Roland Matthes is dead. The four-time Olympic swimming champion died on Friday in Wertheim, Baden-Württemberg after a short, serious illness at the age of 69. This was confirmed by his wife on Saturday at the German Press Agency. The "Bild" newspaper had previously reported on the death.
Matthes was considered the world's best back swimmer in his day and remained undefeated from March 1966 to August 1974. At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and 1972 in Munich, he won double gold over 100 meters and 200 meters back. In his total of three Olympic participations, he also won silver and bronze twice.
The doctorate in orthopedics also won three world and five European champions. The native of Thuringia set 19 world records. Thanks to his successes in the GDR, Matthes was voted "Athlete of the Year" seven times. In 1981 he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In 2004 the German Sports Aid Foundation awarded him the "Golden Sports Pyramid", in 2006 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of German Sports.
In 1978, the marriage to Kornelia Ender, the second major sporting GDR swimming flagship of the time, caused a sensation. When the marriage divorced four years later, he fell out of favor with sports and political leadership. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Matthes went west in December 1989. He came to Tauberbischofsheim and the fencing coach legend Emil Beck via Kaiserslautern. There he took care of physiological training control.
In an interview with SPIEGEL in 1990, Matthes spoke about the competition between East and West German swimmers after the two swimming associations merged after reunification and fought against doping allegations: "The reputation of the GDR swimmers as floating pharmacies is absurd."