Member Of The Month: Richard

Published on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 at 8:11:00 AM

Our June Member of the Month is none other than our very loyal morning swimmer Richard Pace.

Richard has been swimming at Beatty Park every morning since the early 90s.

At 4 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare bone disease called Polyostotic fibrous dysplasia – a condition that leads to weak bones and uneven bone growth.

Richard – who founded the West Australian company Canon Foods – has lived a very extraordinary life. So extraordinary that he’s not only written a book, he’ll also soon be featured in ‘Pacing the Pool’ – a short documentary set to premiere on July 7 at Luna Leederville. 

We spoke to Richard about his life and love for swimming.

When did you start taking swimming so seriously?

I started my life behind the eight ball. I have a rare bone disease, and spent half my life in hospital.

When I was a kid, my surgeon (who had operated on me over 60 times) was always trying to get me in the pool. I couldn’t swim and I didn’t know what to do – I had a big family and it was hard for my parents to get me to a pool and back.

I never used to be able to do anything when I was young. I used to watch sport – I was never able to participate. I was limited in everything I could do.

In my early 30s, I got into a big oven at work. I tried fixing it and snapped my meniscus on my left knee, which was my strong leg. I went to hospital and found I was crippled on one leg and couldn’t walk on the other.

It took them a month to decide what to do considering my rare bone disease. They did surgery and 6 weeks later I lost the condition of moving and was told “you’ve had a good run” and that I should resolve myself to being in a wheelchair.

My wife and a friend of mine were nagging me to get in the pool. So after my surgery I thought – what have I got to lose?

The desire not to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair motivated me to give it a go.

Initially I got in the pool only to walk – I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t do anything else.

How did you end up at Beatty Park back in the 90s?

I used to go to the pool at Lifecare at 6 in the morning and I’d walk up and down. For years I just walked.

One of the nuns taught me how to kick with a floaty. It took me 6 months to get the strength in my legs to kick.

I met a guy who became a very great friend and he and I were there every day.

After 12 months we’d outgrown that pool. He said “let’s go to Beatty Park – they’re open at 5am.” That was 1992 or 1993. I’ve been here ever since.


Young Richard watching the other kids play

What motivates you to keep swimming?

I’ve got two issues – I’ve got a bone disease and arthritis. Swimming is non-weight bearing and strengthens my muscles.

If I wasn’t swimming I wouldn’t be able to travel. I’ve been to more places than most – as I got stronger I’ve been able to travel more and walk greater distances. Wherever I go in the world, what decides where I stay is whether or not they have a 25 metre pool.

Swimming is good for my body but it’s also incredible for my mind. I had a lot of pressure on me with my business, and swimming allowed me to take a break. Swimming is my time and my mind would shut down. In the pool nobody could get me.

What do you enjoy the most about swimming at Beatty Park?

It’s hard to go past the comradery and the people I know. When you strip away money and everything else, in the end, the only thing that’s real and really valuable in life are your relationships. And I’ve made some very special ones here.

The pool community is great. There’s 50 or 60 of us. A lot of the people are elderly and have health issues. I think they come for the companionship. We have a Christmas lunch every year and that’s a lot of fun.

We’re here at 5:30 in the morning – the best part of it is the laughter. You always catch up with everybody and you always leave feeling better. It’s great medicine that time of the morning.

The comradery is so fabulous.

Pacing the Pool premieres at the Revelation Perth International film festival at Luna Leederville on July 7, as part of the City of Vincent Film Project.

Congratulations to Richard and the film’s Director and Producer, Jay Jay Jegathesan (who’s also a Beatty Park member!)  We can’t wait to see it!

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