Olympic canoe slalom paddlers Jessica Fox and Lucien Delfour are amongst the first small group of national team paddlers who have returned to the water at Penrith Whitewater Stadium after the NSW State Government eased restrictions mid-May.
Jessica Fox was appreciative about the quick response of Penrith Whitewater Stadium and thrilled to get back on her home water at the world-class facility after two months of training at home.
“I was stoked and it was great to be back on the whitewater. It was pure joy despite the cold and wind,” Fox laughed and hinting at the challenge of not having spent an Australian winter at home since she was a child.
But being back in her element was all that mattered.
“It’s something that I probably took for granted. I’m sure a lot of us have had that feeling when our day to day activities have had to change due to Covid but I just feel so grateful to be back on the water and looking forward to getting back to work,” Fox reflected on the last couple of months.
During the time in lock-down, Fox stayed fit training at home and adapting to the circumstances.
“My training has been modified with home gym workouts and our team gym and NSWIS lent me some equipment so that I could do a great workout at home. A lot of core work and elastics.
Olympian Lucien Delfour, who like Fox has been selected on the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020, was also excited to be able to enjoy some whitewater action on his home-course.
“Whitewater is what we do, so it’s great to have it back in our training,” Delfour said.
Like his teammate Fox, Delfour is thankful for the opportunity of being able to train at Penrith Whitewater Stadium, even though he is also missing the European summer.
“We have one of the best courses in the world. The only downside is that it will be winter, and it is morning sessions only. The issue with cold, other than the obvious ‘discomfort’, to put it mildly, is the lack, or loss of feeling, which makes skill acquisition very slow,” Delfour described the challenges ahead.
Delfour took a couple of weeks off after the postponement of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to next year was announced, but made the most of the training opportunities still available during lock-down.
“I had two weeks off after the postponement of the Olympic Games was announced, and slowly went back to training with a few flat-water sessions every week, then gradually increased the intensity with some fitness training in my garage” Delfour said.
I have been doing some good flat-water sessions over the last six weeks and focused a lot more on the gym.”
To allow a gradual return to training, Paddle Australia’s High Performance program has put strict protocols and requirements for all staff and athletes across both canoe slalom and canoe sprint into place ahead of the programs returning to training.
Based on Government recommendations, it is a phased approach with a safe return to training and a safe training environment the main priority.
“We have been working very closely with the Australian Institute of Sport, our training facility partners and closely monitoring state government guidelines for the gradual return of our athletes to training and being able to get back on the whitewater a couple of times last week is a very important step” Paddle Australia National Performance Director Shaun Stephens said.
“We are very proud of our athletes, coaches and support staff who have made the best of a very challenging situation over the last few weeks and we’ve seen some great resourcefulness and creativity with all of our paddlers continuing their training regime.”
The slow and phased approach is fully supported by the team with Jessica Fox stressing the importance of everyone playing their part.
“I think it’s important that we don’t rush it and that we do the right things and follow all the guidelines and physical distancing requirements. It’s important to stay healthy and at the sign of any symptoms or contact with others with symptoms that we stay home.
“Hopefully we can get through winter and resume some normal activities and get back to doing what we love in the community. I’ve been really happy to see so many people exercising outdoors; I had never seen that many people in my area,” Fox added about the positives of the last two months.
With the gradual re-opening of training facilities around the country, the message of physical distancing and following the government COVID-19 guidelines remains clear with Paddle Australia’s athlete commission also continuing to promote the download of the COVID-19 safe app.