East German Roland Matthes won the 100 and 200 metre backstrokes at both the 1968 and 1972 Games, making him the most successful of all Olympic backstroke swimmers. He also won two silvers and one bronze medal in the relays and added his eighth Olympic medal (a bronze) in the 1976 100 metre backstroke. Matthes set 16 world backstroke records (seven at 100 metres and nine at 200 metres), but was also a world class performer in other events, winning silver medals at the European Championships in the freestyle and butterfly and setting three European butterfly records. Matthes was undefeated from 1967 to 1974 in the backstroke, when he was defeated by American John Naber, who succeeded him as Olympic double backstroke champion in 1976. Matthes also won the backstroke double at the 1970 and 1974 European Championships and the 1973 World Championships, and won 15 individual national titles in various events.
Matthes was briefly married (1978-82) to East German Olympic swimmer Kornelia Ender. From 1970-77 he studied sports science in Leipzig at DHfK, then studied medicine at Jena University from 1978-84, eventually working as an orthopedic surgeon. First, he was employed by the famed fencing center at Tauberbischofsheim, but he and legendary fencing coach Emil Beck had divergent opinions and they separated. Matthes then went to Marktheidenfeld to found his own practice. In 2006 he was inducted into the German Sports Hall of Fame.