Fox urges young athletes to put their hands up for Youth Olympics

Two-time Olympic medallist Jessica Fox believes competing at a Youth Olympic Games can be a life-changing experience for a young athlete, and is urging canoeists from all over the world to take advantage of the opportunity this year in Buenos Aires.

Fox won K1 gold at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, a star-studded affair that also introduced modern-day stars like Germany’s Tom Liebscher, Belgium’s Hermien Peters and Czech Jiri Prskavec to the wider-world – although Fox was the only gold medallist of the group.

The Australian went on to win a K1 silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics and a bronze in Rio in 2016, but still remembers the thrill of competing at her first major multi-sport event like it was yesterday.

“Spending hours on the water, especially on the fun slide ramp trying to figure out the best technique,” Fox recalled this week.

“It was super hot and humid, so it was the best place to be! I also remember the village and my teammates, some of whom went on to compete at London 2012 or Rio 2016 with me and have become some of my best friends.”

This year will see the third edition of the Youth Olympic Games, with athletes born in either 2002 or 2003 eligible to compete in this unique format.

Athletes are required to compete in both the sprint and the slalom, or obstacle, races. The slalom event is also held on flatwater, providing a new experience for regular slalom paddlers.

“While it’s a completely different format to normal slalom, it was such a great learning experience,” Fox said.

“Physically it was demanding to be fit and ready for the head-to-head on the flat water in slalom and also the sprint. But it was also fun and technical to train on and master the ramp - something different!

“What was most valuable was the experience of being in an Olympic environment; the atmosphere of a big multi-sport competition, the village life etc.”

Qualifying for this year’s YOG will be held in Barcelona, Spain, from April 12-15, with every National Federation invited to nominate two athletes per event. The closing date for entries is March 28.

But Federations will not be able to qualify more than one athlete per event for the YOG. There will be a total of 64 athlete places in Buenos Aires up for grabs.

Fox has no hesitation in recommending the YOG experience to all young athletes. She enjoyed her Singapore experience so much, she jumped at the opportunity to be an ambassador at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing.

She is particularly urging athletes from countries where canoeing is still developing to put their hand up.

“I would recommend it because it’s an opportunity like no other to experience the closest thing to an Olympic Games,” she said.

“The village, the people, the volunteers, the multi-sports, the media - it’s a taste of the real deal.  Although it’s quite a different race format, it is an amazing experience and so much fun! 

“I think it is a great idea because not everyone has access to moving water or whitewater, and when these smaller nations come to a world championship on a man-made course it can be super daunting and challenging for them.

“But many of these smaller nations have access to flat water and can prepare for the YOG format more easily.”

And while the Youth Olympic Games can be the launching pad for a long and illustrious canoeing career, its also a tremendous sporting festival.

By all means, Fox said, work as hard as you possibly can to win a medal. But also take some time to smell the roses.

“I don’t think the slalom or sprint races reflect what we train for at world championships, but it’s great to learn from,” she said.

“It’s a different vibe because it’s head to head racing. There’s a lot of outside distractions like the village, the activities, the media, the opening and closing ceremonies, and I think all these contribute to making it a really valuable experience.

“So if you do get the chance to compete at the YOG, soak up the energy and atmosphere. Focus for your races, but really make the most of every activity, event and enjoy it.”

The 2018 Youth Olympic Games will be one of the highlights on a busy 2018 International Canoe Federation calendar, and you can follow all the excitement on our website and Planet Canoe social media channels. 

Singapore Youth Olympic Games action

Canoe Sprint
Canoe Slalom
#icfyog #yog2018