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Jessica Fox has won 2 world championships and an Olympic medal. She's 20-years-old.

To say we’re impressed would be an understatement.

While most 20-somethings consider stumbling hungover into a 9.00am lecture an achievement, Jessica Fox has her sights set far higher. Born in France, Fox moved to Australia with her parents when she was four-years-old and since then has become the youngest woman to win an Olympic medal in canoe slalom and the only woman to win two senior world championships in two classes.

By the time she was 13, Fox was beating competitors who were five years her senior. She became a five-time Junior World Champion and then went on to the Olympics.

Jessica Fox performs in rapids in Glenbrook Gorge in Sydney. Photo credit: Brett Hemmings / Red Bull Content Pool

Earlier this year Fox became the first woman ever to win the junior world championships in two classes (K1, C1), the u23 world championship in two classes and the first woman to win senior world championships in both. She’s an Olympic silver medallist too but she’s a woman you probably know very little about.

I was lucky enough to chat to the young canoeist and found out how she got in to such an exciting sport, what it feels like to be a world champion at a young age and whether she ever gets scared while she’s in the water.

Want more related: Happy news for Aussie Olympic legend.

How did you get in to Canoe Slalam?

JF: Both my parents used to do it. My mum for France and my dad for Great Britain. I grew up around the sport. Mum was competing straight after she had me for 2-3 years. So I was by the river bank and got into it that way during that part of my life – early on.

When I was 11 I broke my arm doing gymnastics. I’d been into a lot of sports growing up. I was told to do kayaking for some rehabilitation. I made a really good friend at the white water centre – who is still my best friend today – and that’s how I started off.

What do you love about the sport?

JF: It’s exciting and varied. Every time I’m training I’m trying something different. The courses are always different, varied and new.

I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to amazing places around the world. And it’s a cool way to discover the world – on the beautiful rivers and they’re all so different.

Olympic Kayaker Jessica Fox trains at Penrith Whitewater Stadium. Image credit: Mark Watson/Red Bull Content Pool

How does it feel to be a world champion at such a young age?

JF: It’s pretty special. It’s something I was dreaming of when I started – when I was 14 and 15. When you’re younger you think, ‘that’d be cool to compete at the senior world championships.’ But I didn’t expect to win both senior world titles in one year – that’s never been done before. It’s a very awesome feeling.

Here’s more: She was told she would never walk properly again. Now she’s a World Champion.

Do you ever get scared when you’re in the water?

JF: Not so much. The rivers we race in are generally really safe because you know what’s under the water. There’s no hidden logs or rocks that you’re not expecting to be there. When I’m doing river running you go and you run a river for an hour or two and you’ve never seen it before and that’s when it gets exciting and scary because you don’t know what’s coming up next.

What’s the worst accident you’ve ever had?

JF: I haven’t had any really bad ones. But I do know people who have. For me the only injuries I’ve had are head and shoulders, like a lot of athletes.

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I know friends who have passed away on the rapids though. The white water rapid stuff, the big water, the waterfalls that’s where the bad injuries happen. We know there’s always that danger, but it’s hard to think that it could happen to you or someone you know. But it does.

Jessica Fox preparing for training. Photo credit: Mark Watson/Red Bull Content Pool

Where does your inspiration come from? 

JF: I’ve always been inspired by other athletes in the sport. Tony Estanguet from France was a multiple time world champion. He won a gold medal three times and is the most successful in the sport so I get inspiration from him. My parents are big inspirations too. I also look up to other athletes like Anna Meares and what she’s had to overcome and I’m inspired by their hard work ethic and resilience.

What would be your advice to others trying to get in to the sport, and to be an elite athlete?

JF: Go for it. Not to be afraid. To aim high. It’s easy to say I want to get to the Olympics but you’ve got to actually get up and work for it. Be creative in the way you train, be creative in the resources you use. Really try and get inspiration from other athletes, coaches, from reading and watching.

More world champions: Inspiring – meet the world champion cyclist living with MS.

What was the one piece of advice you got that really pushed you to attempt (and conquer) being number 1?

JF: My mum’s my coach and she always pushed me hard – she knows me best so knows if I’m slacking off and she’s the first to pull me back in line. Before every race she always says, “Keep it simple.” Meaning do what you know how to do, what feels natural for you. When you’re racing keep it simple because it’s just you on the water doing what you love. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing.

After winning my first championship and realising I had potential and hearing that from other coaches – that spurred me to train harder to reach the top.

And in other sporting news this week…

18-year-old golf champion, Minjee-Lee is now only three spots below her idol Karrie Webb in the Rolex Rankings after winning her maiden LPGA Tour event on Monday in Virginia. The young Western Australian moved from 59 to 19 in her ranking and now has the Olympics in her sights. Australia’s two top women will be contenders for the Rio 2016 team and it’s looking like Lee may be one of them. We’re proud of what she’s done so far and look forward to watching her continual progression.

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) is currently failing to meet the women-to-men ratio on its boards that it has set as a mandated target for other national sports bodies. It’s part of the gender equality plan – the ASC is asking for 40 per cent of sports board director positions to be filled by women. However out of the seven voting directors on their own board only one is a woman – Alisa Camplin. What’s even more devastating is that her term is set to expire next month. 

Kimberley Wells, a cyclist from Canberra has received the Amy Gillett cycling scholarship this year. The award will give her an opportunity to live in Europe while training and competing with the Australian development team. Wells will also be an ambassador for the Amy Gillett Foundation. She will do work to assist in raising bike rider safety awareness. This is a huge achievement and we wish Wells the best of luck.

What sport have you been playing or watching this week?

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