Lynne Cox is in a category all her own among the world’s athletes. She exhibits the endurance of Lance Armstrong, the calculating mastery of Tiger Woods, and the joy of Brett Favre playing football in a snowstorm.
Cox does her thing in conditions that would have the Green Bay Packers crying for help. She is a long-distance swimmer who goes where nobody else dares to venture. Her most famous plunge began a mile off the shore of Antarctica in 2002. Wearing just a swimsuit, she churned through 32-degree water that would paralyze and kill most human beings in short order. After 25 minutes, she made it to the shore, where she was welcomed by penguins.
At the end of another swim, this one in 1987, Cox was welcomed by Siberians. She was the first person to swim five miles across the Bering Strait from Alaska to the Soviet Union.
Cox’s exploration of really cold water began in 1976, when she was a UCSB student with a bunch of traditional ocean swimming records under her belt, including mainland-to-Catalina and crossing the English Channel. In search of greater challenges, she went to the tip of South America and became the first person to swim across the Strait of Magellan.
It was there that Cox realized she might be involved in a sport that transcended the Olympic Games. “The people in Chile were wonderful,” she said. “They gave me hot baths and hot chocolate. Athletes who go to the Olympics are in isolation. I went to Australia with my sister [a water polo player], and all you did was go to the dorms, go to the pool, go back to the dorms :” But as a one-woman show, Cox had to ask for help to fund her escapades.
Her talent came to the attention of scientists. After graduation, she stayed at UCSB for a year as an aquatics coach. Head swimming coach Gregg Wilson remembers that the eminent exercise physiologist Steven Horvath would lie down on the pool deck and observe Cox when she was swimming laps. “I asked him why, and he said, ‘She’s amazing, you know,’” Wilson said.
Cox acknowledges that she is uniquely endowed to survive in frigid water, but she could not have accomplished her swims without exhaustive training and planning. “I do things methodically and thoughtfully,” she said. “I have a team around me.” And at the age of 52, she is still pushing her limits. “I’m getting better and stronger,” she said. “My goals now are so far beyond what I could have imagined.”
The Los Alamitos resident described her latest pursuit as “more challenging than Antarctica,” but she is not talking about it. She is writing about it. “I’m working on another story for the New Yorker,” Cox said. The magazine, which printed her account of the Antarctica swim, has exclusive rights to reveal her newest exploit. She expects it to come out in April.
“I’m glad I took writing courses at UCSB,” said Cox, who has written two books, Swimming to Antarctica and Grayson, about a whale she encountered.
Lynne Cox will return to Santa Barbara and make two appearances on Monday, February 4, in celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. She will address the gathering at a Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon, starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Earl Warren Showgrounds (call 705-4949 for ticket information), and she will give a free lecture at 7 p.m. at UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion.
AMAZING CLUE: T.K. Erwin, captain of the UCSB men’s swim team in 2006, competed in the CBS reality show Amazing Race with his girlfriend, Rachel Rosales. They were sworn to secrecy about the outcome until the final episode of the program was aired on Sunday, January 20. But Gregg Wilson had an idea in December when the unpretentious couple-T.K. is a substitute teacher and Rachel runs a flower shop-came to watch the Gauchos compete in the Las Vegas Invitational swim meet. “This time they flew,” said Wilson, the UCSB coach. Yes, they finished first in the race that spanned four continents and won a $1 million prize.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: The women’s basketball game tonight (Thu., Jan. 31) between UCSB and UC Riverside is the reason coach Mark French got tough on his Gauchos two weeks ago. Riverside has beaten them five straight times and ended their 11-year reign as Big West champions last year. Tipoff is at 7:05 p.m. at the Thunderdome. : It will be another wildly noisy night at the SBCC Sports Pavilion on Friday when Santa Barbara High and San Marcos clash for the second time in three weeks. The Dons won the first showdown, 61-56. : Finally, at the risk of chomping on a page of The Independent next week, here is my Super Bowl prediction: Giants 26, Patriots 24.
Top Sporting Events: January 31-February 7
Thursday, January 31
College basketball UC Riverside at UCSB women, 7 p.m.
High school girls basketball San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 7:30 p.m.; Oak Park at Bishop Diego, 7 p.m.
High school soccer Santa Barbara boys at Dos Pueblos, 5 p.m.; Dos Pueblos girls at Santa Barbara, 5 p.m.
Friday, February 1
College men’s volleyball Hawai’i at UCSB, Robertson Gym, 7 p.m.
High school boys basketball Nordhoff at Bishop Diego, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 2
College basketball California Baptist at Westmont (women, 5:30 p.m.; men, 7:30 p.m.); Oxnard College at SBCC (women, 5:30 p.m.; men, 7:30 p.m.)
College men’s volleyball Hawai’i at UCSB, Robertson Gym, 7 p.m.
College baseball Rio Hondo at SBCC (2), Pershing Park, 10 a.m.
Sunday, February 3
Running Super Bowl 4-miler, Stow Grove Park, 9 a.m.
Monday, February 4
Women and Girls in Sports events Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon, Earl Warren Showgrounds, 11:30 a.m. Free lecture by swimmer Lynne Cox, UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion, 7 p.m.
High school boys basketball Santa Paula at Carpinteria, 7:30 p.m.
High school girls basketball Santa Barbara at Dos Pueblos, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 5
College basketball Azusa Pacific at Westmont (women, 5:30 p.m.; men, 7:30 p.m.).
High school boys basketball Santa Barbara at Dos Pueblos, 7:30 p.m.
High school girls basketball Villanova Prep at Carpinteria, 7 p.m.
High school girls water polo Santa Barbara at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m. Ventura vs. San Marcos at Santa Barbara pool, 3:15 p.m.
Wednesday, February 6
College basketball SBCC at Hancock College (women, 5:30 p.m.; men, 7:30 p.m.).
High school girls basketball Buena at San Marcos, 7:30 p.m.
College baseball Cal Lutheran at Westmont, 2 p.m.
Thursday, February 7
College basketball Cal State Fullerton at UCSB men, 7 p.m.; UCSB women at Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m.
High school boys basketball Buena at San Marcos, 7:30 p.m.
High school girls water polo Dos Pueblos at Ventura, 3:15 p.m. Buena vs. San Marcos at Dos Pueblos pool, 3:15 p.m.
High school girls basketball Nordhoff at Bishop Diego, 7 p.m.; Malibu at Carpinteria, 7 p.m.