They were some of the most agonising seconds of Jessica Fox’s life, but in the end there was minor relief her late two-second penalty had not denied her an Olympic gold medal.
It did deny the 22-year-old back-to-back K1 silver medals, relegating her to third behind Spain’s Maialen Chourraut and New Zealand’s Luuka Jones.
But for a while, until Spain’s Maialen Chourraut sizzled down the course to finish more than three seconds ahead of the field, it looked like the penalty might cost Fox gold.
It’s one of the most gut-wrenching moments in a slalom paddlers career, watching as an asterisk appears next to your name, indicating officials are looking to see if you have touched or, even worse, missed a gate.
Fox had crossed the line penalty-free, and punched the air when her time put her in the gold medal position.
But in the windy conditions, the judges were scrutinising every run very closely, and they didn’t like the look of Fox’s pivot through gate 22.
“It’s happened to me before, where I have won a race, and then the asterisk went up and I’ve finished eighth or ninth, or not in the medals,” Fox said.
“I just didn’t want that to happen again.
“I’ve been through all the emotions. My heart sank because I didn’t know if that would be good enough for a podium, so I played the waiting game again for the second time.”
The result was an history-making silver medal for Jones, New Zealand’s first ever Olympic podium.
And while Fox was gutted, she was proud to make the podium for a second time.
“I took risks today, and they didn’t all pay off,” she said.
“But to be on the podium a second time is great because not that many women have been able to back up a medal at the Olympics.
“It’s been an amazing four years for me, I’ve grown so much as an athlete. I think I’ve had a fantastic year leading into this, and another Olympic medal is a great result.”
Fox was also excited her good friend, Maialen Chourraut, had won gold.
“She was incredible, she’s one of my paddling idols and I’m just so happy to be on the podium beside her,” Fox said.
“And I’m thrilled for Luuka Jones, Team Oceania!”
Fox now faces the difficult decision of what event to concentrate on leading into Tokyo in 2020.
C1 is almost certainly going to be added to the programme, and with her domination of that event for several years, it would be tempting to just focus on that discipline.
But it was not a decision that needed to be taken in the hours after her Olympic bronze medal.
“The only one missing is the gold, so I’m more motivated than ever,” she said.
“I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, I was paddling the best I’ve ever been. Four years is a long time, but a lot happened between London and Rio so I’m looking forward to the journey.
“I’ve had some great results in the C1, but winning the bronze has made me more motivated to see how much faster I can go in the K1. I don’t think I want to specialise in just one just yet.”
“At the Olympics we have a really stretched out program, so I think if I did qualify for two events I would like to do both, but it’s obviously something we’ll think about when we get there.”