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Graham Matthews Obituary

Graham Matthews, an early pioneer of triathlon in the UK and co-founder of the 220 Race Series, sadly, and suddenly, passed away last week. Here, a few of his friends and colleagues remember him…

Robin Brew, co-founder of the 220 Race Series: “Graham was one of the original good guys in the early days of triathlon in the UK and Europe. His heart was in the sport for the greater good of athletes and the wider promotion of triathlon. His contribution helped shape the Bath Triathlon and subsequent BBC TV coverage that propelled many of the world’s leading triathletes into the Spotlight. Graham, a modest and kind-hearted man will be very much missed and the era that benefitted owe him a debt of gratitude. On behalf of the athletes of the time, our condolences are lovingly sent to his family.”

John Lunt, co-founder of the 220 Race Series: “I got to know Graham in the mid 80s helping him deliver some of John Lillie’s ground-breaking 220 races. (Bath, Swindon, Ironbridge). These were the sport’s showcase events and they propelled the sport onto TV. Not only a great athlete himself, but he was also a great person as well as a true pioneer in our sport of triathlon. He will be truly missed.”

Trevor Gunning, co-founder of the 220 Race Series: “Competitor, club official and race organiser. A leading figure in the sport and a great contributor to triathlon, he was also a driving force behind Bath Amphibians. Those early days of triathlon in the UK were fantastic fun and the inter-club rivalry a major part of the sport. Triathlon would not be where it is now if not for the contribution of triathletes like Graham. My sympathies go to his family and close friends.”

Spencer Smith, two-time ITU world champion: "Some of my fondest memories are of Graham screaming words of encouragement along the River Avon with my dad. Graham was always so supportive and loved the competitive spirit that was so strong in the early 90s in our sport. I am deeply shocked and saddened by Graham’s passing, he was a true gent and will be truly missed."

Rich Allen, former British pro champion: “As a young professional triathlete in the early 90s I remember Graham not only delivering some of the best events in the world, but also his kind support of the young elites like myself. He would often check in with me to see if I needed help, and even after I retired he would message me to share old stories. A great friend to many and a pioneer of British triathlon, who will be sadly missed, but never forgotten.”

Ken Maclaren, athlete and coach: "Graham Matthews was one of the UK’s first triathletes with his first forays into the triathlon world happening pretty much as soon as the events started happening. By the late 1980s he’d started organising triathlons as well as taking part and became one of the foremost race directors who started to take race organisation into the professional era. He later teamed up with 220 founder, John Lillie to put on the 220 series of races which ran for several years through the early 90s. The Bath Triathlon with the BBC coverage became the premier domestic event. I was fortunate to be on the crew at many of those events and along the way shared many laughs, as well as training sessions, coffees, beers and fun times during the five years that I lived in Bath. Twenty years ago he moved out of race directing and re-trained as a chiropractor. We chatted every six months or so and like many of our ilk, hoped that we'd just go on and on and keel over on a run or bike at 99 and 3/4. Sadly not for Graham."

Steve Trew, coach and commentator: “Being a triathlete in the 80s was like being a teenager in the 60s – you felt a bit special and that there was nothing that you couldn’t do. Graham Matthews epitomised that – ‘Race anywhere, race any distance, need a new race? No worries, I’ll organise it.’ Graham was a leader and a pioneer, we owe him a lot. Rest easy, my friend.”

Jasmine Flatters MBE, early BTA and ETU board member: “I was so sad to hear of the death of Graham Matthews this week. I’d been fortunate enough to have worked closely alongside Graham throughout the 90s on the pioneering 220 Race Series. He was a mild-mannered, softly spoken professional with an eye for detail. He was also the first proper vegan that I’d come across! Some years after the last Bath Triathlon, he tried to reinstate the event every now and again and he spent many hours on the phone to me trying to persuade me to join him. He went on to build a successful chiropractic business in Bath. He will be sorely missed.”

Kes and Carol Aleknavicius, friends and former colleagues: “We are deeply saddened to hear of Graham’s passing. We have great memories of working with Graham at the 220 races in the early days of triathlon. An accomplished triathlete himself, we remember when he completed the Hawaii Ironman in 1987 in a brilliant time of 10:55hrs. We had the pleasure of spending time with him at his second Hawaii Ironman in 1993 – Graham and Kes toughing it out on the Kona lava fields. To relax after the race we went together on a ‘guaranteed’ whale watching boat trip – we saw no whales! We went a second time – still no whales! This caused great hilarity and we laughed about it many times in later years. Graham was a most likeable character and will be sadly missed.”

Steve Rafferty, friend and coach: “It was great privilege to have known Graham when we met in the early days of triathlon, with Bath Amphibians and the famous Bath Triathlon. He was a training partner, mentor and friend, who I enjoyed many long runs, bike rides, swim sessions and many trips to events with. The Denmark Ironman trip in the late 80s was legendary for many reasons! RIP Graham.”

Lorraine Ferris, Tri Ferris Promotions: “Graham contributed a lot to triathlon in the early years, as race director of the 220 Bath Triathlon and helped to set up the first team of Moto officials in the UK. Our thoughts are with his partner and family.”

Rich James: Graham was ‘Mr Triathlon’. His passion and enthusiasm led me to marshall 220 events with him in the early 90s and started me on my 25-year triathlon journey. He was a great communicator and was driving national events, along with Bath Amphibians Triathlon Club, with whom those of us from Kingswood Tri Club (Bristol) had a healthy rivalry that Graham loved to ‘stoke up’ in a friendly way. His passion led me to see him as immortal, you will be greatly missed Graham."    


 
 

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