in the Splash zone:
secrets with Josh Davis
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, swimmer
Josh Davis won three gold medals — more gold than any other male competing
in those Games. Four years later Josh was voted captain of the 2000 Olympic
team and took his talent to Sydney, Australia. Josh competed at a whole new
level in Sydney.
University of Texas
Placed 7th in the 200-meter freestyle
Won the gold medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay
Won the gold medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay
Won the gold medal in the 4x100-meter medley relay
in Sydney, Australia
Placed 4th in the 200-meter freestyle
Won the silver medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle
Won the silver medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle
For the first time
in his life, Josh was going stroke-to-stroke with the fastest
athletes in swimming history — like Australian Ian Thorpe.
In fact, Josh swam the 200-meter freestyle so fast that in any
other Olympic competition he would have won gold by a body length.
In Sydney, however, that incredible speed only earned him fourth
place. He missed bronze by a mere touch on the wall, although
he set the American record that still stands. He left Sydney with
two silver medals.
How did an easy-going,
blond-haired, blue-eyed, native Texan make this big splash, becoming
one of the best athletes on the globe? Josh says, “A big
part of my success is the way I respond to the authority figures
in my life.”
An influential authority in Josh’s
success is his coach, Eddie Reese. Eddie was instrumental in helping
Josh excel in the Sydney Games. Josh began training with Coach
Reese at the University of Texas, where he swam for the Longhorns
prior to swimming professionally and at the Olympic level.
“Josh has great attitude
and strong work ethic,” Coach Reese says of his star athlete. “He
is very easy to coach. He trusts me. He knows that by combining his efforts
— physically, mentally and spiritually — with what the coach knows,
he is confident that he can get where he wants to go.”
Coach Reese believes Josh’s
personal relationship with Jesus Christ motivates Josh’s response to
authority. “[His relationship with God] gives him the strength to make
the right choices in his daily life in his interpersonal relationships and
with other people on the team. It shows up in consistent workouts. When you’re
making bad choices, you [aren’t consistent].”
Josh sees swimming as a “training
lap” for life, because of the range of emotions — pressure, excitement,
anticipation, elation, desolation — that are all packed into a race
that lasts less than a minute or two. The four-time World University Games
gold medallist is constantly learning new ways to improve technically, mentally
and nutritionally. Coach Reese says that if there is a legitimate way for
Josh to improve, he will try it. “His strength is determination,”
Coach Reese says. “He’ll do whatever it takes.”
Just as Josh looks to his coaches
for direction, other athletes look to Josh. The 31-year-old is generous with
Olympian Neil Walker says, “I’ve
always had questions for him — about school, girlfriends, swimming,
whatever. He often has the best advice. He’s always willing to answer
any questions or to help alleviate any of my fears. I look up to Josh as a
swimmer because of his incredible work ethic. He’s also the type of
husband and father I’d like to be. Hopefully, as I mature, I’ll
have more in common with him than just swimming.”
As a swimming ambassador, Josh
travels across the country to more than 100 speaking engagements each year.
Several times a month Josh conducts swimming clinics and shares his insights
with youth and community groups. He eagerly helps young swimmers learn new
techniques and communicates lessons he’s learned about life in and out
of the pool.
One of Josh’s favorite topics
is making good decisions. He tells students, “I wish I knew then what
I know now. I wish that when I was in high school I had admitted that you
don’t have to get drunk, have sex or do things that you know you shouldn’t
be doing just to feel accepted and cool.
“All those rushes and pleasures
are so temporary and can be so destructive,” Josh says. “There
are consequences to good and bad decisions. Pursue excellence.”
For Josh, part of pursuing excellence
is treating coaches and other authority figures with respect. Josh doesn’t
agree with everything his coach tells him, but he is committed to making sure
he treats the coach respectfully.
“There have been a couple
of plateaus in my training when I’ve felt frustrated,” Josh says.
“Those times of trials are good — they have been learning times.
They have allowed me to get back a proper perspective — that my self-worth
is not based on my performance.”
Josh is looking to the future by
keeping in top form — he has diligently trained for the Athens Games.
As a husband and father of three, he says he will continue competing at this
level until he no longer qualifies for the Olympic squad.
“I’m motivated to be
a good steward of the talents God has given me. God gave me a gift —
the ability to swim fast. God expects me to use that gift to its fullest potential.
On top of that, He has given me the gift of eternal life. [My swimming ability]
and Christ’s forgiveness supply me not only with the proper motivation
but also with an everlasting motivation.”
Josh has discovered this success
secret — winning is more than just touching the wall first; it’s
keeping Christ in the competition.
Robbins lives in Washington, D.C., and is the chaplain for the
Washington Freedom women’s professional soccer team. She
has worked at six Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
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