A letter to my canoe’s kidnapper
The question is why? Why steal my canoe?
I don’t know if it was taken because they knew it was mine, or if they took it just for fun. But it’s not just any canoe.
What makes it different is it’s an elite athlete’s canoe. It’s got my name on it and my stickers, it’s made of carbon fibre and it costs about five thousand dollars. You can’t just pick one up from a local sport shop, they are hand-made and take a couple of weeks to build, and this particular one is manufactured in Slovakia.
The brand is Vajda. I pick them up every year in Europe and use them for a season, maybe two, then either bring them back to Australia or sell them to another club or athlete.
The reason this canoe was so special to me was I’d been in Europe and ordered a new canoe and, when it arrived, it wasn’t what I expected. They’re very specific. Even one millimetre more or less in size at the back or at the front can make a difference with how it feels on the water, and this one felt more unstable and harder to turn, which means something was off.
So I was looking forward to getting home to jump into my canoe, and feeling great again! And then I heard it was stolen. It was my sister Noemie who first realised. It was taken from our training centre.
Noemie went to get it and noticed it was gone, which, as you can imagine left her upset and frustrated and stressed because we were all overseas and she had to deal with it by herself. She sounded the alarm and I posted it on social media and it went semi-viral. I was really amazed by everyone’s response and the support to try and find it, it was super lovely.
‼️❌STOLEN CANOE ❌‼️ Friends! I need your help. I am currently in Spain but my Canoe has been stolen from the Penrith whitewater stadium. I am coming home early May and really need it to train as I don’t have another. These are very hard to get in Australia as they come from Europe and it is very specific – made for me for competition! So the person who has taken it will not be able to use it, and won’t be able to sell it as it is specifically used for slalom. It is silver checkered carbon with Vajda stickers on the front and Toyota branding and J FOX on the side. PLEASE SHARE if you’re in the Penrith / blue mountains / Sydney area. Thank you thank you thank you ?? If spotted or found please contact Sara.firstname.lastname@example.org 0449 110 369 @auscanoe #findjessfoxscanoe Tag your friends or anyone you think might be able to help in the Syd region. Thank you so much ! @ausolympicteam @australian_institute_of_sport @nswinstituteofsport @destination_nsw @penrithcitycouncil @penrithpress @nepean_news @bluemountainsaustralia @rowingnsw @channel7 @7olympics @7newssyd @channel9 @9news @sportnsw @penrithpanthers_ @rebelsport @redbullau @toyota_aus @southlands_sc @horizonlinecanoes
This all happened two weeks ago. I finished my training camp in France and Spain and had to come up with a plan B since I didn’t have another canoe in Australia to use on my return.
I decided to bring the one I was using in Europe home with me, convinced the airlines to accept it, and waited patiently at the airport for my oversize luggage… which didn’t turn up for over 5 days! It was a hilarious situation (in hindsight!) where I’d managed to lose two canoes!
And then, mysteriously, the stolen canoe turned up this week. It was found by our team manager who turned up to work on Friday and saw the canoe out the front of the office. We don’t really know anything else. All that was gone were the stickers, no damage (thankfully!).
I really didn’t expect to see it again. I thought it would get dumped somewhere and it would be found in three years, battered and bruised, or something like that. So I don’t know what happened or who brought it back, but I’m very grateful.
If only the canoe could talk… it might have a few stories to tell about its kidnapping! Time to stick some fresh stickers on, get back to training and move on!
LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER
I’m not sure how much of an effect I’ve had personally, but it’s great to see people getting into canoe slalom. Back in 2012 when I won silver at the London Olympics, a few people might have had an idea what the sport was. Since then, the Australian team has had some good success at both the Rio Olympics, where I won bronze, and also at world championships, world cup events and junior events.
So I think more people definitely know what canoeing is. Less people call it rowing so that’s a big win!
In terms of participation, it’s an amazing feeling and I’m always really humbled to meet kids who say, ‘I want to do canoeing when I’m old enough to go on the rapids’. Kids want to have a go and that’s the best part.
Paddle NSW and Paddle Australia have really tried to boost the grassroots. At the last Come and Try Kayaking Day we helped out at in February, we had so many kids. And now many of those faces have started the program and are coming weekly.
I hope that, from this, we see the next generation of canoeing champions in Penrith, that enjoy this amazing facility we have!
More people definitely know what canoeing is. Less people call it rowing so that’s a big win!
One young paddler who is getting better every day is my sister Noemie. She and I won silver together as part of the C1 women teams event at the world championships last year. She also won a bronze medal in the C1 event at a World Cup in Spain. She has improved so much and is definitely on the rise.
