Olympic champion Jessica Fox launched her successful world championship career in Tacen, Slovenia, 13 years ago, so it is a fitting venue for Australia to unleash its next generation of canoe slalom stars for their World Cup debuts this week.
Fox is aiming to continue her domination of the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup season when the series moves to Ljubliana-Tacen for World Cup 3, from June 15-18.
The Australian team of nine will also include three fresh faces, with teenagers Mark Crosbee, Georgie O’Callaghan and Sebastian Montalto all set to make their senior World Cup debuts.
Fox already has three gold medals from the first two World Cups of the 2023 season, including double gold in the K1 and C1 at World Cup 2 in Prague on the weekend.
Fox has a long history of success at the iconic Slovenian course, dating back to her breakthrough bronze medal as a 16-year-old in her world championships debut in 2010. But even a paddler of Fox’s experience takes nothing for granted at Tacen.
“The main thing that everyone focuses on about Tacen is that big first drop, it’s probably one of the most intimidating first drops on the world tour,” Fox said. “I find it a really tricky course, I still get nervous before going down that first drop, but it was my first world championships in 2010, so I have good memories there.”
It will no doubt create great memories too for Crosbee, O’Callaghan and Montalto, who are also focused on representing Australia at the Under 23 World Championships in Krakow, Poland, from August 15-20.
Crosbee, 19, is the current ICF Junior World Champion in C1, a title he claimed in Italy last year.
Crosbee has his sights set on making the final of the Under 23 World Championships this year but first, he’s keen to test himself against the world’s best senior competition in the MC1 category this week.
“I got pretty close [to a senior debut] last year, so it was good to get over the line this year and secure that spot. I’m excited to race in a World Cup against senior athletes and see what I can do.
“I’m excited to see what I can do with that pace I’ve found over the past year.
“I’ll prepare like any other race, it doesn’t matter what other people can do, I’ve just got to put down the best runs I can do.”
O’Callaghan was supposed to make her international debut at Tacen in 2020, but the junior world championships were cancelled due to COVID. It has been a long wait for the 19-year-old from Melbourne to race her first international season.
“I haven’t actually been at any international competitions before so it’s going to be my first and it’s going to be a big one,” O’Callaghan said.
“It’s pretty amazing watching the best in the world shred on the course, getting to watch what they do and trying to replicate it.
“It’s going to be very important, especially for me, not having any other international racing experience overseas.”
Montalto, only 18, will join seasoned Aussie paddlers Lucien Delfour and Tim Anderson in the MK1 and is keen to soak up the experience.
“My goal this year was to make the senior team, it didn’t quite happen, but to be able to race alongside Lucian and Tim at a World Cup is huge because I’ve always looked up to them, I’m always comparing my times to them, always looking at what they’re doing in training and racing.”
Montalto said it will be a “confidence boost” to race against senior competition before switching focus back to the U23 world championships. He said it was a credit to Paddle Australia’s pathways Program that younger athletes were getting the opportunity to compete on the senior stage.
“I think the Pathways has developed a lot in recent years, it started growing a lot last year and I can only see it getting bigger,” Montalto said.
“I’ve never raced there [Tacen] but I have trained there and it’s one of my favourite courses, there’s a giant drop at the start that’s unique, different and good fun.”
The World Cup series will take an extended break after the stage in Slovenia, with World Cup 4 in Spain in August.
The 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup 3 gets underway with C1 heats on Thursday 8 June at 10pm AEST. K1 heats will be held on Friday, C1 and K1 finals on Saturday, with Kayak Cross time trials, heats and finals on Sunday. For the full schedule – click here.
Heats and semi-finals will be broadcast live via Planet Canoe’s new streaming platform Recast – click here to find out more
The finals sessions will be broadcast via Kayo Sports (see schedule below).
Saturday 17 June | 12:45am – 2am AEST | Live on Kayo Sports
Saturday 17 June | 7:30pm – 8:45pm AEST | Live on Kayo Sports
Sunday 18 June | 8:15pm – 9:30pm AEST | Live on Kayo Sports
For more information on ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup Slovenia click here.
2023 Paddle Australia Canoe Slalom Team – World Cup 3
Jess Fox (WK1 and WC1)
Noemie Fox (WK1 and WC1)
Georgie O’Callaghan (WK1)
Lucien Delfour (MK1)
Tim Anderson (MK1)
Sebastian Montalto (MK1)
Tristan Carter (MC1)
Brodie Crawford (MC1)
Mark Crosbee (MC1)