Jess Fox doesn’t know where she finished in the K1 at last year’s U23 World Championships – “about 18th or 19th” – but knows she has a major point to prove at Penrith this week.
After winning the silver medal at the London Olympics in the K1 the previous year, to not make the final at the U23 Worlds was a big disappointment.
“I’ve got some unfinished business,” Fox said on the eve of this year’s U23 World Championships.
“Last year the K1 didn’t quite go to plan or how I would have liked, I was really disappointed with that result. I’m definitely looking to improve on that 18th or 19th – I don’t even remember, except that it was far down the list.
“I’m looking to make the final this week and paddle to my ability and to my potential on my home course.”
While having this year’s Worlds on her home course in Penrith should give the 19-year-old a big advantage over her overseas rivals, Fox admits its been hard trying to get the adrenalin flowing.
She wakes up every morning in her own bed, heads down to the water to train, then comes home and gets stuck into her study – she’s in her second year of a three-year Bachelor of Social Science course, with an emphasis on media.
“It doesn’t feel like a major race yet, but I know as soon as Tuesday rolls around it will definitely feel pretty real,” Fox said.
“I feel fresh and ready to go, but I’m not nervous yet, which I think is a good sign. You don’t want to be nervous for weeks leading up to an event.”
To analyse Fox’s disappointment at last year’s U23’s you also have to examine her failure to make the K1 final at the Senior World Championships in Prague later in the year.
Things were a little different then, with the teenage Fox having to back up from her emotional triumph in the C1 final and the associated rigmarole.
But Fox herself has admitted there will come a time when she may have to drop the C1 to just focus on the K1, the Olympic event. But for now she firmly believes she can do both at a major competition.
“I’m looking to just paddle the best that I can and manage the load well,” she said.
“I’ve learnt from what happened in Prague and I think I’m better prepared now.
“I think it’s easy to burn out if you go out hard on the days you don’t need to. It will be about doing my runs and then switching off. And because it’s a home championships I am staying at home and am able to have a bit more of a normal life.
“I think it will mean I can switch off and stay fresh until the last day of racing.”
This week will be a good measure for the Olympic silver medalist, with most of the top U23 paddlers from around the world making the journey to Penrith.
A lot have been to the course before, and many of them have been training on the course for weeks if not months in the lead-up to this week.
But it’s the sort of hit out Jess Fox thrives on, and one she certainly needs before yet another incredibly busy International season.
She hopes to compete in four of the five World Cup events, and then the senior World Championships in the US.
Squeezed in between all of that she’ll be one of the hand-picked ambassadors for the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, a role she’s very excited about even though it does mess badly with her schedule.
“The timing’s definitely not great, just five weeks out from Worlds,” she said.
“There’ll be two weeks where I won’t be paddling on the whitewater, but I will have had more than two months of really solid racing and training so I’m not really concerned.
“It was too good an opportunity to pass up. As well as being a great honour, it’s also going to be a great experience for me as an athlete and in preparing for life after being an athlete.”
The U23 and Junior World Championships start at Penrith on Wednesday April 23 and run through to Sunday, April 27.