Former Falls diver Cox completes dream of competing in Olympic Trials
Comes up just short of finals
When he was just 8 years old and still figuring out which end of the world was up when it came to diving, former Menomonee Falls WIAA state champion Danny Cox had a chance to compete in the Junior Nationals in Federal Way, Wash.
"But dad (former longtime Falls diving coach Gary Cox) said 'no, I couldn't go' because I wasn't taking it seriously enough," he said.
Fast-forward about 16 years and many thousands of dives and many thousands of hours making the sport his serious life's work, and Cox was able to come "full circle" when he finished off his diving career at the 2012 Olympic Trials at none other than Federal Way, Wash.
"I made that choice," Gary said. "He just wasn't training as hard as he could. As a coach and parent, I figured he had to earn the right to go.
"And after that, he did start to get serious."
Training full time
That degree of commitment ended up being just a few points short of making the trials finals on June 19 in the 10-meter platform event which was the final qualifier for the upcoming London Olympics.
It included him making a conscious decision of training nearly full time for a year following his 2011 graduation from Purdue (with a degree in communications) as opposed to trying to go gung-ho into an uncertain job market and a rocky economy.
Further, though he felt good about his diving career at Purdue, it had been checkered by two shoulder surgeries, a knee surgery and a freak finger injury, all of which cost him competition and training time.
"And it is very difficult for a diver to come back from a shoulder surgery at 100 percent," he said. "In fact, I was lucky, my senior year was my healthiest of all."
So, with that behind him, Dan landed a postgraduate job at a golf course in the Lafayette, Ind., area (where Purdue is located) and continued training. He had good company, as about eight total former Purdue athletes were still training at the university facility for a chance at the trials, including six-time NCAA champ and Olympic Trials platform champion Dave Boudia.
Cox was fortunate, as he had made the qualifying standard for the trials in 2011.
He was also fortunate in that he had the support of his family, including two-time WIAA Falls state champ, former Purdue teammate and brother, Nathan, as well as his parents.
Dan, after all, was deferring the start of real life, of course, for a Quioxtic dream, but Gary said there was no holding back on the support for his son in this particular endeavor.
"This (competing in the trials) was his absolute goal," Gary said, "so we were totally supportive. I didn't want him to say 'I could have done it, but I didn't go out giving my complete 100 percent.' "
Dan appreciated the help.
"There was a time when I was seriously thinking about doing this or going into the workforce," he said, "but it was always my goal to go to the trials. To have this chance now I just had to do it. It was either that or spend a lifetime regretting that I didn't try."
And try hard he did. It was interesting, in fact, that Dan wound up on the platform. The WIAA competition (which he won in 2005) is contested on the one-meter springboard and in college there are three diving disciplines, the one-meter and three-meter springboards and the 10-meter platform.
But for Dan, the platform was love at first dive when he first tried it as a 14-year old.
"There are some really good people who can't even think to jump off something that high (about 33 feet)," he said, "but the thrill of it totally grabbed me right away. Once I realized I was capable of it that was it."
The interesting thing about platform he said is that you have more time to do a higher degree of difficulty.
"You're not expected to do more (by the judges)," he said, "but the fact is, is that you do have this time (in the air) and if you want to hang with the big dogs you have to do more. Let me tell you, it does not feel good when you land less than center, but if you want to compete, you have to get more skills involved."
And he did engage those skills and they eventually led him back to Federal Way, Wash., for the trials and a long-shot try at the London Olympics.
"It was everything I expected and so much more," he said. "The city embraced it like nothing I'd ever seen. All the sessions were sold out for every event and to have television crews there, it was all so neat."
Did his best
And the most important thing in his mind, he went out with his best.
He qualified easily into the semifinals out of the morning preliminaries on June 19 into the afternoon semifinals. It was a good set of dives, but when the final numbers were crunched, he was 13th, one place and just 3.5 points away from the finals, his last chance to compete.
"Very close," he said. "It's an experience I'll never forget. That semis set was one of the best I've ever had in a national level meet. It was just in combining the scores from the prelims and the semis that I came up a little short.
"I just wanted to get out there, have a good time and do the best I could. I think I accomplished all that."
"He missed a little bit on one dive where he may have been a little over-aggressive," Gary said, "but then he came back and his last three dives were the best I've ever seen him do in a meet of this caliber.
"Just a very satisfying and rewarding way to end his career. To go out doing the best he could."
And now real life is calling and Dan will apply the same degree of focus and intensity to it that he did to diving.
"It's been about a month since I've been 'retired' from diving," he said, "but I made a lot of great connections and hopefully I'll be able to pick up something (full-time) soon.
"… As in everything, there's a certain amount of error involved. There are always hits in diving and there are always misses, too. Correcting the misses, that's what keeps divers coming back for more."
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