This weekend the Canoe Slalom Australian Open will take place at Penrith Whitewater Stadium with all eyes on the new Olympic discipline, Extreme Slalom.
At the Oceania Championship, the winner of that event was Noemie Fox, but her biggest competition this weekend will be the her sister and the current Extreme Slalom World Champion Jessica Fox.
Leading into this weekend, Noemie is feeling confident.
“More than previous years, I am loving race and loving my training at the moment so I am super excited to get another race under my belt,” Fox said.
“Our course design is really good at the moment and so loving our home course at the moment and feeling super motivated about what’s to come and the 2022 season.
“I am in a position where I have great balance with my work and training at the moment, because I also work full time.”
One of the conversations currently taking a place at a national level, particularly in relation to some of our larger codes, is the journey to professionalisation for our female athletes.
At the moment, many women competing at an elite level are juggling those commitments with full-time work, study or caring responsibilities. Many have pointed out the impact that this can have on high performance, particularly when women are not being given the opportunity to practice their craft full time.
As a participant in a smaller sport, the concept of being full-time professional feels far away for Fox. But she does not see this as problematic, particularly given that she has been balancing elite sport with study for many years.
“I’ve always seen the importance of having the double project and I’m grateful to have found a job where I can keep my double project,” said Fox.
“Coming from a smaller sport, the fact that we have always had to work on the side and make things happen so we can pursue our dream is a benefit.
“Sometimes I would love the choice to be able to stop my work because I am earning enough from my sport, but I think that it’s an adaptation we have come to see as an advantage.”
Currently, Fox is working as a transformation analyst for Accenture.
“They are incredible because I can work before or after training and I am also able to go overseas for four months to compete this year,” said Fox.
“It’s what I want to do, so it’s a good work/life balance for now.”
You can’t talk about Noemie, without mentioning her family. Both her parents competed as canoeists at the Olympics, with her mother Myriam winning a bronze medal for France (and Myriam is currently coaching both Noemie and Jess).
Initially, Noemie and sister Jess had very little say in whether they wanted to do canoe slalom.
“At the start it didn’t feel like I had a choice because it is such a family sport and it is what we all did together,” said Fox.
“On the family holidays there was always a kayak there.”
At the age of 11, Fox didn’t really enjoy kayaking. She has a particular memory of a family trip to Germany where she had a traumatic moment while kayaking and made the decision not to do it anymore.
But despite not feeling like she had a choice then, Fox certainly has a choice now and has made the choice to compete.
“When I went back to the sport and chose to engage properly when I was 13, I saw you could make friends and travel with the sport,” said Fox.
“From then it was a choice to pursue this as a more committed activity.
“I found my own reasons to compete in the sport so I am glad we did all those family activities together.”
And a committed activity that all her family continue to be involved in.
While Noemie admits that there can be challenges in being the sister of a gold medallist, Noemie idolises her sister for the talented competitor she is and the mental fortitude she continues to demonstrate while competing.
It’s also not every day that you can say that your training partner is a gold medallist and Noemie uses this to her advantage.
“Being able to train alongside someone who is an Olympic champion is hard because you are comparing yourself to the greatest of all time, but it is an incredible opportunity and amazing to be Jess’ training partner and learn from her,” said Fox.
“My family are my biggest strength, so whilst it is unusual to have your whole family in one sport, but no one knows me as well as they do and no one else will push me as hard.”