31 December 2019
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.
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 – 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.
|ISHOF’s Bob Duenkel
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