BY JOE POTOCZAK
After putting on an impressive winning performance yesterday in the C-1 women’s final, Australia’s Jessica Fox left the K-1 starting gate this morning determined to cap of this world championship with two individual gold medals. And after her semi-final run she jumped into the first position, making her the last boat to leave the starting line in this afternoon’s finals -- an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you look at it.
She didn’t have a clear look at the time that Great Britain’s Fiona Pennie had posted earlier in the final, but knew it was an impressive one - almost four seconds faster than Fox’s semi-final round. It was going to take everything Fox had left to walk away with the gold. Charging out of the gate, she attacked the course. Crossing the first time-split, Fox was a mere one-hundredth of a second behind Pennie.
Continuing her assault, Fox carved in and out of the gates, the slightest mistake putting an end to her title hopes. At the second-split, she had moved past Pennie, almost one second ahead. With the finish in sight and only a few more gates to go, she found the extra burst needed, exploding through the finish line. Seeing her time posted, 0.96 seconds faster than Pennie, Fox unleashed her emotion of triumph to the crowd. Stepping on shore she was greeted with a standing ovation from her fellow Australians.
"It feels amazing," says Fox of the near impossible feat she had just completed. "Over the moon."
Jessica Fox is the daughter of legendary paddlers Richard Fox and Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi, both of which won gold at the 1989 world championships on the Savage River -- a fact the young superstar has been reminded of many times during this race. The pressure of living up to their past glory on U.S. soil didn’t faze the champion, who showed incredible poise through this entire event, only gaining momentum as the races went on.
When asked how it felt to accomplish what she had, only 20 miles from where both her parents took gold, Fox replied, "It’s very special. We will be cherishing this moment."
Fortunately, both her storied parents were there to cherish the incredible victory as well.
"She is world champion, and we are very proud," father Richard Fox said, adding that before his daughter’s championship run he “had a sense that she knew it was there for the taking."
Fox has become one of the most positive figures in the sport. She continues to push women’s C-1 forward in hopes of securing a place in the Olympics - which it currently does not. Her success has become a rallying point for this pursuit and she understands the part she plays in the endeavor. "I am always trying to be the best athlete and role model, on and off the water."
Despite high hopes for Dana Mann, the lone American paddler to advance to this morning’s K-1 women’s semi-finals with the 13th seed, she failed to advance to the final, ending the world championships in 23rd. Meanwhile, French creek racer extraordinaire Nouria Newman also failed to advance to the 10-paddler final, finishing in 14th, noting “It felt like I was fighting the water the whole run.”
Frustration also marked the end of the run for the dynamic C-2 duo of U.S. paddlers Casey Eichfeld and Devin McEwan, who were unable to put together the same magic they displayed in the prelims that boosted them to this morning’s semi-final, though the pair remained positive. “It was a good experience, even if it didn’t end on the best note,” said McEwan, who finished the championships with Eichfeld in 15th.
Slovenia’s Luka Bozic and Saso Taljt went on to win the C-2 men’s title, pictured below.
Fox’s victory capped off a successful ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in McHenry, Maryland, adding to the legacy of major paddling events hosted on American soil, a quarter-century since the last U.S. Worlds. And 25 years later, a member of the Fox clan once again sits atop the podium, and an American canoe once again took gold, thanks to the inspiring efforts of Fabien Lefevre.