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“Competition is an incentive to improve”
Wade Cox was one of the most successful U.S. slalom skiers of his era, racking up dozens of professional titles over the course of two decades.
Originally from El Dorado, Arkansas, Wade learned to ski at age 4 from his dad, Larry, on Lake Greeson in Kirby, Arkansas. Water skiing was a true family activity for the Cox family. Larry served as Wade’s boat driver and coach, while Wade’s mom, Kathy operated the video camera at all practices and tournaments.
Wade won the 1981 Junior Boys’ national slalom and overall titles, the 1983 Boys’ national slalom title, and the 1985 Junior Moomba Masters’ slalom, tricks, jumping and overall titles. He had his sights on breaking the Boys’ national jumping record, but before he could reach his goal he suffered a severe leg injury while jumping at a spring tournament in 1985. His leg had to be surgically repaired and his jumping career was over. Despite missing the 1985 Water Ski National Championships, Wade returned to compete in Open Men slalom and tricks the following year, and he went onto become perhaps the most successful U.S. slalom skier of his time.
He eventually made the move to professional slalom specialist, relocated to Orlando, Florida, and quickly established himself as one of the sport’s all-time greats. He was a three-time Masters’ champion and the 1996 U.S Open champion. He finished runner-up at the U.S. Open six times and runner-up at the Masters five times. Her retired with more than 30 victories in professional water skiing, and held the U.S. national slalom record at one time.
The high point of his career was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He won back-to-back U.S. Pro Water Ski Tour and Water Ski World Cup season title in 1995 and 1996, and finished runner-up in 1993, 1994, 1997, and 1998. He won Open Men national slalom titles in 1995 and 1999; and he earned a bronze medal in men’s slalom at the 1995 Water Ski World Championships.
Wade always credited the competition as incentive to improve, and he was one of the most driven athletes of his time. “Let’s just say I have this affliction – I am very, very competitive,” he said in an interview at the time of his retirement. “I never took to water skiing for fun, but I really enjoyed it. I think being so competitive was an absolute positive because I wouldn’t have been the athlete that I ended up being.”
He announced his retirement on May 25, 2008, after the 49th Masters. He was inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.