How Roland Matthes – The Rolls-Royce Of Backstroke In His Day – Still Rocks

Roland Matthes, winning the 1968 Olympic 100m crown, was known as the Rolls-Royce of backstroke

Roland Matthes, the most successful backstroke swimmer in history, was allowed to buy “forbidden” music in GDR times and still has most of the Cat Stevens vinyl he bought and “almost everything by The Beatles”. But don’t imagine the 62-year-old sitting in his armchair in his slippers humming to Eleanor Rigby. His latest concerts: Gossip and Pink. The Rolls Royce of backstroke won the 1st world titles 40 years ago

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Roland Matthes, the most successful backstroke swimmer in history, was allowed to buy “forbidden” music in GDR times and still has most of the Cat Stevens vinyl he bought and “almost everything by The Beatles”. But don’t imagine the 62-year-old sitting in his armchair in his slippers humming to Eleanor Rigby. His latest concerts: Gossip and Pink. The Rolls Royce of backstroke won the 1st world titles 40 years ago

Comments

Clive Rushton

Undoubtedly the greatest backstroke swimmer of all time and, until Phelps, a contender for the ‘best’ swimmer; certainly the most jaw-dropping to watch. I was privileged to swim against him in many races and the only regret there was, I couldn’t watch him while he beat me. The 200m in Barcelona 1970 (European Championships) was when his ‘clock watching’ reputation was confirmed to all present (including, I’m pretty sure, spies from the USA, ‘Doc’ Counsilman and Peter Daland), when he controlled his pace both by signals from his formidable coach and by sighting the huge analogue clock at the end of the pool. Everyone there will swear he deliberately stopped his hand in mid-air before activating the touch pad to ‘just’ break the existing world record. As he finished I recollect stunned silence around the arena as people tried to understand what they had just seen. Then, of course, adulatory applause erupted.
…. and a thoroughly nice guy.

Craig Lord

Great comment and a wonderful memory Clive. Thanks

aswimfan

I really love reading this article (and articles about past greats), and thank you to Clive too on his comment, always a pleasure to read a comment from someone who knew past greats.

Craig Lord

I added a treasure from my first encounter with Matthes

Lane Four

Finally, I can respond to Craig’s articles! Craig, thank you for ALL of your articles on the past greats. So many memories flooding back when thinking about Roland. Although I was a youngster and teen while Roland was in his prime, I could never get enough to read when it came to his swimming. Even now I love to watch the videos available online from his 1968 and 1972 victories. I have never seen his 1973 200 meter world record no matter how many places I have searched. THIS is the record I want to see. Anyway, many many thanks to Craig Lord for your fantastic articles. Please, more, more, MORE!

Craig Lord

Thanks Lane Four: will make it a mission to find a 1973 200m video (someone out there will have one 🙂

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