Two Virginia Commonwealth Games gold medals aren’t what local archer Arthur Cox shoots for. The sport has allowed him to keep focused on the bulls eye which counts most, loving life.
Cox recently captured a second gold medal in the sport in as many outings. He said he had quit the sport for 40 years before picking the bow up once again. The competition was held July 27 at Liberty University in Lynchburg. He served in nine counties with the Department of Forestry but he worked the whole state with the dog he used to track forest arson. He retired as an arson investigator for the Department of Forestry.
“I was in Grayson Highlands two years ago on the third week in July and I fell off of a rock. I broke a bone in my neck, knocked a tooth out and couldn’t raise my arm but only so far,” Cox said as he explained what was to become an unexpected bout with his health. Later, as he mended, he told his wife Faye he used to shoot a bow and was thinking about it again. She reminded him, “You can’t lift your arm up.”
“I found an old bow that was made in the 1960s like when I used to shoot. When I got it I couldn’t hold my arm up. I started just empty handed. I could tell, hey, its been two or three seconds. Then I added two pounds. I added four pounds. Then I finally got where I could hold my bow and I started shooting,” Cox said. “It was a 38-pound Hoyt bow with no releases or sights. I shoot the traditional way. I started shooting and that year I shot 18,000 (arrows). (One year to the very day I feel) I shot in the Commonwealth Games down in Lynchburg and won a gold medal. I was 75-years old and I’ve shot every day since then.”
In between the gold medals other health issues for the couple provided some unexpected challenges which Cox will tell you is “neither here nor there.” He said his return to the sport kept him sane and said he doubts he worried more than 30 minutes over it because of how good those around him were to help.
He said while doing the research on getting a backup bow he found out about the Commonwealth Games. The tourney question came up and someone said he should shoot in them.
“This had a big deal in my recovery. I’ve always been active and I’ve always had 120 to 200 percent support from family, no matter what,” Cox said. “I had 30 years with the Department of Forestry, that was the greatest 30 years anybody could have asked for. I’ve never had a day I dreaded going to work and I was fortunate enough to develop the first bloodhound program in the United States that tracked people for outdoor arson. I had good dogs.”
Cox said before retiring he worked for the FBI and ATF as well, with his main focus with The Department of Forestry. He worked with sheriff’s departments all over Virginia and North Carolina and Alabama.
“It’s been a great, great life and I was fortunate enough to raise a great dog handler (His son, Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputy Buck Cox.) Not many father and sons start hunting (together when the child is) at five or six years old and grow up to hunt bigger game. I never felt uneasy. He run backup for me and I never had an uneasy moment,” said Cox. “You know, I did hunt. That never did take. It’s crazy. I loved to hunt. But when it come to archery, I love to punch paper. Last Friday when I walked out on that field, as far as I was concerned, I was the only person there. I compete against me and that’s it. I started shooting the next morning. This qualified for the big boys. The 50-state shoot will be next year at Liberty (University). If you win a medal, you’re qualified for the Nationals. They will probably spank my butt and send me home crying.”
Liberty’s stadium will host the opening ceremonies for next summer’s State Games of America, a biennial competition which will offer 60 events during the week of July 29-Aug. 4, 2019. Gold, silver, and bronze medal winners from the 2017 and 2018 games across 34 states are eligible, and approximately 15,000 participants and 20,000 family members are expected to converge in Lynchburg. Commonwealth games are held every year.
“I’m 76-years old and I’m one of the luckiest 76-year-olds in the world. I still have pretty good eyesight. It is unreal what that town has done. The campus is nice,” Cox said. “They have embraced the Commonwealth Games and they just go out of their way in any way they can. I was so shocked at the amount of people that participated. I bet the participation line was a half a mile. It and the athletes and the spectators filled the building. I think next year is going to be a pretty big deal.”
Commonwealth Games Archery includes participants 7 years and older. Cox said he enjoyed seeing more than 60 youngsters competing in archery. His division included about 48 shooters. Cox shot 30 arrows at 60 meters, 30 more at 50 meters and 30 at 40 meters.
“We started shooting at about eight (in the morning) and finished about 12 and it felt hot. I should’ve shot 50 points higher than what I did but I still shot good. My worst round was the closest round. Most of the time I can burn that one up with a 48 or better. I think I dropped down three or four points on the target but that’s neither here nor there,” said Cox.
The Commonwealth Games include a variety of sports, including long range rifle shooting. Cox said initially he had no idea what to expect at the Games. He had previously shot Virginia Bowhunters Association events in the 1960s.
“I practice 365 days a year. I shoot every day. The games are such an opportunity for young people. It’s a great experience for an old man like me to go and then intermingle with eight and ten-year olds. Watch them and get advice from them and give them a word once and a while. They are just good people. It’s a unique experience. Next year I’m really looking forward to it,” said Cox.
He said getting children involved in any sport, no matter what it is, beats standing on a street corner. Cox competed in the Master’s Class in the Commonwealth Games, which includes 50-year olds. This pitted him against some who were 20-years younger in the division.
“Competition is second (in the games). The medal is way on down the list because they want you to participate and have a good time. I’m sure all the other sports are that way. I would encourage it for any young person. Archery is exercise. I don’t care what’s wrong with you or ain’t wrong,” Cox said. “It’s important to have something to look forward to every day. Faye and I have been so blessed. The last 15 winters we’ve spent in New Mexico hobby prospecting. We go out and find gold everyday or go out every night to the chili fields when the jackrabbits are coming up, which is devastating, and we shoot jackrabbits. It’s a good life.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave