Fox joked after breezing her way through the heats of the women’s kayak at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday that she was glad she was not home watching the coverage of her exploits in the Australian media.

Such is the weight of expectation on Fox at these Games. Australians love a champion, and especially one who comes across as warm and bubbly on the telly. Her face has been plastered on all the television screens and in all the newspapers for months leading up to Tokyo, and that coverage became a frenzy after her performance on Sunday.

With justification. The second run of the two time Olympic medalist was a sight to behold. On a course which the best male canoe paddlers in the world had been describing as tortuous and incredibly taxing, Fox waltzed her way down the rapids, and then put her paddle away as she cruised to the finish line, satisfied with a job well done.

She was almost four seconds faster than the next best paddlers, who were sitting at the finish line exhausted. While the stands at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre where ghostly quiet, back in Australia the noise was deafening.

In London in 2012, at an Olympics where no-one outside the canoeing world had ever heard the name Jessica Fox, the pimply teenager threw caution to the wind and snatched a very unexpected silver medal.

Four years later the situation was very different. Fox was expected to win, and when she finished third she found it hard to hide her disappointment.

Since Rio Fox has stepped up a level. Twice she was crowned the International Canoe Federation’s world champion, and she finished second in 2019. She’s also dominated women’s canoe, but that’s a story for later in the week, when the discipline makes its Olympic debut.

“It’s good that I’m not in Australia watching the broadcast I think,” Fox laughed after her run. Her father, Richard, himself a former Olympian, is part of the commentary team for the Australian host broadcaster, but fortunately is not known for outrageous hyperbole.

“I didn’t quite realise that I had gone into the lead, and with such a good time, so that’s why I stopped paddling because I thought I don’t need to sprint to the finish for this one.”

Those breathing down her neck on Tuesday have quality CV’s of their own. New Zealand’s Luuka Jones, the silver medalist from Rio, is proving herself to be a reliable big-game player. She wasn’t surprised to find Fox so far in front.

The three medallist in Women's Kayak from Rio Olympics

“It was to be expected to be honest,” Jones said.

“I had some mistakes, and we all know the calibre of Jess. I’m just trying to be chilled.”  

Germany’s Ricarda Funk is possibly the biggest threat. Since imploding during qualifying for the Rio Olympics, the 29-year-old has developed into an international powerhouse. In 2017 she won an incredible four world cup golds, and has been dreaming of this day for six years.

“It’s amazing actually, I can’t believe that I am finally on the Olympic start line,” Funk said.

“I think the course is going to be really hard, and all the girls are good, and Jess of course is amazing.”

Spain’s Maialen Chourraut is the defending Olympic champion from Rio. She’s now the oldest competitor in the field, but has also been to four Olympics. And experience counts for a lot on the Olympic stage.

“That pressure has been with me for the past five years, but finally here I am feeling special and very proud of myself.

“I am here after 38 years. I am so proud because this Olympics comes after injury and so many challenges. I have been here with my husband who is my coach, and we have had to leave our young daughter at home. This has been difficult, but I am so happy to be here.”

The women’s kayak semi-final and final will be held on Tuesday.

Canoe Slalom