My association with Dick Caine started 1st October 1986. l was very disillusioned with swimming and was at my crossroads. Funny being at a crossroads at the age of 16. l was to have a change of coaches, OR, give my swimming dream away.I chose to have a change of coaches. I told my mother I wanted to go to Dick Caine. She nearly had a heart attack. Anyway, my mother rang Dick to make an appointment to meet with him.
As I walked into Carss Park War Memorial Pool on this Wednesday afternoon. I felt pure trepidation. Dick Caine was notorious for being hard, demanding, colourful (as once reported hahaha) but also was known to produce many Champions. I sat in his office (where the gym is now) as Dick asked me questions. He asked what I wanted to do with swimming. l was nervous at the time and said I wanted to make the Olympics. I remember him saying, “Well, that will take ALOT of hard work.” I nodded, as I THOUGHT, I knew what this meant. But CLEARLY, I had no idea.
I went home and prepared myself to start training with Dick Caine , this was Thursday 2nd October 1986. I have always remembered this day as, the First Thursday in October, 1986, the day I thought l’d gone to hell.
We started with a double highway run, this was 7km. Then into the pool. I was already buggered from the run (as I never did this before). We were to start the Swim Session with a 1 Mile Pull ( band and paddles). Dick asked me what that white thing was I had under my arm. I said it was a “pull buoy.” He then said in front of everyone “We don’t use ﬂoaties here, floaties are only used in Learn to Swim.” After this initial shock I put the pull buoy down and was wandering how i was going to stay afloat. i then had to ask how far a “Mile” was. I had only ever known Metres and Kilometres. I’m standing there thinking “Shit, how far is a Mile.” Someone was nice enough to tell me it was 1600m. Again i said to myself “Shit how am I going to do that?”
I dived into to do this 1 mile pull. For those of you who don’t know swimming, “Pull” is when you have your feet tied together with a rubber band , (so you can’t kick) cut up from old tyre tubes and paddles on my hands. My toes were almost scrapping the bottom of the pool and my arms seemed like they just weren’t strong enough to pull me fonrvard. At this point I had questioned myself “F##K, What have I done.” I could hardly keep up in the second lane, let alone the fastest lane. And my dream was to be an Olympian. I had a bloody long way to go.
I remember finishing the session off with 8 x 200m Fly. l’m sure it looked nothing like Butterfly, the way I was doing it. I was just trying to survive and breath. What we did in-between is stili a blur.
I got out thinking I was going to start off light. But NO, Dick said “I’ll see you tonight”. I aimost cried there and then. You never say “No” to Dick, so I did my best to smile and nod, but everything else was saying “NOOOOOO just run and don’t look back.”
I proceeded back to the pool that afternoon, 'still wincing in pain, to do another 5mile session (8km). We were only starting off light ll!!!! HA !!!!
As time went on I was able to move up to the fastest lane and just hang on. l became fitter, stronger, faster and more able to handle the work Dick gave out.
I remember one morning doing 400mMedleys. I went behind a team mate, Brad Turner. Dick looked at me after the first one and said “Miss Elford, get your gear and go home." I looked at him with this puzzled look and asked “Why?” His reply was (sorry Brad if you are here tonight)
“You obviously aren’t serious if you are going behind this dimwit."
So I had to get out, balling my‘eyes out thinking “what am I going to do now?”
Out comes Jenny from the office, told me to go back out and say “Dick, I’m sorry I’ll try harder, I want to train with you?”
So I did this. I was allowed back in and never went behind Brad again.
In 5 months, I went from winning 1 silver Medal at Age Nationals in the 100m F8, to Winning 4 GOLD MEDALS at OPEN Nationals in PERTH 1987, in 400m, 800m, 1500m Freestyle and 400m lM. Being ranked top 10 in the World for all 4 events.
All my results, success, was done, as Dick had warned, by a lot of hard, VERY HARD work. I had a great team to work with and train with. I can’t thank the team of swimmers I trained with enough. We had learnt to work hard but we also had a great team. And yes, we were still able to laugh.
I remember doing many sessions, but one in particular, I tell alot. We had just done our 2 mile pull under 40mins warm up. (3.2km). We were all standing at the end waiting to hear what was next.
Dick came over and said to the squad “1 6 x 4005 Fly on 6min under 5.10.” I was quietly confident I wasn’t going to do all 16 x 400m Fly.
| asked if I could do 4 fly, 4 Medley, the answer came back, “No”. l was a little shocked, well, more stunned, as l was always able to do 4 Fly, 4 Medley. I then proceeded to ask “Can I do every 4th one Medley” and still the answer was, “N0", so I continued to ask, “Can I do the 8th one Medley” and still came the answer, “No". I got to 8 and yelled out, “Dick, can I do the next 4 Medley” and STILL the response was “No".
I was getting pretty annoyed by now, well, pissed off really and muttering some unkind words under water. It came to the last 4 x 400’s, again | asked the question, “Dick, can I do the last 4 Medley” and the response was, "no".
