By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, May 3. SWIMMING Australia lost its most decorated official on the weekend, 73-year-old FINA Bureau member Roger Smith AM.
Mr Smith had been one of the sport’s unsung heroes, a man who dedicated a lifetime to swimming at the highest international level.
A retired solicitor who had been synonymous with swimming in Tasmania, Australia and the world’s governing body FINA, died peacefully in his sleep in his Hobart home on Saturday night. His wife Marie, daughter Mandy, son David and five grand children survive him.
Mr Smith spent a life long career on the pool deck and in the boardroom that lasted well over 50 years – including the Australian presidency and honorary secretary.
He began his childhood as a swimmer in Hobart, served his apprenticeship as an official at meets all around Australia and the Oceania Region. He had been elected to the FINA Bureau in Atlanta in 1996 after serving as the Oceania representative on the FINA Technical Committee. Just last year his peers honoured Mr Smith when he was named a FINA Honorary Bureau Member at last year’s FINA World Championships in Montreal.
Australia’s current representative on the FINA Technical Committee, Don Blew, a close and personal friend of Mr Smith, today gave this glowing tribute.
“Roger was without doubt the backbone of swimming in Australia,” said Mr. Blew.
“From his roles as president and honorary secretary to Technical Director and Meet Director, Smithy did it all. After being a swimmer himself he went on to become an official and refereed his first ever meet in the early 60s and there has not been a major meet in Australia or the world for that matter that Roger has not played a major part in since. He has dedicated his life to the sport and not only Australian swimming but world swimming will be sadder for his loss.”
Australian Olympic gold medallist and past president of Swimming Australia John Devitt also paid his respects to Mr Smith.
“He was dedicated to the cause and was the man elected as president of Australian Swimming after the feasibility study that revolutionised the sport in 1974. Roger Smith’s name was synonymous with FINA and he was responsible for the running of so many Olympic Games and World Championships. He had an encyclopedic memory for the rules and regulations and by-laws of swimming and it is something he became famous for.”
Swimming Australia president Neil Martin also paid his respects in saying; "Roger served tirelessly to the sport of swimming in Australia and internationally and gave generously of his time to all levels of the sport. He had a wonderful and sometimes slightly irreverent sense of humour, which endeared him all the more to those he met.”