Olympic gold medallist Jessica Fox and dual Olympian Lucien Delfour were crowned two-time champions at the 2022 Canoe Slalom Australian Open at Penrith Whitewater Stadium over the weekend, while Noemie Fox nabbed a back-to-back title in the extreme.
Claiming an impressive three wins in 2022 for the duo, Jess and Lucien each took out the kayak finals at the recent 2022 ICF Oceania Canoe Slalom Championships with Jess adding a gold in the canoe and Lucien an additional gold in the extreme canoe slalom.
With national team selection on the line, the NSW Institute of Sport scholarship holders were eager to impress, and strung together strong finals runs over the days of competition, enjoying paddling a more challenging course to earn their respective titles.
“It was a very challenging course, compared to yesterday [heats]…. very physical,” Jess said following her run in the kayak final.
“It was about 10 seconds slower than yesterday, and I definitely felt it in the arms.
“But alas, I’m happy with the win,” she said.
Lucien also enjoyed the challenge of a more demanding course, and was relieved to have been able to put together a good run to take the crown in the kayak final.
“I can’t remember the last time we had a course that challenging – not necessarily that the moves were hard, but it was a combination of all of them put together,” he said.
“There were only a couple of sections where you could cruise through, but otherwise in every single gate you had to maintain a fair amount of control, and that’s quite draining.
“I was really happy to have improved from the heats to the semis, and then again from the semis to the final – because that’s what you always want to do,” he said.
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Jess paddled to an impressive finish in the canoe finals on day three of racing at the 2022 Open, claiming her second gold and finishing an impressive 16.99 seconds in front of second place.
“I felt like I had a really good semi final race, everything just felt really smooth and tidy,” the Olympic gold medallist said.
“I just wanted to do the same, if not a bit better in the final – and I finished in about the same time.
“I lost a little bit of time in the second last up gate, but overall I’m pretty happy”.
Jess has had a dominant start to the calendar year, with her two gold medals at the 2022 Canoe Slalom Australian Open backing up her two gold medal performances at the 2022 ICF Oceania Canoe Slalom Championships earlier this year.
“I’m pretty happy with how I’m paddling – there’s still certain things I’d like to be working on,
“There’s some little things I’d like to have done better, but it’s always good to get some racing practice, especially at this time of year,” she said.
With international athletes not competing this year, the 27-year-old said she looks forward to welcoming them back hopefully next year.
“The thing I’m most looking forward to though is welcoming the international athletes back again,
“It changes the racing dynamic, and makes us lift a lot more – at least that’s how I feel.
“I’m really looking forward to next year,” Jess said.
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For the younger class of athletes, it was the competition against the Tokyo talent that raised the bar.
Claiming the U23s win was Penrith’s Sophie Wilson – a fellow NSWIS athlete who looks up to Jess,
“It’s so nice to be able to paddle in an environment that’s an Olympic stadium, with Olympians and some of the best paddlers in the world.
“Jess is such a role model, and always so encouraging and I learn so much from watching her, training with her – it’s amazing,” she said of her competition.
In the men’s canoe final, it was Tristan Carter in first, ahead of the Institute’s Kaylen Bassett who placed second with Mark Crosbee rounding out the top three finishes.
In the new Olympic discipline Extreme Canoe Slalom, Noemie Fox claimed back-to-back titles having won the Oceania gold earlier this year.
Noemie was happy to finish the weekend on a high, especially with a gold in the new exciting discipline.
“It’s always fun to get in the Extreme boats and race off the ramp,” Noemie said.
“I’m a bit exhausted after a big, full weekend of racing and selections.
“But it’s always good to have a proper extreme race, and getting some practice in before the international season,” she said.
With the international season in mind, Noemie has already set some goals, and has her sights firmly set on World Cup finals.
“I really want to step it up a bit more in the kayak and Extreme this year overseas,” Noemie said.
“I had a successful C1 season last year, with multiple World Cup finals and World Championships final.
“And I’d like to get an extra few finals up my sleeve in the K1 and Extreme boats this season.
“You can’t really anticipate the outcome in Extreme, but I’m just looking forward to getting a bit more practice in on the international stage,” she said.
Dual Olympian Lucien Delfour won the men’s Extreme Canoe Slalom final, a discipline that he hasn’t really raced much.
“I only started racing Extreme last year in Pau (France) after the Olympic Games,” he said.
“It’s quite different, the craft is much heavier and shorter, so it’s very physically demanding. And they also steer differently, so it’s good to get some experience in those boats.
“I think we’re also quite lucky to have a ramp here in Penrith, and a proper set up – definitely a huge positive for us”.
The discipline which is set to make its Olympic debut in Paris 2024, will feature among the highlights of the paddle sports 2022 calendar at the ICF canoe and extreme slalom world championships in Ausgburg, Germany later this year.
Image courtesy of Paddle Australia