Tribute to Bill Matson

FINA Family

FINA Vice President Bill Matson was remembered for his more than 40 years of service to aquatics at a Memorial Service on Monday, August 15 at St Luke's Anglican Church in Waikanae, New Zealand.  Matson had surgery during the final days of the FINA World Championships and died last Monday on his birthday at the age of 72 at Huashan Hospital in Shanghai, China.

"Bill's example and devotion for the aquatic sports will remain a reference in our mind and heart, In this moment of grief, FINA would like to express its most sincere condolences and sympathy to Bill's family and friends, as well as to the aquatic community in his native New Zealand and Oceania," said FINA President Julio Maglione.

"Swimming New Zealand is in mourning with the news of the passing of a man who was involved in many aspects of swimming and regarded as a friend of athletes, coaches and teachers of swimming."  Swimming New Zealand chairman Murray Coulter said: “We had all expected he would make a speedy recovery. It’s an absolute tragedy for the family and for the sport of swimming.”
 
Mr. Matson had been involved in swimming administration for more than four decades, rising to become a FINA Bureau member in 1996, re-elected in 2000 and elected Vice President of FINA in 2005.  He was a Past President and Life Member of Swimming New Zealand and also of the Wellington Swimming Association. He was President of Oceania Swimming Association from its inception in 1991 until 2008. He was a former board member on the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
 
Mr. Matson was appointed to the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee in 1992 and in 1996 elected as a member of the FINA Bureau. In this capacity he served as the FINA Bureau Liaison to the Open Water Swimming Committee. FINA President Maglione appointed Matson to serve as the Liaison to the Masters Committee and in this capacity he traveled to Riccione, Italy, in May to visit the aquatic venues and to oversee the organisation of the 14th edition of the FINA World Masters Championships scheduled for June 2012.  He was the FINA Protocol Officer from 1997 to 2009; this responsibility included the coordination of presenters for every swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo medal presented to athletes at the FINA World Championships and at the Olympic Games.
 
Mr. Matson retired from the New Zealand Public Service in 1999 and at that time held the position of Deputy Secretary of Defence. In 2010 he was honoured by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II when she appointed him an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to swimming.
 
Mr. Matson and his wife of 49 years Joan lived at Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast where they enjoyed a long association with Raumati Swimming Club. Planning had already begun for a cruise on the Nile River with friends and family to celebrate the couples golden anniversary next December on the eve of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Turkey. Mr. Matson is survived by his wife, son Paul and daughter Susan and four grandchildren.
 
FINA Bureau member Dennis Miller and John West of the FINA Open Water Committee represented the international federation at Monday's service. Mr. Matson's innumerable contributions to each of the aquatic disciplines will be recalled by members of his sporting club, representatives of the New Zealand Swimming Federation, National Federation leaders throughout Oceania and throughout the entire family of FINA.
 
His greatest achievements include his dedication to his family, his loyalty to his country and the warm and open armed friendship which Bill shared with so many people worldwide.


Remembering Bill Matson
by Russell McKinnon, FINA Press Commission Member
 
There comes a time for all of us. It was time for Bill. My thoughts went back 20 years when I was younger and less wise but in the prime of my life. It was the VI FINA World Championships in Perth, Australia.
 
I was the men’s water polo manager for New Zealand and Bill Matson was the Chef de Mission. He was a big, commanding man. I was just tall and carried less weight than I do now.
 
Bill had called me into his room and asked how I manage men. The question seemed a little strange to me but he explained that in all the years of managing swimming teams he felt they were just youngsters and not yet adults, which was probably the case. I explained that when they all signed the pledge that they would not touch alcohol, that it would not be the case.
 
There will be some who have a drink or two, some who will have one, and some who won't,” I said.
 
The word to the team was that if you turn out uncommitted in the morning, then you would be sent home on the next flight. We sent no one home.
 
Bill was a strong leader and he was respected for that. It was my second meeting with the man and far from my last.
 
When I was seconded to the FINA Press Commission 13 years ago, it was after I had met Bill at the FINA Championships in Perth, for a second time in 1998 at the VIII FINA World Championships. Then again in Sydney at the 2000 Olympics and subsequent years since.
 
He had been elevated to the FINA Bureau in 1996 and took on various roles, mainly as the ceremonial man, carting around medals in a briefcase and allocating positions for medal presenters. He served as the Bureau Liaison for open water swimming and masters. Then, in 2005, I think, he became the FINA Vice-President for Oceania.
 
Shirley, my wife, and I got to know Joan, his wife, and they traveled around sights and shops together when she followed me around the world.
 
Bill and Joan were inseparable and made a lovely couple, traveling extensively and even stayed in a snow-in cottage in England last Christmas. The battle to get to England from Dubai where we were attending the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships was an effort in itself, with all the travel chaos borne from the Iceland volcano fallout.
 
In Shanghai three weeks ago, I was with Bill and Joan on several occasions for the Gala Dinner and a meal at the Mansion, which housed the FINA and media offices.
 
It was the last I was to see of Bill, the man from Waikanae on New Zealand’s North Island. We were attending the Closing Ceremony and someone said did I hear the news of Bill. I feared the worst but was told that he had been admitted to hospital in pain and a major operation was undertaken. It was thought he would be delayed in Shanghai for some time to recover before returning to New Zealand and his golf.
 
Our thoughts and love went out to Joan and family. Then the dreaded FINA Press Release this week: “FINA in Mourning.”
 
Bill had passed away, never to play golf again and no chance of returning to Riccione in Italy, where he had recently been with Joan to inspect the preparations for next year’s FINA Masters World Championships.
 
Bill will be sadly missed, even though he never managed to give me a gig of presenting flowers at a FINA World Championships. For this I forgive him but for leaving us I don't. I miss the Man.

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