Olympics-French connection boosts Australian Fox for more canoe slalom glory


FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Canoe Slalom - Women's C1 - Final - Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre, Tokyo, Japan - July 29, 2021. Jessica Fox of Australia in action REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Born in Marseilles to an Olympic medal-winning French mother, Australian canoeing great Jessica Fox will savour a unique Games in Paris when she paddles for more glory in the slalom events.

Fox will bid for back-to-back gold medals in the women's canoe singles (C-1) at her fourth Games, while also hunting podiums in kayak singles (K-1) and the new Olympic category, kayak cross.

Coached by her mother Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi, who won K-1 bronze for France at the 1996 Atlanta Games, Fox will have no problem getting into the swing of things in Paris.

"Being born in France and having family there makes this Games very different and unique -- and a bit more special," the 14-times world champion told Reuters before training in Paris.

"I've got all the advantages of understanding the language and feeling comfortable here.

"Spending time here doesn't feel exhausting like when you travel in a different country with a different culture."

If anyone was ever destined for canoeing success it might be Fox, whose father Richard won five individual K-1 world championships for Britain in the 1980s and '90s.

Fox's younger sister Noemie has also contributed to the family's bursting trophy cabinet by winning team world titles with Fox in K-1 (2023) and C-1 (2019).

The sisters could have represented either of their parents' nations but moved to Australia when they were small children.

Fox-Jerusalmi will again coach in an Australian tracksuit while Fox's canoeist boyfriend Mathieu Biazizzo, who won K-1 team world titles for France in 2014 and 2021, will be in support.

"The French connection is there but I've grown up in Australia and I feel very much at home there," said Fox, long based in Sydney's outer western suburbs.

"I'm very Aussie. But hopefully I'll have a few French supporters, too."

'FEELING PROUD'

The 29-year-old will bid to become the first women's slalom canoeist to medal at four Games at the Vaires-Sur-Marne venue, having claimed K-1 silver at her debut 2012 London Olympics and bronzes at Rio and Tokyo.

Winning a fourth K-1 world title in London last year along with bronze in the C-1, Fox remains at the peak of the sport which involves competitors hurtling down a whitewater course and steering through gates.

Her record eight individual world titles has seen her dubbed the "GOAT" (Greatest of All Time) of women's canoeing.

Winning the elusive K-1 gold at Paris would strengthen that claim -- but Fox is not consumed by it.

"Like, if I were to retire today, I think I'd pretty happy with what I've got," she said.

"But obviously, you're always striving to be the best you can be on that one day every four years.

"It's just about crossing that finish line and feeling proud of your effort. Hopefully then the result equates to a pretty colour that I like."

At 18, Fox was the youngest woman to medal in Olympic canoe slalom at London after recovering from capsizing in the heats.

She finished in front of 44-year-old Czech paddler, Štěpánka Hilgertová, who took the K-1 gold ahead of Fox's mother at Atlanta.

Longevity is a hallmark of elite canoeing, and Paris is highly unlikely to be Fox's Olympic swansong.

She likes the idea of emulating Fox-Jerusalmi, who won her Olympic medal two years after giving birth to Fox.

"For female athletes, it's always challenging," Fox said of motherhood.

"I'm not sure whether I'd want to have a break or wait until the end of my career but we've got a few Olympians heading to Paris who are mums, which is amazing to see.

"I know I can reach out to them for some tips once I'm ready for that. But definitely not now."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by ...)

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