Cox offers Olympic expertise

January 26, 2006, vol. 35, no. 2
By Marianne Meadahl

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SFU psychologist David Cox is already feeling an adrenaline rush in anticipation of the winter Olympics in Turin, Italy Feb. 10-26. And it's not because he's competing.

Cox is heading to his third Olympic games to lend his expertise as a sport psychologist to athletes, this time to Canada's cross-country ski team as well as members of the ice skating contingent.

“There's no question, I'm addicted to the experience,” admits Cox, who is also chairman of the Sports Medicine Council of B.C. “I love the stress of competition. And the Olympics is like no other sporting event. It's incredible.”

But Cox says his time in Turin won't be as glamorous as it might sound. “It's very intense,” he says. “The days are long, and one of the biggest issues that we as psychologists have to work with among our athletes is the distraction factor.

“There is pressure on athletes from a lot of sources, first and foremost, from the experience of just being there,” he adds.

“There is pressure to watch other competitions and pressure from friends and family who are just as caught up in it. My primary goal is to be proactive when it comes to distractions and help these athletes to stay focused on the process of preparing, competing and evaluating their own performances.”

Cox has worked with athletes in a variety of sports and levels, including curling (he worked with the national team in Salt Lake City in 2002) basketball and tennis. He has even applied his mental coaching skills in the workplace to help professionals to improve their performance.

“There are other pressures to contend with. For cross country skiers it can be everything from injuries to equipment, to the weather,” says Cox.

“My job will be helping them to get past those and focus on why they are there - to compete to the best of their ability.”

Unlike most sports during the Olympics, cross-country skiing events run throughout the two-week-long games.

Checking in on other events will prove challenging, as the cross-country events take place at a venue about 100 kilometres away from the main Olympic site. But Cox is already thinking of the Italian mountains.

“I can't wait,” he says. “I can't predict whether we will get a medal,” he adds, “but what I want to see is that we leave the games comfortable with the knowledge that these athletes have competed to the best of their ability.”

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