The confirmation earlier this year that women’s C1 slalom will be added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics program has seen a flood of athletes move across to the new discipline, but on Saturday they were served a reminder how far they have to go to unseat the undisputed Queen of the water.

Jessica Fox put more than ten seconds between her and the next best paddler in Saturday’s C1 final. It was her third World Cup title in a row, and she is at unbackable odds to win a fourth consecutive C1 World Championship title in Pau later this month.

But don’t expect by 2020 Fox will be so far ahead. Great Britain’s Mallory Franklin and Kimberley Woods, both missing from Ivrea this weekend, are snapping at her heels. So too are the Austrian pair of Viktoria Wolffhardt, second in Ivrea, and Nadine Weratschnig.

And newcomers to the sport like Brazil’s Ana Satila and New Zealand’s Luuka Jones are making giant steps in a discipline they have only just adopted.

It needs to be remembered, Fox has been paddling C1 since almost the day she could walk. It’s a pretty decent headstart on the rest of the field.

Fox has finished off the C1 podium twice this year, both times because she missed a gate and incurred a 50-second penalty. It’s a competitive streak which can sometimes bring her unstuck, cutting corners and taking risks to post times which leave opponents and fans alike gasping.

One of the 50-second penalties came in her final appearance at the ICF U23 World Championships in Bratislava, denying her a fourth consecutive C1 title in under-age competition.

But she’s moved on, and is determined to taste glory in Pau.

“I’m happy with my form, but it comes down to the one race in September/October in Pau,” she said.

“I’ve done a lot of races, I’ve been away for five months and now we’re getting to the tricky end of the season.

“It’s what we are training for, it’s what is going to count. In 22 days we have the World Championships, and every race I race is going towards that.

“I try and learn a little bit from that.”

Fox was below her best in Saturday’s C1 semi-final, only managing to qualify fifth fastest after picking up three penalties.

But she had no trouble putting that run behind her in the final.

“I gave it everything,” Fox said.

“I’m really thrilled with that run. I love this course, I have great memories in Ivrea, and to win again here is fantastic.

“You can never be comfortable. I found that in my semi I felt very uncomfortable at the top section, I had three penalties there.”

And there is a growing line of C1 athletes that are determined to be work extra hard to make sure Fox feels less comfortable every year between now and Tokyo. 

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