The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is saddened to hear of the death of two-time Paralympic champion Matti Launonen at age 74 at his home in Florida, USA, on 23 March.
The Finn, whose career in athletics, swimming and table tennis spanned three decades, was a major player in the development of Para sports in the country.
Launonen claimed 13 Paralympic medals in total, including two golds, seven silvers and four bronze. He is seventh in Finland’s list of most decorated summer Paralympians.
His maiden two medals came in table tennis (men’s doubles 1A) and swimming (men’s 25m backstroke 1A) at his debut Games in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1972. That was his only time reaching the Paralympic podium in the latter sport.
He added 11 more in the following eight Paralympic Games. Launonen’s two titles were in table tennis: in the singles 1 at Barcelona 1992 and teams 1-2 at Atlanta 1996. His last medal came also in table tennis (singles 1) at Sydney 2000.
Launonen took up Para table tennis after being injured in a car accident while he was a teenager. He was well-known for his competitive spirit, social skills and sense of humor. He kept practicing and competing well into his later years.