Sunday, September 20, 2009

USA Swimming Honors Its Best - Sid Cassidy

Mr. Open Water, Sid Cassidy, won the prestigious USA Swimming Award, the highest honor in the sport of swimming in the USA. The award is given annually to the individual or organization with the most outstanding contribution to the sport of swimming.

The choice is a great one and most deserving.

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

"I am simply awed to receive this award. There are so many deserving great volunteers in our organization and to think that the Committee selected me is overwhelming. It is truly something I accept on behalf of so many of you who have given your efforts to help promote open water swimming worldwide. In particular i have to thank my family first - Kara, Quinn and Kate and my Mom and Dad for all of their love and support. I also want to be sure and note my mentor and friend as the man who taught us to swim straight in the old quarry hole - Bob Mattson. He truly has been an inspiration in my life."

Sid follows in the legacy of some of the greatest contributors to swimming in America, including Don Gambril, Bernard Favaro, William Lippman, Jr., Ross Wales, Buck Dawson, Richard Quick, Mary T. Meagher, Sandra Baldwin, Michael Hastings, Carol Zaleski, Doug Ingram, Bud and Irene Hackett, Harvey Schiller and Bill Hybl, Dr. Allen Richardson, George Breen, Ray Essick, Penny Taylor, Dick Robinson, Pete Malone, Alice Kempthorne, Jim Wood, Arvydas Barzdukas, Mark Schubert, Audrey Berklid, Anneliese Eggert and John Hildenbiddle.

As everyone in the sport of open water swimming knows well, Sid has worked tirelessly in nearly every continent over four decades as an athlete, coach, race director, promoter, administrator, referee, lecturer and, finally, 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.

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 (New Jersey) Beach Patrol where he was introduced to professional marathon swimming.

Sid, always with a smile on his face, was the #4-ranked pro marathon swimmer in 1979 when he swam marathons 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 race starter at 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 of Fiji and Chris Guesdon of 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 and London in 2012. Sid continues his role in reviewing and promoting the sport and its rules and regulations and being a strong voice and leader for open water swimming in America. 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.

Here is Sid in action, giving a warning and a yellow flag to one of the swimmers at the 2009 USA Swimming national championships:

Thank you very much Sid for your leadership, vision and passion for the sport.

Copyright © 2009 by World Open Water Swimming Association