Plaque unveiled to recognise Jessica Fox OAM

Penrith City Mayor Tricia Hitchen unveiled a plaque to Australia’s Canoe Slalom champion Jessica Fox at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium. Photos supplied by Penrith City Council.

AUSTRALIA and the world’s number-one ranked female canoe slalom athlete Jess Fox OAM has been honoured with a plaque celebrating her career, which will be installed at the entrance of the Penrith Whitewater Stadium.

Penrith City Mayor Tricia Hitchen and Jess jointly unveiled the plaque in front of dignitaries, friends and Jess’ parents Richard Fox MBE and Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi, both world renowned paddlers in their own right during their respective racing careers.

“In the year 2000, six-year-old Jessica Fox watched from the stands here – cheering on Australia at the Sydney Olympic Games canoe slalom event,” said Mayor Hitchen. 

“Her parents – both world champion paddlers – had moved their family from France to take up a coaching role with the Australian team for the 2000 Games. Their plan was to stay for two years.  

“23 years later, and still here in Penrith, Jess is the most successful paddler in history and renowned as the greatest individual paddler of all time!   

“Today we honour her outstanding sporting achievements, her contribution to our City as an ambassador for Penrith, her sport, and as an advocate for women in sport. 

“Since 2009, Jess has represented Australia in canoe C1 and kayaking K1 singles.  

“In 2011, she juggled sporting commitments while finishing her Higher School Certificate. She scored an impressive ATAR of 99.1 – and was dux of Blaxland HS. Not long after – Jess competed at the 2012 London Olympic Games and won silver in the women’s K1 event to become the youngest woman to ever medal in canoe slalom at the Olympics. But it was on the 29th  of July, 2021, at the Tokyo Olympics Games, when the entire nation watched on as Jess lined up in the final of the C1 Canoe Slalom.  

“She qualified first for the final, recording a time of 110.59 seconds. 

“An hour later, she would be the last canoeist out on the course. She waited and watched. When Britain’s Mallory Franklin recorded a lightning-fast time of 108.68 seconds, we were all nervous.  

“But when Jess’ turn came, she delivered a technically perfect run and finished 3 seconds clear to grab an historic C1 gold.  

It is regarded as one of Australia’s greatest ever Olympic performances. 

“To date – Jess’ achievements include 38 World Cup gold
medals, 9 World Championship titles, and 4 Olympic medals from three Games. 

“Next year, she will defend her Olympic C1 crown and strive for the K1 gold at the Paris Olympics. 

“And with Kayak Cross, a new head-to-head format, making its debut at the Games, Jess could be chasing an historic three gold medals in France – though she may be up against one of her toughest competitors and training partner – her sister Noemie.   

“In 2025, our community will have the chance to see Jess in action again when Penrith hosts the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships – 25 years on from the Sydney 2000 Olympics.  

“I am proud to say Penrith has played a large role in Jess’ success.   She got her start with the Penrith Valley Canoe Club, who train on the Nepean and has spent many hours on course here at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium. And Penrith is proud of Jess.  

“Last year she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the Australia Day Honours list for her service to sport. 

“She’s been Penrith’s Citizen of the Year and Sportsperson of the Year- and has worked with Council to help market our City, drive library membership and has inspired many as a guest speaker at a variety of functions. 

“Jess continues to take time out of her busy schedule to attend civic events, promote Penrith and her sport. 

“So today, we unveil a plaque in honour of Jess, a permanent reminder of her achievements and dedication to a sport and community that respect and adore her.  

“And – it may just inspire the next Penrith Paddler to reach for excellence.”

Paddle Australia CEO Phil Jones also spoke glowingly of Jess’ success, popularity and significant contribution to the sport of Canoe Slalom, not just on the water but also with her involvement within the community and her participation in administrative roles.

“Jess is a member of the Athlete’s Commissions for the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Paddle Australia (PA),” Mr Jones said.

“It’s a huge honour to see this (plaque) today and to have my name on the wall,” Jess said. “I thank Penrith City Council, the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, Phil Jones and Paddle Australia.

“I was here (Penrith Whitewater Stadium) as a 6-year old in the stands and I’m passionate to call it home.

“This is my playground, workplace, training venue and race venue and is a part of my family’s life story. I look forward to high-fiving the plaque every day on my way to training.

“I look forward to welcoming the world to Penrith in 2025 (World Championships).”