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Profiling Susan Bradley-Cox

Teacher, coach, swimmer, triathlete - whew!

Meg Smath | July 19, 2000

"During class I like to visualize fins and gills on Susan Bradley-Cox, my water aerobics instructor," says one of her students. Not an unlikely picture for Susan, of Lexington, Ky., who spends a lot of time in the water coaching Wildcat Masters swim team and swimming competitively, in addition to teaching.

In her spare time she's a world-class amateur athlete. The three-time mother and two-time grandmother is also a three-time triathlon world champion for her age group (55-59). Age has never been a deterrent for Susan; she won her first world championship after she turned 50.

"I feel that I am blessed with the ability to achieve physically, and want to share my talents with others," says Susan, who holds a bachelor's degree in physical education and a master's in education from the University of Kentucky. A self-employed fitness instructor and consultant, she stays busy teaching at UK and Transylvania University. She's taught water aerobics for the UK Wellness Program since its inception five years ago. She also organizes and competes in tennis tournaments at the Lexington Tennis Club.

Susan has coached Wildcat Masters for four years. Her great strength as a coach is in recruiting and encouraging new members. The team now averages around 200 members, up from around 40 swimmers before she took over. Susan was also one of the team's first members when it was founded as Lexington Masters in 1978. It was her first experience at competitive swimming. About the only athletic opportunity available to her when she was growing up was cheerleading: a teary-eyed Susan made the cover of a Sports Illustrated back in the 1950s, right after the UK football team she'd been cheering on had lost a bowl game! Once Susan discovered Masters swimming, she became a fixture in the Top 10. Her best events are the distance events. She's a frequent All American in the 500, 1000, 1500, and 1650 freestyles, but she's a threat to make the Top Ten in any event she enters.

Susan's first encounter with the triathlon was serendipitous. She started running to exercise the family dogs. In 1983, when the owner of a running store sponsored a triathlon, Susan borrowed a ten-speed bike and entered the competition. She won the race without ever shifting gears!

Three years later, she placed second in her age group at the Ironman in Hawaii. In 1989 she won her first world age group title in Avignon, France, followed by another in 1993 in Manchester, England, a third in 1994 in Wellington, New Zealand, and a fourth in 1996 in Cleveland, Ohio.

She has qualified for Team USA, representing her country at the world championships since the first ITU World Championships in 1989. A quiet, soft-spoken woman, Susan has nevertheless made herself heard in championing the cause of making the triathlon an Olympic event. Her dream came true when it was announced in 1994 that the triathlon would become an Olympic sport.

"I love to work out; I love to train." She trains all year, but the triathlon season in Kentucky runs from May to September. During those months, she does more intense cross-training.

Asked if she planned to retire from competition, she replied, "No, not as long as I feel good and am physically able to compete." And not as long as she keeps leading Wildcat Masters on to victory: the team just won its fourth straight state short course championship in March 1997. Naturally, Susan won all six of her events. Look for her in the next Top Ten list in those six events!

From an article in the spring 1996 UK Woman, originally written by Peg Teachey and adapted by Meg Smath, President, Wildcat Masters)

Susan Bradley-Cox lives in Lexington, Kentucky and swims for Wildcat Masters.

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