Australia dominates Oceania slalom champs

Six months out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Australia’s canoe slalom paddlers have kicked off the international season in style, winning all four boat classes and making it a clean sweep at the 2020 Oceania Canoe Slalom Championships in Auckland (1-3 February 2020).
 
Olympians Jessica Fox and Lucien Delfour made it a double golden wrap on the final day of the first international event of the season, with the pair winning the women’s C1 as well as the men’s K1 respectively.

Already on Sunday, Daniel Watkins had won the men’s C1, while Fox won the women’s K1. Rio Olympian Ian Borrows added a C1 men bronze to the overall Australian medal tally of four gold and one bronze medal. 
 
Taking home the top spots in the C1 men, Australia also secured the fourth and final Olympic canoe slalom quota spot in the C1 men (pending ICF and AOC confirmation). 

 
On the final day of the event, Australia’s most successful canoe slalom paddler of all time, dual Olympic medallist Jessica Fox, once again showed her class, winning both the women’s C1 semi-final on Monday and backing it up with a win in the final a couple hours later. 

Fox put in a clean run winning in a time of 107.52 seconds and 5.08secs clear of Andorra's Monica Doria Vilarrubla with New Zealand's Luuka Jones third in 114.23.

 
“It was one of those runs that felt like a battle that I fought hard, the boat was running and I pulled off the moves that I was trying to do so I’m really stoked with that run," Fox said.

 

"Yesterday, I had pretty good run as well and was absolutely exhausted, so I was pretty happy to come back today and put down some good runs.” 

Fox, who has already secured her Tokyo 2020 Australian Olympic team spot in both the women’s K1 and C1, relished the chance to cross the Tasman and compete against New Zealand’s top canoe slalom paddler and Rio Olympic silver medallist in the women’s K1, Luuka Jones, who finished third in the C1, but in the K1 was only +0.49 behind Fox. 
 
“Luuka is such a strong paddler, this is her course so I knew I had to put in my best to try and beat her on her home course so it was definitely a tough battle," she said.

"Like any race overseas that we are in we are friends off the water and then on the water everyone is trying to put in their best run and you compare the times in the end. But I’ve definitely had some great moments with Luuka – at the world champs last year and in Rio we shared the podium so it’s always nice to race against Luuka." 

In the men’s events, the Oceania champs signified the start of Olympic selection for Australia’s men’s kayak and canoe paddlers and Rio Olympian Lucien Delfour made the most of his chance on Monday, setting an early mark in the men's K1 and taking home the win in a blistering run and world class time. Delfour blasted the Vector Wero Whitewater Park course apart with a sizzling 85.76sec time.

“It was the first race and it absolutely counts," Delfour said.

"I felt a bit unstable on the top half of the course and for a while I thought I was not going to make it. But in the bottom half I had a much better feeling and had some energy in the tank so I was able to go a bit harder than in the semi-final.

“I was definitely nervous at the start of the race because I felt like I was not quite comfortable enough but I surprised myself in the final. Olympic selection is never easy and I think we will always feel quite stressed and anxious but I try to relax and focus on what I do, what I have to do which is obviously easier said than done."
 

American Michal Smolen finished second and New Zealand’s Finn Butcher third. 

Words by Cora Zillich. Pics by Jamie Troughton/DScribe Media

Canoe Slalom
#CanoeSlalom