Dorothea Cox, right, won the Barney Ochs Sportsmanship Award, in foreground, during the recent Georgia Golden Olympics. She and mixed doubles partner Roy Gibbs, shown here, also won several medals for their performance in table tennis at the competition. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
CONYERS — Rockdale County resident Dorothea Cox has been competing in the Georgia Golden Olympics for the last nine years, but this year’s trip to Warner Robins will forever resonate as her most memorable.
The 73-year-old New York native, who moved to the area a decade ago, earned three medals in table tennis and one in Wii bowling, but this year’s Games proved to be golden for the honors Cox received away from the fields of play.
Cox said that the theme for this year’s Golden Olympics banquet was “Western wear,” and she won the award for best outfit. Perhaps more importantly, however, was the other honor she received, the Barney Ochs Sportsmanship Award.
“Somebody nominated me for the award and (the committee) evaluated my history in the Golden Olympics and named me,” Cox said. “When they called out my name at the banquet, I was paralyzed because I was so shocked. It’s truly an honor and it’s a beautiful award.
“This was absolutely my greatest Golden Olympics. When my daughter called me and said, ‘What did you win this year?’ I really had something to tell her. After this, I’m not going back — what else could I win? But seriously, I will be going back, although it doesn’t matter if I win anything or not.”
Born and raised in the Bronx, the die-hard New York Yankees fan said she planned to live her entire life in the Big Apple until her daughter, Carmen Baptiste, moved to Lithonia more than a decade ago.
“My daughter had a high school friend who lived here and she came down for a visit once and said when she got married she wanted to move to Georgia,” Cox said. “I told her I planned to live and die in New York. About 10 years ago, I had a knee replacement and figured I’d be fine. But I wasn’t, so I said I’d come to Georgia for two months and then I’d go back home.
“When I got here, I found I actually liked it. I never thought in all my years that I would live in the South, but here I am 10 years later. And before I’d moved here, I’d never even been below the Mason-Dixon Line.”
Cox got involved in the Golden Olympics — an annual statewide event for adults aged 50 and older — when she got settled in Rockdale County and visited the Olivia Haydel Senior Services Center.
“When I got here, I really didn’t have anything to do, so I went to the senior center, and I’ve been going there ever since,” the retired registered nurse said. “The longer I stayed, the more I loved it. I joined the Golden Olympics right away and I even started the table tennis team. I’ve been going to the Golden Olympics for nine years and I’ve got stacks and stacks of medals.”
She admits she was not enamored with sports when she was growing up, preferring instead to focus strictly on her studies.
“My mother was from Jamaica and didn’t have many education opportunities, so she insisted I be an academic person,” Cox, who also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York, said. “I didn’t have a lot of time to play.”
At this year’s Georgia Golden Olympics, Cox said she was shut out in the shuffleboard competition, but in table tennis received a gold medal (for female doubles), a silver medal (for mixed doubles) and a bronze medal (for singles). She also medaled in Wii bowling, which she shared is no mean feat.
“I started Wii bowling two years ago and won the bronze,” she said. “And let me tell you, those ladies can really play that game — the competition is unbelievable!”
Cox added that the Golden Olympics contingent from Rockdale County was about 20 people, which she said was the largest group at the Warner Robins event.
“We usually have the largest group there,” she said.
For more information about the Georgia Golden Olympics, visit www.georgiagoldenolympics.org.