FINA executive Bill Matson dies at 72

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Bill Matson, a FINA vice president from New Zealand who recently had surgery during the final days of the swimming world championships in China, died Monday on his birthday. He was 72.

"We had all expected he would make a speedy recovery," Swimming New Zealand chairman Murray Coulter said. "It's an absolute tragedy for the family and for the sport of swimming."

Details of Matson's operation weren't released by FINA -- swimming's world governing body -- or his family. The world championships ended July 31.

FINA said that Matson was a bureau member since 1996, and became FINA vice president in 2005. He was involved in several aspects of the recently concluded world titles, including open water swimming.

"Bill's example and devotion for the aquatic sports will remain a reference in our mind and heart," FINA said in a statement.

Matson is survived by his wife, Joan, two children and four grandchildren, according to the New Zealand Press Association.