Passages: FINA’s Jean-Louis Meuret, 63

By Greg Eggert, Swimming World Special Correspondent

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, May 27. A kind and gentle man lost his brave fight against cancer on Saturday evening. Jean-Louis Meuret (FRA), Secretary of the FINA Press Commission and a longtime member of the FINA Communications Department, aged 63, passed away on May 24 in Lausanne (SUI) while surrounded by his family and loved ones. Editor-in-chief of the FINA Aquatics World monthly magazine, he was also responsible for the historical publications of FINA.

"Jean-Louis was a great lover of the sport in general," Director of FINA Communications Pedro Adrega said of Meuret. "He worked for many years for the International Olympic Committee, before joining the FINA Office in 1993. He lost his brave fight against cancer, having worked in the office almost until the last days. Jean-Louis will certainly be missed by all of us and his example of courage and professionalism will be remembered and will serve as an inspiration. The FINA Family and all the staff of the FINA Office express their sincere condolences to Mr. Meuret's family and friends."

Few athletes or coaches would likely have met Jean-Louis or even knew his name, but he knew the names and results of almost every athlete who competed in a FINA event during the last 15 years. Jean-Louis created HistoFINA, a series of results and statistics for each of the five aquatic disciplines. These documents were painstakingly accurate, timely and regularly used by the media to promote FINA's aquatic stars.

It was courageous of Jean-Louis to be working at his desk as he also fought the disease that eventually took his life. I am sure that he wanted the FINA statistics to be perfect so that no athlete would be deprived of a split time, a goal, a ranking, or a complete record of the medals they collected on the podium. I am also quite sure that he wanted to be with his FINA office family as well in a place where he had many friends and friendships.

I first met Jean-Louis in Lausanne while we were working together on a project to collect the results of the Atlanta Olympic Games so that the statistics and biographical information could be effectively used at the 2000 Olympic Games. I had never met anyone previously or since who was as passionate about the collection of the data. Meuret would thoughtfully employ this information in the promotion of our athlete's performances.

At the Sydney Olympics, I was invited to join the FINA Press Commission.

The first e-mail of congratulations I received was from Jean-Louis. He offered me access to HistoFINA so that my first article for FINA Aquatics World would be accurate and interesting. When we worked together at the next FINA World Championships, I appreciated his collegial mentorship and his cheerful spirit. I soon recognized that his smile was a signal that my work was good, but I knew he was telling me that it could be better. A big smile meant that in my second attempt I had listened, learned and finally got it right thanks to his friendly words of advice.

Each of his e-mail messages to me were filled with enthusiasm and sincerity. Jean-Louis always made me feel as though the FINA family really was like my family…close, collaborative, hard working and full of good humor. I recall the distressing e-mail in which he told me of his illness and that he would need to cut back his schedule at the FINA Office. Somehow he accomplished all that was expected from him. These were always self-imposed expectations.

A few months later, he asked me if I would be available to go to Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games in his place. I knew that I would have trouble filling his very large shoes during the Olympic Games. He kindly prepared me for what would be expected of me. I cannot thank him enough for the confidence that he always placed in me.

Jean-Louis asked me many times "when am I coming back to Lausanne?" He always hoped that I would return to visit the FINA office, to visit the beautiful city of Lausanne and to join my friend in his visit to his favorite spot – Leman's Lake. I often told him "soon" or "next year".

Today, I am without words to explain why I never made it back to Lausanne to visit with him before he left us.

Memorial Day in the U.S. is a time for reflection of those we loved, admired and mourn for. You can be sure that for me, and many others, this day will include a great deal of contemplation of Jean-Louis' contributions on behalf of the many athletes who never had the opportunity to meet him or to thank him. Few people had any idea of all that he did to "promote" their accomplishments.

I am sure that those who worked with him on a daily basis cannot easily absorb the loss of a loyal friend, a mentor, or a colleague. I'm so very sorry to learn of the passing of this dear man. I will miss his fighting spirit and his friendly manner.

The final goodbye to our friend will be made this Thursday, May 29 at the Church of Cully, outside of Lausanne. According to his last wish, his ashes will swim in the waters of Leman's Lake.