Australia’s entire 2016 Olympic slalom squad will have their first competition of the year this week when they contest the 2017 National Championships at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium in Sydney.
Rio K1 bronze medallist, Jessica Fox, men’s K1 athlete Lucien Delfour, and C1 competitor Ian Borrows, will all be looking to make an early mark ahead of what will be a very busy year both domestically and internationally for Australia’s elite paddlers.
The trio have their eyes on World Championships later this year, and for Fox, her final U23 World Championships.
The two-time Olympic medallist has barely had a break since returning from Rio, but she wouldn’t want it any other way.
And with 2017 shaping to be a long year, Fox wants to hit the ground running.
“We have a big season, starting in January with nationals and finishing in October after the world championships,” she said.
“It’s probably the longest season we’ve ever had. Outside of sport I am also trying to finish my degree this year and get that out of the way.
“So 2017 will be full of challenges, and just full in general!”
Giving Fox extra incentive this year is the introduction of C1 to the Olympic program in Tokyo.
It’s a discipline she has dominated for many years, and she’s excited to be able to turn more attention to it in the lead-up to 2020.
“I am trying to increase my load in C1,” Fox said.
“In 2015/2016 the focus was all on the K1, and it was just about maintaining my level in C1 doing it once a week or so, but this year i’m excited to try and really work on my C1.
“It’s the start of a new Olympic cycle and I know many girls are looking forward to a new phase in women’s C1. I have even seen some established K1 women starting C1!”
While many Olympic athletes struggle to remain focused and passionate after a Games, Fox says she has had no such problems.
She said it’s important to constantly reassess her goals and to set new projects, and that she feels she is still learning a lot from her sport.
And she never takes anything for granted. While logic would suggest she should not have any problem qualifying for the Australian team this year, stranger things have happened.
“We have selections coming up and we will finalise the program after the Australian Open in February,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to racing in New Zealand on the new course in Auckland, it will be our first international race since last year’s World Cups and I’m really looking forward to that test.
“I’d like to race all the World Cups in the lead up to the World Champs in Pau at the end of September. I think I will also do the U23’s, they are in Bratislava this year and it’s been so long since iIve raced there so I am looking forward to getting back on that course.
“Racing a championship is different to racing a World Cup event, so I think it will be good preparation for the worlds.”
But the first big test for the 22-year-old will come this week, with all of Australia’s top female paddlers competing – including her younger sister, Noemie, the experienced Ros Lawrence and Alison Borrows, and several exciting juniors who have the advantage of just completing the National Schools event at the same Penrith course.
The National Slalom Championships begin on Wednesday.