Robert Matthews (athlete)
26 May 1961|
11 April 2018 (aged 56)|
Auckland, New Zealand
|Disability class||B1 / T11|
Robert Matthews, MBE (26 May 1961 – 11 April 2018) was a British athlete who competed in blind middle- and long-distance events. He won eight gold medals across seven Paralympic Games, and has been referred to as an "iconic athlete".
Matthews was born in Kent. He was born with the degenerative eye condition retinitis pigmentosa which he inherited from his father. Matthews started to have significant difficulties with his vision when he was 11, and by age 18 had lost most of his sight. He attended a school for the partially sighted from the age of 13, and went on to study at a college for the blind. In 1993, he moved to Leamington to work for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
Matthews' first wife, Kath, died suddenly, in November 2003, aged 38. Three years later, he met the woman who would become his second wife, Sarah Kerr, while he was on a holiday in New Zealand, and soon thereafter emigrated to the country to be with her. The couple had two children.
In 1987, Matthews became the first Paralympian to be appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire. He was awarded honorary masters of arts degrees from Warwick University in 2001, and from Worcester University in 2006. Matthews was inducted into the BBC Midlands Hall of Fame in 2004.
Matthews was also a sports-massage therapist, and motivational speaker. His autobiography Running Blind was published in 2009. The writer of the 2014 film Blind Ambition told Matthews that it was his performance at the 1988 Paralympics that had inspired the story; Matthews helped show actor Robson Green how blind running worked, and received a small part in the film. Matthews was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2017, and died on 11 April 2018.
Matthews first competed at the Paralympics in 1984 at the Stoke Mandeville/New York Games. He started off in the B1 class middle- and long-distance events, winning gold in all three disciplines: the 800 m, 1,500 m, and 5,000 m. Four years later, at the Games in Seoul, he retained all three titles. He again won the 5,000 m in 1992, and finished with a silver in the 800 m and bronze in the 1,500 m. This brought his medal tally to 13, eight of which were golds.
Matthews broke 22 world records, and won six world championship and 15 European championship gold medals. In 1986, he became the first blind runner to run the 800 m in under two minutes, breaking his own world record in the process. He was listed as one of eight "iconic athletes" in the London 2012 Guide to the Paralympic Games.
Matthews retired from track and field athletics after failing to win a medal at the 2004 Games in Athens and failing to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games despite setting a new New Zealand record for the 1,500 m event. He began to concentrate on a new sport and competed in blind cycling events at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London as a representative of New Zealand. Matthews also represented New Zealand as a triathlete from 2009.
- "Bob Matthews aims for eighth Paralympic Games". BBC News. 29 September 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
- Rattue, Chris (24 October 2009). "Paralympics: The blind runner with a crystal-clear vision". NZ Herald. APN Holdings NZ Limited. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- Rowbottom, Mike (18 September 2004). "Athletics: 'Running is like a safety valve. It helped keep me sane and it gave me a goal'". The Independent. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- Cary, Tom (11 April 2018). "Robert Matthews - one of the most successful Paralympic athletes of all time - dies, aged 56". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
- "Coventry 2012 - Hall of Fame". Coventry City Council. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- "Golden Leamington legend Bob retires". Leamington Spa Courier. 24 July 2008. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
- "BBC Midlands Sports Awards 2004". BBC Press Office. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
- Bob Matthews: Eight-time Paralympic champion dies at the age of 56 - BBC Sport
- "Athlete Search Results - Robert Matthews". International Paralympic Committee. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
- "London 2012 Guide to the Paralympic Games" (PDF). London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. 2007. p. 10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
- "Weir fired up for seventh London Marathon title". World Para Olympics. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
- "Rob Matthews - Inspiring blind Olympic Gold Medalist | SpeakerLink Find the Right Speaker". Speaker Link New Zealand. Retrieved 12 April 2018.