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Rio a reality for Fox, Delfour and Borrows

25 February 2016

RIO 2016: She scored a surprise silver at the London 2012 Games, now four years on paddler Jessica Fox will have another chance to add to her medal collection after being selected on the 2016 Australian Olympic Team.

Also joining Fox in the canoe/kayak slalom section of the Rio Team are fellow Penrith, NSW paddlers Lucien Delfour and Ian Borrows, who will both make their Olympic debuts on the course at Deodoro.

Fox, 21, will get the chance to go for gold in the K1 event after she won a tight nomination trial at the Oceania Championships at Penrith, her home course. 

“It’s a relief and elation. It’s a really tough process, only one woman can go, there’s only one woman’s K1 spot. It was brutal,” Fox said.

“Everyone just expected I’d qualify for Rio. It’s been a hard and unpleasant two weeks of races and a lot of hard work over four years. Now the process is over we can look forward to the next step.”

In her debut Olympics, Fox produced one of the Australian performances of London 2012 when as an 18-year-old she paddled to silver at the Lee Valley White Water Centre north of London. She blitzed her final run and was in the gold medal position for several paddlers before beaten by Frenchwoman Emilie Fer, who was 29 in 2012.

Now the more experienced Fox has her eye on going one better at Rio.

“Gold is the next logical step, but it’s not that simple,” Fox said with a laugh.

“When I arrive at Rio I want to be as best prepared as possible. I learnt a lot at London.

“I’ve got more expectation and pressure now but I’ll just focus on doing the best I can. Any medal would be an awesome achievement.”

A keen swimmer, Fox took up the sport a decade ago as rehabilitation after breaking her arm. Now she’s well and truly following in her paddling parent’s footsteps. 

Her mother, Myriam, competed for France at the Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, winning bronze in Atlanta in the K1. While her father, Richard, competed for Great Britain in the K1 at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics, finishing fourth and was a 5-time World Champion. She competed against younger sister Noemie for the Rio spot.

Her teammate Delfour will compete in the men’s K1, while Borrows will take on the world’s best in the men’s C1.

Delfour secured his spot after a head-to-head battle with fellow Australian Jaxon Merritt in the third Olympic nomination trial at the Oceania Championships.

The 27-year-old grew up in France, but moved to Australia in 2010 and became a citizen in 2014. He said his friends and family in France are excited, despite him representing another country.

“Everyone’s happy regardless of where I live and compete,” Delfour said.

“My friends and family actually like that I race for Australia. A lot of French people have a soft spot for Australia, they see it as an exotic place that’s quite far away!”

After a very strong 2015 season, he ended the year at number three in the K1 world rankings. The 2015 Australian Open champion produced three top 10 finishes in the ICF World Cup series, to finish second in the overall standings.

“The first two years after London 2012 were all about the World Championships, I didn’t think too much about Rio but last year we started thinking about Rio a lot more.

“I got a good result at the World Championships and then got better and better year after year.”

Now Delfour’s set to compete at his first Games, after securing his spot last weekend. 

“It’s a big honour, I’m proud and excited to wear the uniform.

“It was a bit of surprise the last day hadn’t started well… When I crossed the finish line I wasn’t sure. It was a huge relief.”

For fellow debutant Borrows, his Olympic dream was ignited more than 15 years ago when as a 10-year-old he watched as the slalom course was built in his hometown for the Sydney Olympics. 

Five years later he was selected to represent Australia in the K1 at the Australian Youth Olympics Festival.

He said Australian Olympians have inspired him to dream of his Games debut.

“It’s been my goal for the last four years to make it on the team.

“Watching Robin Bell win bronze in Beijing (2008 Games) was amazing. You learn from them.”

It’s been a huge 12 months for the 27-year-old who missed out on last year’s World Championships Team.

“I didn’t really know what I was going to do for the rest of the year... But then I got to go to the first three World Cups and then I came home and really focused on what I needed to do in these three selection races.”

To be selected Borrows needed to beat London Olympian Robin Jeffery in the final men’s C1 race at the Oceania Championships. 

“We had to sit around and wait for a while because no one knew who had won, what the times were, it was nerve wracking.

“I’m still running on that high.”

In preparation for the Games the paddlers will head to Rio for a few training camps in the next six months to get familiar with the new venue at Deodoro.

“We’ll definitely go over in April for some more time on the course,” Fox said.

“I was there in November and it was a pretty interesting course I really enjoyed it.

She said this year’s Games course has less drops than London, but just as physically difficult.

“It’s harder in some ways (than London) because you’re consistently stopping for features.”

For Borrows, heading over in two weeks’ time, it will be his first glimpse of the course where he hopes to do his country proud.

“I didn’t want to watch too many videos of the course before now and get ahead of myself... It’ll be a big learning experience.

“I’ll have my first paddle on the water. It’ll be my first time in South America.”

Fox said she’s most looking forward to the opening ceremony at the Games.

“I can’t wait. I think it’s the most memorable moment of London 2012. I watched a video of that (the ceremony) after the race last weekend and it just made me so excited to be a part of that, the Australian Team.

“I’m definitely so excited to make Rio a reality.” 

The canoe/kayak sprint selections are continuing with these athletes expected in mid-March.

The entire 2016 Australian Olympic Team will be finalised in July.

ANNIE KEARNEY
AOC

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