Fox and Delfour Make it Daily Double


Delfour and Watkins (provisionally) join Fox to target Tokyo 2020
Australian Canoe Slalom Paddlers win three Gold, one Bronze at 2020 Australian Open Canoe Slalom 

It was a golden finish for Australia’s Olympic canoe slalom paddlers at the 2020 Australian Open Canoe Slalom with Rio Olympian Lucien Delfour (NSW) and dual Olympic medallist Jessica Fox (NSW) making it a daily double, winning the men’s K1 and women’s C1 respectively.

Lucien Delfour - Caramoda PhotographyIt was the second gold for Fox over the weekend after she also took home the win in the K1 on Saturday. Also on Saturday, Daniel Watkins (TAS) added a bronze medal in the C1 men to Australia’s overall medal tally of three gold and one bronze to wrap up a successful 2020 Australian Open on home waters.

With the event also doubling up as the final Olympic selection event for Australia’s canoe slalom men, Delfour also provisionally secured his Tokyo 2020 spot after qualifying as the only Australian for the top-ten K1 men final following a sixth place in the semi-final earlier in the day and finishing the event as the top-ranked Australian.

Already yesterday, Daniel Watkins provisionally secured his Olympic berth in the C1 men after also finishing as the top-ranked Australian and finishing the final in third place.

Pending official confirmation, nomination by Paddle Australia and selection by the AOC, five months out from Tokyo 2020, Australia’s canoe slalom team of three looks set after Jessica Fox already secured her Tokyo 2020 selection at the World Championships last year to represent Australia in both the women’s K1 and C1.

Jessica Fox - Photo Col Boyd

Jessica Fox – Photo Col Boyd

K1 Men
Two events were counting towards Olympic selection this month, with Lucien Delfour leading the ranks going into the final round at the Australian Open after his win at the first round of selections at the 2020 Oceania Canoe Slalom Championships in Auckland at the start of February (1-3 February 2020).

Ahead of the semi-finals on Sunday, the Olympic door in the K1 men was again wide open though, after Tim Anderson (NSW) threw down a brilliant run in the heats on Friday to finish third, while Delfour finished eighth.

But going into Sunday’s semi-finals, Rio 2016 Delfour made his intentions clear and put down a clean run to progress through to the final in sixth and only +1.08 seconds off the semi-final winner and 2019 World Champion Jiri Prskavec (CZE).

As the only Australian making the top ten, Delfour had already secured the provisional Olympic berth ahead of the final. Watkins just missed out in 12th while Anderson missed a gate that cost him dearly and saw him drop down the ranks, so Delfour had it all locked in.

“It feels great to (provisionally) secure the spot for the Games and I’m really thrilled to go to Tokyo. It is something I have been dreaming about for a quite a while now and obviously it’s such a relief. It is such a high mental pressure, even if I started with the win a couple weeks ago in Auckland (Oceania Champs) it was still quite hard to perform again here in Penrith so I’m really happy with the win today,” Delfour said.

In the final, the pressure was clearly off and Delfour impressed in a time 88.32 seconds to take the win +083 seconds ahead of Italy’s Rio Olympian Giovanni de Gennaro and Czech Republic’s Vit Prindis, 2017 World Cup winner in the K1, following in third.

K1 Men Podium - Photo JGRImages

K1 Men Podium – Photo JGRImages

“The mindset for the final was obviously quite different. I was quite relieved, and didn’t really have the (selection) pressure anymore so I felt like I could really attack, put in more pressure on the boat and take more risks. I am really glad It paid off and I was really happy with the run overall. I didn’t make too many mistakes and had really good speed overall.”
Pending final nomination, Delfour will join Watkins and Fox to target Tokyo 2020 in canoe slalom.

“I am really thrilled to be on the team with those two (Dan and Jess). Funny enough, that was the team that went to the Tokyo test event a few months ago and I don’t know if that is a coincidence. Jess obviously was already pre-qualified, but Dan and myself had to qualify ourselves this week end and I’m really happy to go to the Games with two mates,” Delfour said.

Lucien Delfour - Photo JGR Images

Lucien Delfour – Photo JGR Images

Women’s C1
In the women’s events, Tokyo 2020 selection was already decided last year, when Paddle Australia’s most successful canoe slalom paddler of all time, Jessica Fox secured her spot in both the women’s K1 and C1 after finishing the season with the overall world cup win in both K1 and C1 and wrapped it up with two silver medals at the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in September.

But even without her own selection pressure, Fox felt for her Australian and international team mates with the Australian Open Canoe Slalom the final Olympic selection event for several countries, including amongst others New Zealand and Canada.

“It was another nerve wrecking day watching the boys. Dealing with the emotions as well as watching teammates going for one spot and watching other countries battle it out and then having to focus on your run is quite a challenge. But I’m really happy about the way I paddled and the girls put down some really good runs as well,” Fox said after adding a win in the women’s C1 to her K1 win on Saturday.

Jessica Fox - Photo Col Boyd

Jessica Fox – Photo Col Boyd

Fox qualified as the fastest boat in the semi-final and did it all again in the final a couple of hours later. She put down a time of 104.54 seconds, including a two seconds penalty for a gate touch, and was still +5.25 seconds ahead of second placed Nuria Vilarrubla from Spain and Slovakia’s under-18 paddler Emanuela Luknarova in third. Germany’s 2019 world champion in the C1 Andrea Herzog finished fourth.

