OLYMPIAN Craig Stevens knows his swimming days are well behind him.
The Loftus man doesn't jump into the pool to swim endless laps any more to hone his physique.
But he is doing the closest thing there is to competing — coaching. Now, 34, he is charting the fortunes of hopefuls who are chasing maybe an Olympic dream.
Stevens went to the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics. He won a silver medal in 2004 as an Australian 4 x 200-metres relay team member and made the final in the 1500-metre event.
He unselfishly relinquished his place in the 400-metre freestyle team for world record holder Ian Thorpe, who was disqualified in the event at the Australian trials, so Thorpe could swim in the event at Athens.
Stevens and the coaching staff team run the swim program at Sans Souci Leisure Centre.
It's a 5am start preparing the swim squads along with the coaching staff.
Stevens said coaching was an extension of his swimming days and a role he enjoyed.
He grew up in Sutherland Shire and was coached by Greg Hodge, Doug Frost and Tracey Menzies during his competitive career.
He said he absorbed knowledge from them to combine with his own ideas for his coaching.
"I had a lot of good coaches and they gave me good ideas to combine with my own," Stevens said.
Stevens enjoys the challenge of coaching and mentoring young people.
He said helping coach a swimmer and improve their skills was important.
"I also like to mentor them as a person to be a good person in life," he said.
Stevens said the desire from the swimmer had to come from within.
"But you have to want to do it as a swimmer," he said. "You have to have that competitive edge."
Stevens has seven swimmers from Sans Souci Sea Devils Club competing at the Australian titles this week.
The national swimming championships began on Good Friday at Sydney Olympic Park and will end this Friday. See Thursday's Leader for a wrap-up of local competitors.
How good a boost for young swimmers to have an Olympian charter their development?