Gold that Keeps Giving

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the August 2020 Issue

Josh Davis

Olympic Swimmer, Josh Davis, vividly recalls the moment he won the first of three gold medals; both the noise and the silence. “The roar of the crowd was deafening when they put the medal around my neck, and then it went silent for the anthem and the flag. My life flashed through my mind; the teachers, friends, and coaches that supported me, and then I felt so thankful to live in a country where these things could be accomplished. It was pure joy.” 

That was in 1996, and now Davis finds himself in a very different place in life. He’s helping students work toward the successes he had as a competitive swimmer. Oklahoma Christian University (OC) hired him as the head swimming coach four years ago. “We started the first-ever OC swim team from scratch. It’s really taken off, and we have 40 men and 20 women from all over the country.”

Encouraging Competition

Davis’ approach to coaching is love-based, rather than shame-based, because he believes an athlete can better achieve excellence with positive encouragement. As a young teenager who entered the swimming field late, at age twelve, his school team coach pulled him aside and said, “Son, you’re not very good. You should switch sports. You’ll never make it.” Davis decided not to listen, choosing to switch coaches instead of sports. He later trained under the best coaches in the country.

“Swimming is mostly an individual sport where you are ‘thinking in your own head’ a lot,” Davis said. “When you reach the Olympics, it’s 99% mental, but I believe you determine your own destiny. The harder you work the farther you can go.” 

New Age. New Goals.

At age 48, Davis’ Olympic days may be past him, but he continues to go further, competing in a master’s league. “Now, it’s my goal to be the fastest old guy ever,” he said with a laugh. “It’s broken down by age category, and I already have records in the previous two age groups.”

In addition, Davis also competes against the “little swimmers” who are up-and-coming. For 23 years, he’s conducted youth swimming clinics. “I teach them everything I know, and at the end, I race them. I don’t like losing--but a few have beat me!

They win their money back and have bragging rights. Those are the ones on track to do big things in the future.”

Davis feels fortunate to have created a life that still revolves around his favorite sport. He’s not competing against Olympic teams anymore--now he’s competing for himself against kids, college students and “old guys.” Even so, Davis calls his wife the real Olympian, as the mother of their six children, ranging from young adults to a four-year-old, whom he calls their divine surprise.

Davis attributes his belief in the divine as the contributing factor to his swimming success. “When I raced for my first gold medal in the Olympics, I was so nervous, but I had meditated and prayed the whole season. It really freed me up to race without pressure, so that I could actually enjoy the process,” Davis said. “Getting a gold medal is awesome. I highly recommend it!” 

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