Passages 2019: Mourning Matthes, Mann, Troy, Wood, Tinkham, To, Higgs, Duenkel & More

Matthes & Naber
Passages - Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

If 2019 started with the news of coach Jim Wood‘s passing, it ended with the world of swimming mourning the loss of Roland Matthes, the most decorated Olympic backstroke champion in history, gone after a short, severe illness at 69 but never to be forgotten.

Naber & Matthes

Photo Courtesy:

The day after news of Matthes’ passing at 69, John Naber, the man who at Montreal 1976 ended Roland’s reign as the supreme backstroke pioneer of pace, penned a moving tribute to his rival and then friend for life. Naber’s words and memories summed up a defining and enduring aspect of the swimming world: it is stacked with friendship and understanding that transcends the race, the politics and governance crisis that have long left the swimmers and swimming punching below their weight when it comes to recognition of their excellence in the wider world.

This year also marked the passing at 76 of Thompson Mann, Olympic medley relay champion for the USA champion who in 1964 became the first swimmer to break the minute over 100m backstroke. Just three years after his 59.6, Matthes clocked 58.4 for the first of his record seven 100m World records down to the 56.30sec in which he retained the first of his Olympic titles at Munich 1972.

mike-troy

Mike Troy – Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

After a battle with mental illness, Brian Job, two-time Olympic swimmer for the USA, passed away at 67. Other Olympic podium placers lost this year included 200m butterfly champion for the GDR at a time of State Plan 14:25, Andrea Pollack, at 57 and Mike Troy, the 1960 200m butterfly champion for the USA, at 78. George Breen, a four-time Olympic medalist between the 1956 Games in Melbourne and the 1960 Games in Rome, died on Nov. 9 after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 84.

Water Polo lost a legend in István Szívós, at 71, while diving mourned Patty Elsener, who passed at 89.

Gone far too soon was Kenneth To, the former Australian International who switched to Hong Kong and became a national record holder. He died at just 26 years of age.

Among mentors lost were coaches James “Jim” Martin Wood, Gus Stager and Stan Tinkham from the United States and Mike Higgs of Britain, while the passing of Robert “Bob” Duenkel at 74 left the International Swimming Hall of Fame, where he had served as official historian, as well as the wider swimming world, in mourning.

The Roll Call Of Those Whose Passing Swimming World Marked In 2019 (counting backwards through the year) – RIP:

Roland Matthes, The Rolls Royce Of Backstroke, Mourned By World Swimming

Robert “Bob” Burnside, Founding President, U.S. Lifesaving Association, Dies At 87

NISCA Pioneer David H. Robertson Dies at 93

Water Polo Legend István Szívós Passes Away at 71

Olympic Diving Medalist Patty Elsener Dies at 89

Dr. Julian Stein, ISHOF Award Winner, passes away

After Battles With Mental Illness and Addiction, Two-Time Olympian Brian Job Dies at 67

Former Westminster School Coach Pete Higgins Passes Away at 86

1960 200 Butterfly Olympic Gold Medalist Mike Troy Dies at 78

Legendary Swimmer Graham Johnston at Age 88

Mike Higgs, Mentor To Hardcastle, Wilmott, Foster & Generations Of Southend Swimmers, Passes

Gus Stager, Former Olympic, Michigan Coach, Passes Away

Charlie Schlegel, Former National Swimming Coach of the Year, Dies at 89

ISHOF Service Award Winner Dale Petranech Passes at 84

Charles Van Der Horst, 67, Dies in Hudson River

Richard Fetters, Former Michigan State Coach, Dies at 98

Don Duncan, First Swimming Coach at Puget Sound Dies at 89

FINA’s Dennis Miller Passes

Don Hill, Former Michigan NCAA Champion Dies at 87

Former USA Diving Chairman, ISHOF Paragon Award Winner Don Leas, 84

Richard “Doc” Hunkler, Leading Proponent of Women’s Water Polo, Passes Away at 83

ASU Swimming Alumnus Stephen Estes Dies In Helicopter Crash

1956 Olympic Coach Stan Tinkham Passes at 87

Ted Newland, Coach Emeritus of UC Irvine Men’s Water Polo, Passes Away at 91

1964 Olympic Gold Medalist Thompson Mann, 76

Nick Martin, Former Olympic Water Polo Player, Longtime Coach Dies at 87

Dr. Samuel “Sam” Freas, Age 73, Passes

Hong Kong National Record Holder Kenneth To Dies at 26

Olympic Gold Medalist Andrea Pollack Passes Away

Bill Stetson, Honored NISCA Swim Coach, Passes at 85

ISHOF Historian – Robert “Bob” Duenkel, Passes at 74

Long-Time Acton-Boxborough, Patriot Swim Club Coach Jeff Johnson Passes Away

Bob Horn, U.S. Olympic and UCLA Men’s Swimming and Water Polo Coach, Passes at 87

Coach James “Jim” Martin Wood Leaves Unparalleled Legacy To Aquatic Community

George Breen, a Four-Time Olympic Medalist, Dies After Battle With Pancreatic Cancer

3 comments

  1. avatar
    Anonymous

    George Breen passed away in November. former world record holder in 1500 long time coach and advocate for swimming

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Thanks… that’s been added to the file but we had a technical problem with the article and couldn’t access it for several hours after launch… If you refresh, the link to George B should be there. Thanks.

  2. avatar
    sebastian1957

    I’m writing what many others probably felt, but damn, Roland’s passing really hit HARD. Looking at the photo above of John Naber with Roland, you can see that although John had surpassed Roland as the “king” of backstroke, John still looked up to Roland as his idol. Why not? So many swimmers saw Roland as a “God’. He was and always will be a legend never to be forgotten. I know that I felt a terrible sense of loss after reading of his passing. This one HURT.

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