There was a moment in Sunday’s kayak cross final in Prague when it suddenly dawned on Noemie Fox that she was coming last, and if she stayed there she would miss the Olympics.

“I thought to myself ‘God no’,” Fox said after the race.

Let the record show 27-year-old Fox pulled off a move on the final gate as cunning as the furry mammal which shares her name, elevating her to third and, after eight months of trying, a ticket to the Paris Games.

“It’s been a long road to get here, and to be on the podium today,” Fox said.

“It’s been like eight months that I’ve been dreaming about this day every single day, and visualising it, and really being so motivated to get to this race and be in the best physical and mental possible state, I’m just so proud of myself.

“To finally be able to go to the Olympic Games, and to share that with my sister and Tristan (Carter) and Tim (Anderson) and the rest of the Australian team. It kind of feels surreal and it will start to kick in, but I think it’s been such a long day. I’m keen to just decompress and start dreaming about the whole journey tonight.”

For so long Noemie Fox had been forced to accept she would probably never get to an Olympic Games. Older sister Jessica is considered the best female slalom paddler in the world, and as each country can only take one athlete for each event – well, you would never not take Jessica Fox.

To finally be on that Olympic team together, and have two Australians, is just so special

But the addition of kayak cross on the Paris Olympic program suddenly opened up a path. It would be long and arduous, would take an enormous amount of work and a fair dose of luck, but with each country allowed to enter two competitors in the race, the possibility was there.

“It’s been such a long road, and with all the little problems we’ve encountered with water quality issues or the flat water, we really tried to give myself the best possible preparation for this,” Fox said.

“I felt so much good vibes and support from the overall slalom community. The amount of good luck messages and hugs I’ve been getting from my fellow athletes and friends, it’s just been so incredible.

“I feel like I was carried down the course, I’m so proud to have earned my spot and to be going to the Olympics.”

Of course it helps that Fox had the support of a family that is synonymous with the sport. Father Richard and mother Miriam are both Olympians, and of course sister Jessica is a gold medalist – and the red traffic light that she thought would forever keep her from the Games.

“I always had a big block in the way, but I think to be able to share this journey with her, she has supported me so much,” Noemie Fox said.

I feel like I was carried down the course, I’m so proud to have earned my spot

“To finally be on that Olympic team together, and have two Australians, is just so special.”

Witnesses have also reported seeing Miriam Fox, who is also Noemie’s coach and considered one of the toughest in the business, shedding more than a few tears at the end of the race.

“She was bawling her eyes out,” Noemie confirmed.

“I’m still in my ‘on guard’ moment, not emotional, which is really out of character, but there was so much investment into my career and into my lead-up to this race. To have so many people believe in you, I think it really helped me step up.

“I’m so incredibly grateful for my family and for the Australian team and all of the support staff that backed me all this way.”

By the luck, or fate, of the draw, Fox’s most difficult race was her semi-final, when she lined up alongside the athletes who won gold and silver at last year’s world championships, and a multiple U23 world champion.

“It was my worst nightmare, the race I really didn’t want,” Fox said.

But the Australian responded with the race of her career, finishing first and booking her ticket in the final. The task then was simple – avoid finishing last, and the Olympic ticket would be hers.

And that’s where she very nearly blew it.

“I just wanted to enjoy it and go down it, it was probably my worst racing with the nerves, and telling myself don’t finish last,” she said.

“I was last at one stage, and I thought “God no”. It’s just incredible to be in this moment now, and to know all the hard work has paid off and all those dreams weren’t crazy dreams.

“I never stopped believing. I’m sure in the week to come I will start thinking about it as well. It’s just an incredible dream come true for us, and for my whole family.”

Pic by Dezso Vekassy

Kayak Cross
Canoe Slalom