The world has now witnessed Olympic silver medalist Jessica Fox’s skills in a kayak but those who know her well will tell you it is just one of the driven young woman’s many talents.
Fox, 18, performed like a veteran in the final of the K1 canoe slalom final at Lee Valley White Water Centre last Thursday night, registering a blistering time of 106.51 that was bettered only by France’s Emilie Fer.
The former Blaxland High School student was congratulated by her parents Myriam and Richard as she sat in her kayak at the bottom of the course but there was also an army of supporters back home celebrating the achievement.
Blaxland High music teacher David Leishman said the entire school had been “erupting” as they watched Fox confidently stride the world stage.
“It’s lifted the morale of the whole school . . . One of your own has done something that’s almost an immortal thing to do,” he said. “Not everyone has someone who’s won Olympic medals and she’s done it fresh out of school. What better role model is she for the students?”
Fox had to overcome a first-round capsize and below par semi-final run to claim the silver medal. Having qualified eighth-fastest for the 10-paddler final, she also had to wait as seven competitors had the chance to knock her out of a podium position.
It proved too difficult for most as Fox’s prospects soared with each run.
“It was really stressful to watch, you watch a few and then think at worst I’m fifth, at worst I’m fourth,” said Fox.
“I’m third, oh my God, I’ve won silver. It was a long wait, but I’d rather be waiting than not [in contention].”
While narrowly missing out on the gold for Australia, the national anthem of Fox’s birthplace did ring out as she stood on the podium with the French winner. It capped off a remarkable story for the daughter of a Frenchwoman and Englishman who each won multiple European whitewater titles.
Fox managed to get one back for the family by relegating veteran Stepanka Hilgertova to fourth position — the Czech paddler won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games when Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi took bronze.
Mr Leishman, who taught Fox for five years at Blaxland High, said she had always been a high achiever in a range of fields. Fox was dux of the school in 2011 after acing her Higher School Certificate exams, while Mr Leishman added “outstanding singer” to her list of talents.
“She’s more than just an all-rounder, she excels in every single area of school,” he said.
“She just gets the job done, and she does it with such panache . . . She just possesses this initiative and inner drive to be the best that she can be and I’ve never seen her take the foot off the pedal.”
Mr Leishman said the school could not wait to congratulate Fox when she returned to Australia following the Games.