From oldest to youngest, the inside skinny on the top female slalom paddlers at this year’s Olympics.
Spain’s Maialen Chourraut is the only Olympic male and female slalom paddler this year in Tokyo who has ever won an Olympic gold medal before. At 38, she’s also the Games’ oldest slalom paddler, competing at her fourth Olympics, and also has a bronze medal from the 2012 London Games
On Sunday she’ll try to defend the women’s kayak gold medal she won in Rio, but has a tough road. The fifth-ranked paddler in Tokyo, she’s only won just one major race since the Rio Olympics, a world cup back in 2017.
The number one ranked female slalom kayaker on Sunday is Australia’s Jessica Fox, the two-time Olympic medalist who is looking to add a gold to the London silver and Rio bronze already in her collection. The three-time world champion is in form, winning gold at an ICF world cup on the eve of the Olympics.
Fox is also eying the possibility of a golden double, with women’s canoe making its Olympic debut next week. She will also start favorite in C1, where she has been world champion on four occasions.
Having two chances to win a medal is not making her feel any more relaxed.
“I don’t see it as a back-up plan to have two events,” she says. “They are two events that I want to perform in, and that I’m really prepared for. Being number one doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just about the bib number, which is pretty special. To have the bib for both K1 and C1, and to be training in it, is pretty special, it makes it all feel pretty real.”
Funk imploded when she all but had the ticket for Rio locked away, but she has spent the past five years focused on correcting a wrong. In 2017 she won an incredibly four world cup golds, but has never been able to win a world title.
Sunday’s field also includes the youngest paddler in Tokyo, American Evy Leibfarth, who lists Jessica Fox as her hero. The 17-year-old won the junior world title earlier this month and has youthful exuberance on her side.
USA’s young and upcoming paddler, Evy, gives us a 101 in slalomBrazil’s Ana Satila, at her third Olympics, also has unfinished Olympic business. She was just 16 when she made her Games debut in London in 2012, and then four years ago she let the pressure of competing in front of her home crowd in Rio get to her.
Two new countries will also make their debut in the women’s kayak. Taipei’s Chu-Han Chang and Mexico’s Sofia Reinoso are the first paddlers to represent their countries in canoe slalom at an Olympic Games.
The women’s kayak heats will be held on Sunday, with the semi-final and final on Tuesday.