Normal service has been suspended at this Olympics, but it resumed in the women’s canoe slalom final.
You could’ve called that it would come down to Britain’s Mallory Franklin in the winner’s tent and last down the course, Australia’s Jess Fox going all out to deny her gold.
Fox in first and Franklin second is a familiar refrain – it was the order in both canoe and kayak disciplines at the 2018 World Championships and four World Cup races since 2017.
What was the Brit thinking when she watched her rival come down the course?
“I was thinking – it’s Jess,” said the 27-year-old. “I’ve come second to her many times; I’m pretty used to it. You’ve got to understand she’s likely to be able to do some amazing paddling.
“I knew when she started to build a run and she was starting to take little chunks out, she was always going to put it together. She’s a phenomenal paddler.”
Fox, who won kayak silver at London 2012 and bronze at Rio 2016, was shattered when two-time penalties consigned her to third in Tuesday’s K1.
Her mother Myriam won Olympic bronze in Atlanta for France and her father Richard paddled for Great Britain in Barcelona and commentates on the sport for Australia’s Channel 7. No pressure then.
Fox put down the run of her life, a faultless display of aggression and control, to take gold with 105.04, with Franklin 3.64 in silver. The Ascot star’s run would have won most major finals.
Franklin put down two perfect runs in the heats and that brought a bevy of gold-hunting British journalists down to the Kasai course, the setting for one of the toughest in Olympic history.
She spoke before the Games of a “big wobble” days before travelling to Japan and overthinking is a Franklin trait, making the uncertainty and upheaval of a Covid Games a conundrum.
“The other day, I called a meeting with all the people out here supporting,” she said. “I asked them what they thought my strengths were and it was a little celebration of who I am and what I’ve come from.
“It was really cool sitting listening to them all and they said that I was okay now just being and going canoeing. Being in the gym and not needing to fight. It’s allowed me to be more level as a person and not experience the dramatic highs and lows.”
In a notoriously unpredictable sport, Team GB have now won seven silvers and five gold medals in six Games.
Only in 1996 did they fail to produce a podium finish since the sport was reintroduced in Barcelona. Having a British flag on the side of your boat must be worth a few seconds in any final.
“We’ve got a really good team, and we all feed off each other,” said Franklin.
“It’s a sport that inspires people to have personalities and have a life alongside being an athlete.”
Franklin will now be whisked off onto the Olympic medallist merry-go-round of breakfast TV and panel shows.
“If they want an awkward person that can’t answer questions and is in her shell half the time, then yeah, sure,” she laughed, and clarified: “I’m not joking, that will be what happens.”
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