My times were getting faster as l was getting more annoyed. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the nicest teammate that afternoon. it came to us doing the last 400m. We were up behind the block, ready to dive in and Dick yelled out,' “Miss Elford, you can do the last 400m Medley”. With steam coming out my ears and not a smile to be seen, I yelled back, as I was about to dive in “Shove your Medley up your arse” and proceeded to do all 16 x 400m Fly. I laugh about this now, but I can guarantee, I wasn’t laughing back then.
As a coach now, I know exactly what Dick was doing to me. And now, I do things very similar. Maybe not 16 x 400m Fly, but I challenge my swimmers. I challenge to see what kind of character they have. Will they drop the bundle or will they stand up and ﬁght” This was Dick’s motto, and favourite poem
“Charge of the Light Brigade” 'Never give up, never surrender. Charge of the light Brigade.’
As a team, we would sing Elvis songs as a team, so we could go to the beach for a Friday afternoon session. We would all pile into the back of Dicks horse ﬂoat. He would drive us from Carss Park all the way down to Wanda. We would run up to Boat Harbour and back, then do some ins and outs, swimming in the surf, before pilling back into the horse float for our ride home. Just imagine, about 30 kids in the back of a horse float, going around corners. It was so much fun. Throwing hay out the sides at cars coming by. The kind of fun, our kids will never get to experience, unfortunately. I remember all of this with a smile, laugh and a small tear.
We always had our Chinese dinners at the Wing Sing, which Dick would always call the Wing Ding.
I learnt to drink Stout (for the vitamins Dick said). The ﬁrst time I had it, Dick mixed it with lemonade. It was bloody awful. Even to this day I still can’t stand the taste of beer. Thanks Dick.
I learnt to swear, l was a good girl until I started training with Dick. I learnt to laugh at myself. I even learnt that Dick always knew when we were going out and where we were going.
Dick found out a grbup of us were going to Carmens at Miranda. So, we were dancing having a bit of fun. Then the music stops and my name, along with some of the other girls from the squad were called out onto the dance ﬂoor. We had chairs to sit on, then all of a sudden, Zorro comes out and starts dancing and stripping for us. We were laughing and knew straight away Dick had organised this. So the end comes near and we have to pull a little note out from his G-String with our teeth which read, “Have a great night girls, from Dick”.
So many great memories are had, by so many that trained with Dick. We all remember the one liners. We would all laugh.
Everyone would laugh. It would always lighten the mood. It Was almost like a badge of honour, if Dick called you one these things.
He had so many sayings. You thought you knew them 'all, then out comes a new one. Never, did you stop wandering and never, did you stop learning.
Dick showed me what i was capable of. Dick showed, what it took to become a champion. He showed dedication, enthusiasm, leadership, how to work hard, how to push yourself beyond belief. How to make the unachievable, becomes the achievable. He taught me so much about life. And he taught me never to show sympathy. Empathy yes, sympathy NO.
I would never have dreamed of doing the things I was able to do, without Dick pushing me to my limits. Well, beyond my limits. Believing l was capable of such high achievements. Making me believe, I was capable of these achievements. I still look back at my log books now and fhink “How in the hell, did I ever do these things”.
I achieved my dream. My dream of becoming an Olympian. Something that looked almost absurd to anyone who would have seen me train on that, First Thursday in October 1986. But I did it. We did it. We did it as a team.
I won many Gold medals, made many Australian Teams but that First Thursday in October, 1986 was the only reason why I was able to achieve what I did. I did all these things because I started training with you.
We had many, many, MANY, blews, and many, many ups and downs. And trust me, many, many tears. I would put my goggles on and have to empty them, because they would start to fill up with tears (while Dick was telling us the set). Dick always said he would never feel sorry for me, as that was showing weakness. Even when l was bent over the bin vomiting, he said “hurry up and get back in.”
Jenny, you are a AMAZING, you were always there, to pick up the pieces, put us all back together and we would all get on with it. Thank you. To this day, I know, if I ever needed help, Dick and Jenny would always be there for me and they still are. Always there for me and my family. Recently we went out for dinner on the Sunny coast. And now, he’s re-telling his stories to my children.
Dick Caine produced SO many champions. Not just athletes, but Champion People.
Dick, I‘m so sorry I can’t be here tonight. But, to be‘ honest, I am over here in America because of you. I am now on an Australian Junior Team, as a Coach, because of you. I now coach my own daughter who is representing Australia at the age of 15yr old because of you. She is swimming in the 4 x200m, 800m and 1500m and my own son who won Gold at Aussie Surf Champs in the Surf Race, this is because of you and your teachings.
I’m sure if you look around, you will see you have made such a big impact and inﬂuence in many peoples lives. Your Legacy lives on. You continue to inspire people. You may not realise it, but you continue to inspire through people you have taught. You have touched the lives of SO MANY.
Enjoy your night, and you can shout me a dinner when i get home :-)
Love you Dick and Jenny xxx
Janelle Pallister (nee Elford)