles in both the 100 m and 200 m backstroke. Additionally he won silver in the 4 × 100 m medley and bronze in the 4 × 100 m freestyle relay. Two years later in 1975 he defended his world title in the 100 m backstroke.

At the European championships in 1970 in Barcelona and 1974 in Vienna he won all four titles for the 100 and 200 m backstroke. Additionally, in Barcelona he won the individual silver for the 100 m freestyle, gold with the 4 × 100 m medley team, and bronze with both the 4×100 and 4 × 200 m freestyle teams. In Vienna, he also won the individual silver for 100 m butterfly, and bronze with the 4 × 100 m freestyle team.

He was selected East German Sportspersonality of the Year seven times, in 1967–1971, 1973 and 1975. In 1981 he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.[1]

From 1970 to 1977 he studied sport sciences at DHfK in Leipzig and from 1978 to 1984 he studied medicine at the University of Jena.[3] After graduating he worked as an orthopedic surgeon. He retired from swimming in 1976, and in May 1978 married Kornelia Ender, a fellow East German Olympic swimmer. They divorced in 1982.[1][3][4]

The issue of doping in East Germany brought into questioning most achievements of East German athletes. However, Matthes denied any involvement in doping, claiming that his swimming club was too small to be part of the government system.[5]

DeathEdit

Matthes died on December 20, 2019 at the age of 69.[6]

His competitor in the backstroke and five time Olympic champion John Naber said of Matthes upon his passing...."Roland was the greatest backstroker that ever lived. He is the only swimmer to successfully defend both Olympic backstroke titles, and he also won medals in international competition in freestyle and butterfly. Some say that only a slow reaction to the gun kept Roland from giving Mark Spitz the race of his life in the 1972 Olympic 100-meter butterfly final in Munich. Matthes was invincible on his back for a decade. His smooth strokes and powerful acceleration made every race I watched him swim become a foregone conclusion"....[7]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Roland Matthes Archived 13 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine. ISHOF.org
  2. ^ Das große Olympia Lexikon", Sport-Bild vom 19. June 1996, p. 43
  3. ^ a b c Matthes, Roland. Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur. bundesstiftung-aufarbeitung.de
  4. ^ a b Roland Matthes. sports-reference.com
  5. ^ Christian Tretbar (6 May 2008) Der DDR-Sport wird an den Pranger gestellt (interview in German). tagesspiegel.de
  6. ^ https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2019/12/21/roland-matthes-dies-swimming/
  7. ^ https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/roland-matthes-first-an-idol-then-a-friend-john-naber-remembers-his-guide-and-pal/
Records
Preceded by
Charles Hickcox
Men's 100 metre backstroke
world record holder (long course)

21 September 1967 – 18 July 1976
Succeeded by
John Naber
Preceded by
Men's 200 metre backstroke
world record holder (long course)

2 September 1972 – 19 June 1976
Succeeded by
John Naber
Awards
Preceded by
Frank Wiegand
East German Sportsman of the Year
1967–1971
Succeeded by
Wolfgang Nordwig
Preceded by
Wolfgang Nordwig
East German Sportsman of the Year
1973
Succeeded by
Hans-Georg Aschenbach
Preceded by
Hans-Georg Aschenbach
East German Sportsman of the Year
1975
Succeeded by
Waldemar Cierpinski