Cox returns to Olympics

Feb 21, 2002, vol. 23, no. 4, Feb. 21, 2002
By Carol Thorbes

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David Cox is practically falling asleep in his new Roots boots, sporting the Olympic logo.

The Simon Fraser University psychologist's comfy footwear is getting him through 14 to 16 hour days at the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Years from now the boots will be a treasured reminder of Cox's great fortune.

For the second time in less than two years, he is at an international event that the world's premier athletes are lucky to compete in once in their lifetime.

The Canadian women curling team led by New Westminster's Kelly Law and figu re skater Emmanuel Sandhu's coach, Joanne MacLeod, handpicked Cox to be their sport psychologist at the Olympics. Other Canadian athletes can also access Cox at the games.

The Canadian Olympic Association sponsored his accreditation as a member of the games' medical personnel.

Cox's main job, which is voluntary, is to whip the voices inside athletes' heads into shape. “Particularly at a high pressure, multi-sport event, such as the Olympics, athletes need psychological support to help them stay focused on their goals,” says Cox. “The primary goal is to focus on the process of preparing, competing and evaluating their own performance, not the outcome.”

Cox adds that stresses, such as constant crowds, lengthy accreditation processes and heightened security at the Olympics, can erode an athlete's focus.

“Often it's the ability to focus on process rather than outcome that separates great athletes, such as Grant Connell, from others,” notes Cox, who worked frequently with Connell before he retired.

Connell was the number one ranked doubles tennis player in the world in 1993 and 1995.

Cox worked with the Canadian women's softball team and was the psychologist for the Canadian men's basketball team at the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Drew Mitchell says this is the first time a Canadian curling team has had a sports psychologist at the Olympics. Mitchell manages the science and medicine program for SportMedBC and the National Sport Centre of Greater Vancouver.

The SFU kinesiology grad coordinates support for Canadian athletes in the Lower Mainland and at major events, such as the Olympics.
Mitchell has worked with Cox for the last six years and introduced him to the Law rink and Sandhu's coach.

“David's ability to work well with high-performance athletes and teams is his real strength,” explains Mitchell.

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