The IAAF is deeply saddened to hear that 1964 Olympic 20km race walking champion Ken Matthews of Great Britain died on Sunday (2) at the age of 84.
Born in Birmingham in June 1934, Matthews started race walking at the age of 18 and in 1959 he won the first of 17 national race walking titles. An electrician by trade, Matthews qualified for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome but failed to finish.
He rebounded in 1961 and won the individual 20km event and team gold at the Lugano Trophy, the forerunner to the IAAF World Race Walking Cup which later became the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships. He then won the European title in 1962 and successfully defended both his individual and team titles at the 1963 Lugano Trophy.
Given his good run of form in the preceding years, Matthews started as the big favourite at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. He lived up to expectations and won an Olympic record of 1:29:34, finishing 99 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. It remains the biggest winning margin in the men’s 20km race walk at the Olympic Games.
He was one of four Britons to win Olympic gold in 1964, along with 800m runner Ann Packer and long jumpers Lynn Davies and Mary Rand. Of those four, Matthews was the only one who was not honoured with an MBE at the end of the year, but a campaign from within the sport to rectify this finally succeeded in 1978 and Matthews was appointed an MBE, 14 years after his Olympic victory.