Proud Kirkcaldy family remember ‘Scotland’s Wonder Boy’

Anthony, Laura & Paul with their dad's medals. Pic: FPA
Anthony, Laura & Paul with their dad's medals. Pic: FPA
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The family of Kirkcaldy’s late, great, Commonwealth Games gold medal winner, Phil Caira, have paid tribute to the weightlifter as events for the 2014 Games get underway in Glasgow.

Phil Caira, a newsagent and grocer, won gold medals in the light-heavyweight division at successive Commonwealth Games at Cardiff in 1958 and Perth, Australia in 1962.

Phil Caira

Phil Caira

This week his proud sons Paul and Anthony and daughter Laura got together to remember their dad’s amazing achievement.

Paul, who lives in Leven, said: “Dad was a really modest, quiet man. Because I was born after he retired from competing I never knew he was so famous. To us he was just dad, but he was the first athlete in the UK to lift one hundred pounds more than his own body weight.

Laura, of Burntisland, added: “He carried the flag at the opening ceremony in Kingston, Jamaica four years later, and looked to have won a third gold but one red light along with the two whites saw his winning lift invalidated and he was relegated to fourth.”

Laura said her mum Norina was a constant source of support to her husband.

“While dad was competing we were very young. She looked after us and ran the family business single handed. Along with his dedicated training, mum was there to give him a good diet, which was very important.”

Phil, who died aged 70 in 2003, was described by fellow Games medallist Charles Revolta as, “the best weight lifter Scotland ever had ... a modest man who thought a lot of everybody else.”

His team manager David Webster, said he was “truly one of the all time greats of Scottish sport, a wonderful all-rounder and great athlete.”

Phil was born into an Italian family in London who moved to Scotland in 1940. He first came to prominence in 1948 at the age of 15 when he won the title of ‘Junior Mr Britain’.

Attracting the attention of the legendary Al Murray who was living in Thornton, Caira won the Scottish light-heavy weightlifting title aged just 16 and the British senior title at 17, while still at Kirkcaldy High School, feats which earned him acclaim as ‘Scotland’s Wonder Boy’.

He joined the Army in 1951 and came under the wing of Murray, the British Olympic coach, and went on to dominate the British scene for his bodyweight (under 12 stone 13.75lbs).

At his first Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1954 Caira finished joint fourth. He won gold at the next two Games, battling a knee injury to win a second gold medal.

Despite his prowess at Commonwealth level, Phil missed out on an Olympic medal, finishing fifth in Melbourne in 1956.