“Taking the win in C1 was a great way to end the weekend today. The preselection last year freed me up for this race to prepare differently if I wanted to or try different things without the pressure of having to perform for the selections spot. That was freeing and it was nice to approach this race in a different way,” Fox said about being able to race without any added selection pressure.

“But the expectation and the pressure is still there. And seeing the teammates battle it out for the Olympics spot made me feel a bit sick. It is so hard to have only one athlete to be selected but it is always a great fight and I think the Europeans will be up in the next few months with their selections too, so everyone was really in tune with what was happening here,” Fox added.

C1 Women Podium - Photo JGRImages

C1 Women Podium – Photo JGRImages

U23 paddlers Kate Eckhardt (TAS) and Noemie Fox (NSW) also made Sunday’s women’s C1 final with racing counting towards U23 and World Cup team selections.

Eckhardt, who finished ninth in Saturday’s K1 final, wrapped up the weekend with a fifth place in the women’s C1 and was happy with her overall performance.

“I was pretty lucky to scrape through to the final in tenth. I had few penalties in the semi-final which I was hoping to fix up and I manage to put down a clean run with a couple of small errors in the final. But overall, I was really happy with how I paddled. I managed to finish fifth overall, second Australian, first under twenty-three so I was really happy to get in that position and put down a solid run,” Eckhardt said.

Kate Eckhardt - Photo JGR Images

Kate Eckhardt – Photo JGR Images

Noemie Fox missed out on yesterday’s K1 final, but finished sixth in the C1 final after two gate touches and four seconds in penalties. Her raw time, without the gate touches, would have seen her in second place.

“It’s mixed feelings after making the final in C1 but just missing out in K1. Today, in the C1 I had a great raw time, a very fast run but too many penalties (four seconds) so that pushed me back a little bit. It’s hard to finish on a “not very satisfactory run” but there’s lots to take away and I am looking forward to do the world cups and my last under twenty three world champs,” Fox said.

Like everyone else, Olympic selection left its mark with everyone feeling the emotions of those missing out.

“I lived it too much I think and I was with them (the guys) all the way and the emotion was a lot to take. Our Australians, the New Zealanders, they are all such great paddlers and they would all do an incredible job. So many of them could have made it but in the end it is the best that come out on top and I think it is really hard to go through that process . It definitely is a though sport,” Noemie Fox added about the tough selection process in canoe slalom which only allows one athlete per country.

Noemie Fox - Photo Col Boyd

Noemie Fox – Photo Col Boyd

Wrapping up the Australian Open Canoe Slalom meant the end of the domestic racing season for Australia’s canoe slalom paddlers, with athlete now returning to training and preparing for the international season ahead.

“I have got this month at home and then we head to Tokyo at the end of March for our first training camp this year on the Olympic course and then from there, there will be quite a few camps and back and forth between here and Tokyo. Then the world cup races will start in June and we will be in Tokyo before we know it, so it is going to be a busy year,” Jessica Fox explained the season ahead.

The 2020 Australian Open Canoe Slalom as part of the Sydney International Whitewater Festival was the final round of Paddle Australia’s canoe slalom national selection trials and confirmed who will be nominated to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection for Tokyo 2020 in the men’s events this week. The weekend of racing also decided the 2020 Paddle Australia canoe slalom teams, including World Cup, U23 and Junior teams with teams to be expected to be announced at the end of February.

The event also attracted a stellar international line-up with over 300 athletes from 24 countries, including multiple Olympic and World Championships medallists, making the most of the Australian summer and the world class Penrith Whitewater Stadium facilities in order to prepare for Tokyo 2020 as well as for national team and Olympic selection.

See all results here:

Myriam & Jess Fox - Photo JGR Images

Myriam & Jess Fox – Photo JGR Images

RESULTS, Sunday, 23 February 2020

WC1 Final results 
1 – FOX Jessica – AUS                       2          104.54             0.00
2 – VILARRUBLA Nuria – ESP            2          109.79             +5.25
3 – LUKNAROVA Emmanuela – SVK 0          110.68             +6.14
4 – HERZOG Andrea – GER               2          111.32             +6.78
5 – ECKHARDT Kate – AUS               0          112.50             +7.96
6 – FOX Noémie – AUS                      4          113.44             +8.90

MK1 Final results 
1 – DELFOUR Lucien – AUS               0           88.32              0.00
2 – DE GENNARO Giovanni – ITA      0          89.15               +0.83
3 – PRINDIS Vit – CZE                        0          90.96               +2.64
4 – KAUZER Peter – SLO                   0          91.38               +3.06
5 – IVALDI Zeno – ITA                         0          91.69               +3.37

RESULTS, Saturday, 22 February 2020

Men’s C1 Final
1- Benjamin SAVSEK – SLO              0          94.96   0.00
2- Matyas LHOTA – CZE                    0          97.84   +2.88
3- Daniel WATKINS – AUS                2          98.20   +3.24   
4- Marko MIRGORODSKY – SVK      0          98.31   +3.35
5- Roberto COLAZINGARI – ITA        0          98.70   +3.74

Women’s K1 Final
1- Jessica FOX-  AUS                       0          97.87   0.00     
2- Ricarda FUNK – GER                     4          99.84   +1.97
3- Camille PRIGENT – FRA                0          103.71 +5.84
4- Elena APEL            – GER              2          105.44 +7.57
5- Eliska MINTALOVA – SVK             2          105.63 +7.76

9- Kate ECKHARDT – AUS               2          110.76 +12.89

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