By day, Ryan Fox creates software to help track rheumatoid arthritis patients’ data. But by night, he’s working toward an Olympic gold medal in rowing.
Well, not really by night. By early morning. And by late afternoon. And sometimes by lunch.
“It’s not easy to find a job that will allow for a unique schedule like mine,” said Fox. “That’s why I’m glad to be working as a consultant at OMRF.”
Three months ago, Fox was in Wisconsin, where he graduated with a degree in astronomy-physics. Though he arrived at the University of Wisconsin to learn, it was the first day of school when another goal entered the picture.
“I’d never rowed in high school and never really thought about it,” he said. “But that first day of classes, the coaches were out there looking for tall, skinny guys. They saw me coming.”
At 6-foot-3, Fox is still thin—a boon when you’re trying to pull a boat down river—though he works out constantly. When the water in the Oklahoma River isn’t frozen, he and his teammates will get out in their four-man boat and row. In the winter, they stay inside, lifting weights and doing reps on a stationary rowing machine called an erg.
“Man I hate those machines,” he said, rubbing his arms.
But they’re just part of the day. Fox is up at 7 a.m. for a two-hour practice and back at the Devon Boathouse at 4 p.m. for another workout. In-between, he’s at OMRF, working for scientist Mike Centola, Ph.D., who studies autoimmune diseases.
It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s harder still to believe that hard work is being done in Oklahoma City, he said. San Diego and Princeton University in New Jersey are the historic training centers for competitive rowers. After the Devon Boathouse opened in the winter of 2009, Oklahoma City became the national lightweight team training center.
So what drives a Wisconsin boy to pick up his life and move hundreds of miles for strenuous practices fitted around hours of programming? That’s easy—winning.
“It’s all worth it when you win the race,” he said. “I get along with my team. And I’m loving Oklahoma. Everybody here has been so welcoming. But the goal is always to win.”
Winning has secured Fox a spot on the U.S. Lightweight team two years in a row. In 2009, he helped capture the silver in the World Rowing Championships Lightweight 8 competition. In 2010, his Lightweight 4 placed 10th.
With just fractions of seconds separating winners from losers, the training for this year’s World Rowing Championships in Slovenia is intense. A win there will go a long way toward establishing his team for the London Olympics in 2012.
“It’s a lot of hard work, both training and programming, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “Except maybe a gold medal.”