Harpenden's Olympic hero watches daughter win gold

Australia's Jessica Fox during the Women's C1 Canoe Slalom Final

Australia's Jessica Fox during the Women's C1 Canoe Slalom Final at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. - Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/PA Images

Australian star Jess Fox won gold in the C1 canoe slalom on Thursday and brought tears of joy to her Herts-born dad Richard, who himself was one of the world's top canoeists when he represented Great Britain through the 1980s and 1990s.

Richard, who lived in Harpenden in his younger years, attended Roundwood Park Primary School and St Albans Boys Grammar which later became Verulam School. At the age of 11 Richard started to attend his father’s canoe rolling sessions at Cottonmill swimming baths.

In 1998 he moved to Australia to take up a position as the National Head Coach for the Sydney Olympics and played a key role in ensure it that canoeing was kept as an Olympic sport for future Games.

Richard, who was selected to represent Great Britain in the 1992 Olympics, returned to the UK prior to the 2012 Games to visit the Lee Valley Whitewater facility and during his visit, he told the Herts Ad how he discovered a place on the River Lea in Wheathampstead to practise canoeing.

Ex-Olympic slalom canoeist Richard Fox at the White Water Centre, Herts

Ex-Olympic slalom canoeist Richard Fox at the White Water Centre, Herts. - Credit: Archant

He said: “I used to knock on doors of people living near the river to ask if I could leave my kayak with them, because my parents couldn’t take me every morning. There was an old man, who lived right by the river, who said ‘yes’ and I used to mow his lawn and left my kayak in his shed.


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“The river is shallow, narrow and flat but it is where I developed my skills. I used it for two-and-a-half years. No one would have known; it was in a very discreet area, and there was never a big group because I did it before or after school. I was extremely motivated.”

Richard actually commentated on his daughter Jess’s race this week for Australia’s Channel 7 and fought back tears as she raced to finish line

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He managed a ‘wow’ as he wiped away his tears as he described his daughter's performance as "beautiful".

Jess, 27, who had already won a silver and two bronze medals across the 2012, 2016 and now 2020 Games, replied: "I love you too. I can't hear everything but, thank you for all the love, the support, the messages.

"I can't wait to show you this one dad!"

Australia's Jessica Fox bites her gold medal after winning the Women's C1 Canoe Slalom.

Australia's Jessica Fox bites her gold medal after winning the Women's C1 Canoe Slalom. - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/PA Images

Her dad celebrated the victory with a glass of Champagne in the studio, toasting a gold medal that seemed to have slipped through Jessica's fingers when she took bronze in an error-riddled performance during the K1 final on Tuesday. 

"It's unbelievable," Richard told Channel 7 News. “It's the C1 event, the first time in the Games. It's the race she had to win."

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