Blue Mountains paddlers take on world's best in canoe slalom

A record contingent of four Blue Mountains paddlers represented Australia at last week’s Canoe Slalom Junior and U23 World Championships, with former Blaxland High School student and Olympic Games silver medallist Jessica Fox winning double gold.

Lapstone's Alison Borrows during the K1 women's U23 semi-final at the ICF Canoe Slalom Junior/U23 World Championships at Penrith on Sunday. Photo: Geoff Jones

Lapstone's Alison Borrows during the K1 women's U23 semi-final at the ICF Canoe Slalom Junior/U23 World Championships at Penrith on Sunday. Photo: Geoff Jones

Seventeen-year-old St Columba's high school student Lachlan Croft paddles his way into semi-final contention in the junior men's K1 heats at the ICF Canoe Slalom Junior/U23 World Championships held at Penrith Whitewater Stadium last week. Photo: Geoff Jones

Seventeen-year-old St Columba's high school student Lachlan Croft paddles his way into semi-final contention in the junior men's K1 heats at the ICF Canoe Slalom Junior/U23 World Championships held at Penrith Whitewater Stadium last week. Photo: Geoff Jones

The new depth of local talent saw Lapstone resident Alison Borrows — ranked 119 in K1 — make her first U23s final in that canoe slalom discipline to finish in career-best fourth place.

In the C1 (singles canoeing) competition, Borrows began in sizzling form by qualifying first for the semi-final and second for the final, describing that effort as pleasing.

“I was pretty happy with that — I just wanted to put down a solid run with smooth, clean finishes and I was able to do that,” she said.

Borrows was able to maintain that mistake-free form in the final until the 21st gate in the 23-gate course, when she momentarily lost control and capsized. The costly error saw her finish 10th.

St Columba’s High School student Lachlan Croft — the first male Blue Mountains athlete to compete at this level — overcame a shaky start at Penrith Whitewater Stadium by qualifying for the junior men’s singles kayaking (K1) semi-final.

The talented 17-year-old — who only took up the sport seriously four years ago — accrued a 56-second penalty in a mistake-riddled opening heat but showed great resolve to wipe off 54 seconds and only make two errors in his next heat.

Mistakes cost Croft dearly in the semi-final but he did enough to improve one place to finish 32 overall in the field of 52 paddlers — an impressive performance in his international debut.

“In the first heat I was definitely nervous and I made lots of mistakes but in the second run I pulled it together much better,” Croft said.

“I wasn’t as nervous in the semi-final because I’d had a few more runs and I knew the course very well, but it didn’t go to plan.

“Making the semi-final was pretty motivating and I can take a lot from that going into next year’s World Championships in Brazil.

“I love the sport because it is so fast-paced and because no training session, race or tournament is ever the same.”

On Friday crowd favourite Jessica Fox, 19, who now lives in Penrith, made up for the disappointment of missing out on a K1 medal at last year’s U23 world championships by finishing in just 105.37 seconds and making only one error in this year’s final to finish well ahead of China’s Lu Li and Great Britain’s Beth Latham.

Fox described it as “a really sweet victory, revenge perhaps for last year”.

“I knew I just had to focus on my run and not worry about what everyone else was doing.”

That victory became even sweeter two days later when Fox successfully defended her C1 U23 world title ahead of Czech Monika Jancova and Spaniard Nuria Vilarrubla.

She is the first woman to win the K1 and C1 double at U23 level. 

“I think having won the K1 I got some of the nerves out and just felt like I should enjoy myself and make the most of the home championship.”

Fox’s younger sister, Noemie, finished 10th in the junior women’s C1 final and fourth in the junior women’s K1 final.

In the U23 women’s K1 teams event Jessica Fox, Alison Borrows and Western Australian Georgia Rankin earned Australia a bronze medal by finishing just 7.73 seconds behind winners Great Britain.

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