Jess Fox reveals family heartbreak after qualifying for Olympics alongside sister Noemie

Jessica and Noemie Fox will both compete at the upcoming Olympic Games.

Australia's star slalom-canoeist Jessica Fox last week watched her younger sister Noemie become the latest member of the Fox family to qualify for the Olympics. But later that evening the family was dealt the devastating news that their grandfather Roger Fox had passed away.

An iconic figure in British and world paddling, Roger watched his granddaughters at last year's world championships in England and had booked tickets for the kayak cross in Paris in the hope Noemie might feature alongside big sister Jessica in the event. Three years younger, Noemie has long been a world-class paddler but until the addition of the new kayak-cross event, Australia's sole women's slalom selection spot at recent Games had gone to Jessica - a four-time Olympic medallist who won canoe (C1) gold in Tokyo three years ago.

Pictured Jess Fox left and right with her sister Noemi
Last week Jess Fox watched her sister Noemie become the latest member of the Fox family to qualify for the Olympics, but later that evening had to deal with the death of grandfather Roger Fox. Image: Getty/Instagram

Just hours after the pair both booked their spots in Paris, the news came that Roger had passed away. And Jessica says while the family is obviously devastated they are glad that he was able to hang on to watch Noemi make the team as they know he would have been beaming with pride knowing she had achieved her dream.

"We've had emotional highs and lows in the last two weeks," Jessica said. "My grandpa was one of our biggest fans - he was always following us closely, watching live results or at the events.

"What was really beautiful was that he knew that Noemi had qualified before he passed away, so it gave us some joy and some peace knowing that he knew. He would have been so proud and so happy knowing she had achieved that dream. It's devastating knowing he won't be there in Paris but he'll have front-row seats and he'll be with us, cheering us on from up there."

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - JUNE 7: Jessica Fox of Australia competes in the Womens Kayak Final during the 2024 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup on June 7, 2024 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Sam Mellish/Getty Images)
Jessica Fox is preparing for her fourth Olympic Games.

Jessica revealed she was so nervous about Noemie's attempt to qualify for the 2024 Games that her heart rate reached 185 beats per minute - the same as when she races. But after learning Noemie had done enough to book her place in Paris, the 30-year-old Olympic gold medalist said it was up there with the happiest moments of her life.

"It was probably up there with winning the Olympics for me, it was one of the best days of my life," Jessica said. "It was so challenging as there were only three quota spots available and in the kayak-cross, a lot can happen, a lot can go wrong.

"I've never been so nervous ... my heart rate when she was racing was 185 which is nuts. In the final, when she came out of the last upstream gate I was just screaming, I lost my voice afterwards and cried because she had done it. It was just so much emotion and joy and love and happiness for her achieving that dream."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: Jessica Fox poses during the Australian 2024 Paris Olympic Games Canoe Slalom Squad Announcement & Training Session at Penrith Whitewater Stadium on February 13, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Jessica Fox is favoured to take home gold again in Paris.

The pair's mother, Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi, competed in two Olympics for France, claiming K1 bronze in Atlanta in 1996, and now coaches her daughters. While father Richard was a national coach in Australia, and at the Tokyo Games commentated Jessica's gold medal-winning run.

Jessica said having the entire family involved in Paris is extra special. "At the Games all together is a dream come true," she said.

"Being able to do that with my sister, who has been a training partner, a competitor, best friend - but also she's been on the sidelines. She's been watching the Games, she's worked at the Games, she's been a volunteer, a spectator, she's done everything else except be the athlete.

"To be able to share that together is going to be incredible. It's really beautiful to be able to celebrate that as a family."

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Jessica won an unprecedented three gold medals at the most recent World Cup event in Poland, the perfect lead in for what is her fourth Olympic Games. And after the rollercoaster of emotions in recent weeks, the 30-year-old says she is prepared for whatever Paris throws at her.

"In Krakow (for the World Cup) I felt emotionally drained - it was a really massive weekend of joy and love for Noemi qualifying, and then there was also the devastation of losing our grandpa and the emotions around that," she said.

"(It was) a really good exercise in learning how to manage that and stay focused and be able to compartmentalise and get the job done, regardless of how I was feeling on the day. You've got to learn to dig deep, find that inner strength and manage those emotions."

with AAP