Australia have opened their 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships campaign on a high, winning gold in the Women’s Kayak Team event at the Lee Valley Whitewater Centre in London.
The team of Jessica Fox, Noemie Fox and Kate Eckhardt secured the gold medal in a blistering time of 108.62, 0.29 seconds ahead of Spain in silver and 0.40 ahead of hosts Great Britain in third.
Making the victory event sweeter, the trio – who won Canoe Teams gold at the 2019 World Championships in Spain – had to bounce back from a disappointing opening event in the Women’s Canoe Team, where a missed gate towards the end of the race saw the team get a 50-second penalty and finish in 11th place.
Noemie said to secure their first ever Kayak Team gold medal is a testament to the incredible bond the team have.
“Back in 2019 we won the C1 and four years later to win the kayak, and to be the first Australian team to win the kayak, is so special,” Noemie said.
“We all work together, push each other, learn from each other, and inspire each other. To be rewarded together like this is really special and to have an opportunity to compete and beat some of the bigger nations is why we love this event.”
After missing a gate in the C1, Noemie said the team rallied together to rewrite the narrative for the kayak event.
“We swapped the order after the C1… and the girls especially helped me see the opportunity that we had another run, to clean the page, start again and create a new story and I think that’s what we did and we did it really well.”
The Team events are unique to the World Championships, and Olympic Champion Jess Fox said she always relishes the opportunity to compete alongside her Aussie teammates, instead of against them.
“We really enjoy racing teams and we only get to do it at the World Championships,” Jess said.
“We’ve been on many teams together, and I remember seeing Kate and Noemie starting the sport and growing up together and going through the Junior ranks and Under-23s, so now to stand on the top of the podium together as K1 Women’s World Champions is just incredible and I am so proud of them and to share this together.
“We’re also super grateful to Myriam Fox, Mum, who has also been our coach since we all started. We’ve had a great lead into the Worlds and it’s just a great way to start the World Champs.
“We’ll cherish this moment, we’ll soak it up and then we’ll refocus for the individual heats tomorrow for canoe, and heats on Thursday for kayak before it goes into the final stages, so it will be a big week.
In the Men’s team events, Australia’s Kayak team of Lucien Delfour, Ben Pope and Tim Anderson came up against a formidable kayak competition to place 9th overall.
“It’s definitely an enjoyable experience, we have a really good team and work well together,” Pope said.
“It’s certainly different coming from a generally individual sport to competing as part of the team and it changes the entire race experience as you have to worry about where other people are, but it’s good fun.”
The Men’s Canoe Team of Tristan Carter, Brodie Crawford and Kaylen Bassett also recorded a strong result on the opening day of competition in London, finishing 10th.
“It feels good, it’s always been a tough course here in London,” Carter said. “London is one of the more physical courses, especially in the teams event with three of us on there, you have to adapt a lot which is good, as it gets us in the right mindset for what we have to do tomorrow.
“Today was about the team, and it’s a lot of fun to go out there and see what the three of us can do out there.”
The 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships continue on Wednesday with the individual Men’s and Women’s C1 heats. K1 heats will be on Thursday, before C1 and K1 finals on Friday and Saturday respectively, with the first Canoe Slalom Olympic Quota places up for grabs for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.