Dick Caine will chalk up 49 years this week as lessee, head coach and mentor to many at Carss Park War Memorial Olympic Pool.
While Thursday’s September 3rd anniversary is another big milestone for the St George sporting legend, his focus is firmly on holding health problems at bay to make it a half century this time next year.
Four years ago, while being treated for a stroke, doctors found that he was also suffering cancer of the thyroid gland.
Mr Caine, 69, who manages the pools and gym with his wife Jenny, was awarded a further five-year lease extension by Kogarah Council last year.
‘‘I don’t know whether I will see that out, but my doctor reckons he will get me through to next year,’’ Mr Caine said.
During his time at Carss Park he has developed a string of Olympians and world record-holders, including Michelle Ford, Janelle Elford, Karen Phillips, Stacey Gartrell and Michellie Jones.
The centre has also been used by many other sporting champions including marathon swimmer Susie Maroney, ironman Chris McCormack, boxers Kostya Tszyu, Jeff Fenech and Anthony Mundine
and, for 38 years, St George rugby league teams.
‘‘Forget the champions, it’s the thousands of kids I have coached who have made it so special,’’ Mr Caine said.
‘‘I love the kids, and I hope they think I am more than just a coach.
‘‘We are like a family,’’ he said.
He produced a letter from one young swimmer, which said: ‘‘You were never just simply a coach to me, you were more like a father.
‘‘You raised me as if I was one of your own daughters, and I am forever grateful.’’
Mr Caine says he still finds it difficult to believe that he was awarded the lease to the then almost-new Carss Park pool back in 1966.
He was only 20, and had been coaching at Sans Souci Olympic Pool for only a year when parents of young swimmers encouraged him to tender for Carss Park.
Having left school at 12, it was a huge challenge in itself even completing the tender form was a challenge.
After parents rallied behind the young applicant, the council gave him the nod ahead of the inaugural lessee Jim Guthrie and recognised super coach, Don Talbot.
‘‘I have had countless fights with the council over the years, but at the end of the day they have come good for the kids,’’ Mr Caine said.
He said his squad of young swimmers numbered 30-40 in winter, and increased to about 100 in summer.
Swimming lessons were also provided for 16 schools.
DICK Caine remembers fondly the day a very special young swimmer walked through the gates while he was coaching at Sans Souci.
Her name was Michelle Ford, and she and her brother Richard, who became a national champion, followed Mr Caine to Carss Park Pool.
At 13, Michelle broke nine records, including six state and three national, in just three days, and became the youngest person to make an Olympics team representing at Montreal.
At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Michelle won gold and bronze medals.
What do you think about Dick Caine’s contribution to the community.