Spain’s Maialen Chourraut is a rare athlete among this year’s Tokyo Olympic male and female slalom paddlers – she’s the only competitor who has ever won an Olympic gold medal before.

On Sunday she will begin her quest to defend the women’s kayak gold medal she won in Rio. She’s the oldest paddler in Tokyo, competing at her fourth Olympics, and also has a bronze medal from the 2012 London Games.

But the 38-year-old won just one major race since the Rio Olympics, a world cup back in 2017. She is the fifth-ranked paddler in Tokyo.

The three medallists in Kayak at Rio 2016, Maialen, Luuka, and Jessica, caught up

Number one on Sunday will be worn by Australia’s Jessica Fox, the two-time Olympic medalist who is looking to add a gold to the London silver and Rio bronze already in her collection. The three-time world champion is in form, winning gold at an ICF world cup on the eve of the Olympics.

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Fox has an added incentive. She is eying off the possibility of a golden double, with women’s canoe making its Olympic debut next week. She will also start favourite in C1, where she has been world champion on four occasions.

Having two chances to win a medal is not making her feel any more relaxed.

“I don’t see it as a back-up plan to have two events,” she said this week.

“They are two events that I want to perform in, and that I’m really prepared for.

“(Being number one) doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just about the bib number, which is pretty special. To have the bib for both K1 and C1, and to be training in it, is pretty special, it makes it all feel pretty real.”

There is a quality field who will make life difficult for Fox and Chourraut, headed by reigning ICF world champion Eva Tercelj of Slovenia, and six-time ICF world cup winner Ricarda Funk of Germany.

Funk is on a mission in Tokyo. Having imploded when she all but had the ticket for Rio locked away, she has spent the past five years firmly focussed on correcting a wrong. In 2017 she won an incredibly four world cup golds, but has never been able to win a world title.

See the full list of slalom athletes at Tokyo with bios

Sunday’s field also includes the youngest paddler in Tokyo, American Evy Leibfarth, who lists Jessica Fox as her hero. The 17-year-old won the junior world title earlier this month and has youthful exuberance on her side.

USA's young and up coming paddler, Evy, gives us a 101 in slalom

And Brazil’s Ana Satila, at her third Olympics, also has unfinished Olympic business. She was just 16 when she made her Games debut in London in 2012, and then four years ago she let the pressure of competing in front of her home crowd in Rio get to her.

Brazillian paddler Ana on the challege of competing in both Kayak and Canoe

Two countries will make their debut in the women’s kayak. Taipei’s Chu-Han Chang and Mexico’s Sofia Reinoso are the first paddlers to represent their countries in canoe slalom at an Olympic Games.

The women’s kayak heats will be held on Sunday, with the semi-final and final on Tuesday.

Canoe Slalom