Australian paddler aims to outfox strong field

Not only are Jessica Fox's competitors keen to disprove her status as a favourite, she also has to deal with the weight of expectation after winning the K-1 world championship in 2014 - not to mention her parents’ sporting pedigree.

Fox's biggest challengers include 2015 world champion Katerina Kudejova of the Czech Republic and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Maialen Chourraut, from Spain.   -  Getty Images

Australia’s Jessica Fox knows she will face a tough challenge to trade up her London 2012 silver into gold in the women’s kayak slalom at the Rio Games.

Not only are her competitors keen to disprove her status as a favourite, she also has to deal with the weight of expectation after winning the K-1 world championship in 2014 - not to mention her parents’ sporting pedigree.

“Everyone’s looking good on this course,” Fox said, standing under the blistering sun at the Deodoro Olympic Whitewater Stadium after practising on the course before the women’s heats kick off on Monday.

Her biggest challengers include 2015 world champion Katerina Kudejova of the Czech Republic and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Maialen Chourraut, from Spain.

In the four years since she made a splash as a teenager in at the London Games, Fox, 22, said she has focused on maintaining her consistency.

“Obviously four years on, I’m a bit more experienced, there’s a bit more expectation,” Fox told Reuters. “I’m just going out there with the same sort of mindset, still the same process.”

That focus runs in the family. Fox’s mother Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi claimed bronze in the K-1 event at the 1996 Atlanta Games and has coached her since she began the sport, while her father, British Olympian Richard Fox, won multiple world championships.

Tim Baillie, a retired slalom canoeist who won gold for Britain in the C-2 at London 2012, said part of the excitement from the slalom event is that it is “difficult to predict” the outcome.

“It’s always interesting,” Baillie told Reuters.

Asked for names of likely podium contenders, Baillie said: “It would be easier to pick people I thought were unlikely.”