Jessica Fox competing in the London Olympics.
Jessica Fox competing in the London Olympics. Photo by AP
Text size

Australian kayaker Jessica Fox earned her nickname "The Flying Fox" by winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games.

Fox trumped her mother, Myriam Jerusalmi, who won bronze at the Atlanta Games in 1996, when she won silver in the slalom (K1) final on Thursday.

Born in Marseille, Jessica Fox moved to Australia at the age of five when her father Richard, a former multiple world champion kayaker, was appointed coach of the Australian team before the Sydney Olympics.

“My mum won bronze in Atlanta and now here I am winning silver, it's an amazing thing to share,” Jessica Fox told media after the final. “It’s been an amazing experience and I still can't believe it.”

Myriam Fox, who was a guest of the French team to the 1997 Maccabiah Games, told Haaretz on Sunday: “I think I'm still on the cloud; we all are. I am so proud. She’s only 18, the youngest of the competitors.

Although she said the family was “mostly dreaming” of a medal upon arrival in London, Myriam Fox added: “She’s always been the type of competitor that has surprised us.”

The family has many cousins in Israel, mainly in Netanya and Tel Aviv, Myriam Fox said.

“I would like to take them [my family] to Israel to meet all the family and visit the country.

“She won’t go for sport. When we go to Israel we will go for a visit.”

A keen swimmer and singer who was at the top of her high school last year, Jessica Fox won gold at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 and won the World Junior Championships later that year. She qualified for London as Australia's youngest ever Olympic slalom kayaker.

But her pursuit of an Olympic medal began badly, when she capsized her kayak on day one of the competition. Steadying her nerves she qualified for the semis and then the final.

Avoiding any penalty points in her final round, she was leading the field before Emilie Fer from France beat her to the gold medal by just over half a second. But Fox did beat Czech athlete Stepanka Hilgertova, remarkably the same woman who beat her mother 16 years ago in Atlanta to win gold.

“She’s an amazing competitor,” Jessica Fox said. “She came fourth at her sixth Olympics, that’s amazing.”

With both parents acclaimed world champions and Olympians – her father finished fourth for Britain at the 1992 Games – the victory was a family affair.

“Someone said to my father the other day that at this rate he might be the only person in the family with no Olympic medal,” Jessica Fox was quoted as saying in The Australian newspaper. “My sister [15-year-old Noemi] is still to come, so we'll have to see.”

Fox is the second Australian Jew to win an Olympic medal, after baseballer Gavin Fingleson, who won silver in Athens.