This year, Noemie has again made the Australian team to compete at the World Championships for the C1. I’m really proud of her – the way she is so driven on the water and applying herself in her studies, she inspires me every day. She’s also my training partner, and it’s good to have her biting at my heels and pushing me.
She hasn’t managed to beat me yet in a big competition but you never know! The most important thing to me is that we have a great relationship as sisters, and leave the fights for the water!
MY MOTHER, MY COACH
Another family member who plays a huge part in my career is my mum Myriam, who is also our coach. We’ve got a great relationship. I keep telling Mum she’s lucky because I haven’t had my rebellious teenage stage yet and it looks like I’m in the clear now!
Mum, who was also a World Champion in canoe slalom, had me in ’94, and then went back to the sport and won bronze at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. At the time, not many elite sportswomen had kids and then came back to sport at the top of their game.
I was born in France and, when we came to Australia, Dad was Head Coach for the Australian team ahead of the Sydney Olympics, and Mum followed on becoming the women’s coach. I grew up on the riverbank. We were always there Saturday mornings, playing in the sandpit or jumping on the blow-up rafts, while she was coaching. Even though we weren’t consciously taking it in, we grew up in an environment where you learn what determination and commitment and hard work is – all the qualities you need to be a high-performance athlete.
When we eventually took up the sport, got competitive and integrated into her squad, we understood what was expected of us. I’ve done swimming and athletics, and I had tough coaches in swimming who would never tolerate backchat or speaking rudely or disrespectfully, so even though she is Mum (and kids are known to backchat!), she was always a coach to be respected.
At training, it’s very much coach/athlete, then at home, Mum is here but the coach is also there lingering in the shadows and we’ll end up doing video review at home if we didn’t have time at training – or we’ll discuss upcoming competitions and so on.
Mum is Mediterranean, so I’m going to say she’s fiery and passionate and very driven. I’m very driven too, but I’m a bit more relaxed and chilled. It’s a two-way street with Mum and I. But at the end of the day if she says, ‘Let’s do this’, I do it because I know it’s good for me and I value and trust her expertise and opinion.
My sister and my mum also have a good relationship, although she is very much like Mum so they tend to clash a bit more, I think. I’m more easy-going and I don’t waste my energy on little things.
YOU CAN’T CUDDLE A CANOE
In my sport there are the K1 events for kayaks and the C1 events for canoes. They’ve never had women’s C1 at the Olympics but it’s been included for Tokyo, which I’m pretty excited about.
I’ve competed in both events since 2009 but if I had to say which is my stronger event, I would probably say the C1. I think I have a really good capability in the C1 to lift when it really matters, and I proved that last year at a World Cup where I stepped it up and won in the final by 10 seconds.
I think in the K1 as well I tend to take more risks. When I won the world championships last year, I took a lot of risks which paid off. In the C1, I’m a lot more controlled.
I grew up on the riverbank. Even though we weren’t consciously taking it in, we grew up in an environment where you learn what determination and commitment and hard work is.
My boyfriend Mathieu is French and is also a paddler. I’ve learned a lot from him and owe quite a lot of my skills and aggressive style to him. Mathieu is quite a radical paddler in terms of the risks he takes, so training with him means I push myself to try and emulate that a bit. I know some people wouldn’t be able to train with their partners, but it’s been good, it’s fun.
Both being athletes, it means we understand what the other is going through, the highs and lows, the choices and work that goes in to make our sporting dreams come true. It’s nice to be able to share that with someone – and not have to explain why you can’t go out and want to go to bed at 9pm. Ha!
I speak French and Mathieu’s English is very good, but we mainly speak French (sometimes Frenglish) and we’re lucky that I can travel over to France for training camps and he comes to Australia in the winter time for his block of training, like a lot of athletes do.
So we’re never apart for more than a month or two, and when I’m at home, I’ve got uni and speaking engagements, sponsor commitments and other appearances and events on top of training. The distance is easier when you’re busy and doing a lot of things with people who support you.
I love travelling, but one of the most annoying things I’ve always found tough about travelling so much is that I can’t have a pet.
I love all animals and you could say I’m dog-obsessed (if you don’t follow me on Instagram you’re missing out on a weekly dog selfie). We were never able to have any pets as kids because we travelled so much. When you travel six months of the year, you can’t really expect friends or neighbours to look after a pet for that amount of time. You know what I’ll do the day I retire!
Anyway, at least I’ve got my canoe back, so relieved and happy! I wouldn’t quite say I love my canoe as much as I’d love a pet – It’s not like you can snuggle up to a canoe and watch TV with it!
It’s more like losing your favourite toy when you’re a child – you can play with a different one but it’s not the same.
But it’s great to put this behind us, and to be back in training before we head off for the 2018 world championships on the Olympic course in Rio.