Ali Cox’s decision to return to competitive rowing wasn’t very sudden. It wasn’t an epiphany waking her up from her sleep in the middle of the night. She wanted to make sure this was what she wanted to do again, and that she was ready for it.
In 2004, the Turlock High graduate took home the silver medal in the women’s eight in the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
In 2012, she hopes to be in London for the next Olympics.
But right now, the 31-year old is fully committed to training for the 2010 World Rowing Championships on Oct.31-Nov. 7 at Lake Karapio, New Zealand — this time, it’ll be as part of the USA women’s four-person boat. She admits that this time around she has to take better care of her body, considering six years have passed since the last time she competitively used oars to help propel a boat forward, all while pushing backwards.
“My body is holding up really well,” she said by phone while on a bus headed to an event in New York. “I do take a little bit better care of it than I did when I was younger.”
Cox made sure this was a commitment she was ready for. Shortly after her 2004 Olympic triumph, she stepped into retirement and worked in public relations, marketing and sponsorship in places like New York, Austin, Texas, and San Francisco. Three years ago, she began her own strategic marketing and event company. Even so, her desire to row returned.
Then earlier this year, Cox ultimately decided she wanted back into the boat. Around that time, her mother suggested that Cox start practicing with a rowing club in San Francisco, “to remind herself of how brutal the 5 a.m. practices were,” mom Sylvia Cox said.
Ali pointed out three reasons for her return: She wanted another shot at the Olympics; she wanted to break some of her personal records on the rowing machine; and lastly, “I’m excited to work with a very talented group of women.”
Ali also said that her former Olympic coxswain, Mary Whipple, encouraged her to give rowing another try.
“I think she had been thinking about it for a while before she told us,” said Sylvia of Ali’s decision to return. “When she told us, she was determined to try out. It wasn’t a spontaneous decision or else you couldn’t do it.”
At Turlock High, Ali was a superb athlete, wrapping up her high school career in 1997 with 11 varsity letters in basketball, soccer, softball and tennis. She then competed for the University of San Diego women’s rowing team and rowed internationally before winning first place at the World Rowing Cup Regattas in 2004.
After that, she earned Olympic glory.
Now, she wants another shot. She said she has a larger emphasis on taking care of her body. She’s making sure she’s getting the proper physical therapy, nutrition and rest, while training at the national team headquarters in Princeton, N.J. And it didn’t hurt that she kept herself active during her retirement, completing marathons and triathlons across the country.
So before she committed to training for the Olympics again, it took her six months to realize that she wanted to go back to the grueling workouts that come along with rowing.
“There’s definitely sacrifices involved for me,” said Ali, who plans to maintain her consulting practice while with the U.S. National Rowing Team. “It was a decision I took very seriously. I knew I wanted to compete and to come back, I wanted to do it full-heartedly.”
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