Winning Swimming New Zealand's award for Bill Matson National Technical Official of the Year last weekend capped off an extraordinary year for Dargaville's Carlrine Gillespie.

This time last year Gillespie was off to Budapest, Hungary for the FINA World Championships, her first appointment since making FINA's list of international officials.

"That was a highlight, to go to Worlds so early after being appointed to the list."

She also officiated at the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico last December and has just returned from refereeing at the Oceania Championships in Papua New Guinea where husband Ross, who is on FINA's Open Water officials' list, also officiated.


Two days after Oceania they were both poolside at the NZ Open Championships in Auckland, followed immediately by the Swimming New Zealand awards ceremony in Auckland on Saturday night.

The award for top technical official in the country is a huge honour, she said and even more meaningful because the couple knew Bill Matson.

"When we started doing national events, Bill took us under his wing and gave us advice and guidance," she said.

"He was very encouraging."

Matson, a life member of Swimming New Zealand and Swimming Wellington, rose through the ranks of swimming officialdom to become vice-president of the international swimming administrative body, FINA. He spent more than 40 years in swimming administration and in 2010 was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to swimming. He died in 2011.

Gillespie felt quite emotional thinking about Matson after winning the award but to break the ice before her acceptance speech, joked to the audience that she was used to speaking to a roomful of technical officials.

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"I think it [the award] shows it doesn't matter where you come from – we're a region that's not really on the map," she said.

"But if you want to do something, you can. Just go for it."

Gillespie, chairwoman of Swimming Northland, said she thinks of the award as recognition of her team.

"Your team has to look good for you to look good. I really love being part of an awesome team of officials in New Zealand.

"It's why we do it. Most people don't realise that swimming officials are all volunteers."