Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mr. Open Water

It was some kind of year for Mr. Open Water, Sid Cassidy.

Sid worked tirelessly in nearly every continent during 2008 as the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee chairman.

Sid was balanced vision and pragmatism in organizing and running the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup and the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix circuit in his FINA role.

For his efforts and successes leading up and throughout 2008, Sid was nominated for the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

Selfless dedication. Unflagging perseverance. Creative vision. Enthusiastic leadership. Entertaining speaker. These are just a few of the words that capture the essence and character of Sid. Sid’s early passion for open water swimming developed under developed under coach Bob Mattson in the early 1970’s in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

He later went on to an All-American collegiate career at North Carolina State University and continued his proximity to the open water as a lifeguard with the Ocean City (NJ) Beach Patrol where he was introduced to professional marathon swimming.

Sid, ever with a smile on his face, was the #4-ranked professional marathon swimmer in 1979 when he swam marathon races in Chicago, Atlantic City, Canada and Egypt. It was during this period when he also started his coaching career. Similar to Bill Russell with the Boston Celtics, who was the player-coach of the NBA champions, Sid pulled off unprecedented double duties in the English Channel in 1990. While coaching the USA Swimming National Open Water Team, he also swam on the six-member team that set three records for the fastest English-to-France crossing, the fastest France-to-England crossing, and the fastest double crossing that all still hold today.

Sid later became the USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Team head coach for five years from 1991-1996. During this period, he coached Jay Wilkerson and Samantha Chabotar to national championships from his own club while he also escorted American medalists at various FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships and World Cup events. He subsequently served as the race director for six international marathon swimming events from 1999 to 2004, and promoted the 10K distance back in an early 10K World Cup event in 2002. 'The 10K for the USA' was a precursor of how the 10K races can host a large number of elite swimmers and provide thrilling races for spectators to enjoy up close.

Sid was the starter for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swims in Beijing, but perhaps his greatest legacy will result from his globe-traveling responsibilities on behalf of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee where he has served since 1996. Together with members Dennis Miller from Fiji and Chris Guesdon from Australia, Sid promoted the 10K model that was successfully used at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships in Sevilla, Spain and later in Beijing. As he makes plans for 2012 and beyond, Sid continues his role in reviewing and promoting the sport and its rules and regulations. As the sport grows, his leadership in educating referees and officials on how to correctly and consistently interpret the rules during competition will be especially important and appreciated.

Sid is truly one of the unsung heroes of the sport, but on his shoulders, we all stand tall.

For more information on the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, click here.

No comments: