Jessica Fox says she can empathise with American gymnastics great Simone Biles over the pressure she felt before her withdrawal from the all-around Tokyo Olympic final.
With 10 world titles and four Olympic medals, including an emotional gold in the C1 on Thursday, to her name, Australia’s Fox is considered the best female canoe slalom paddler of all time.
And Biles is the same in her field, even wearing an embroidered goat on her competition leotards, standing for Greatest Of All Time.
But the 24-year-old American made a shock exit from the team’s event before pulling out of the all-around, citing mental health concerns.
Biles said it had been a “long Olympic process, a long year. We are just a little bit too stressed out. We should be out here having fun”.
While Biles received an outpouring of support, she did cop some criticism on social media for not putting her team and country first.
Fox told of her own pressure going into the Olympics, where she was a raging favourite to win gold in both the K1 and the new C1 – and the heartbreak at falling short in her first event.
Her preparation was also affected with the whitewater venue in Sydney damaged by flooding, while she was unable to compete overseas for more than a year due to COVID-19.
With the stress taking its toll, she said she vomited before her gold medal run due to nerves, which is something she’d never done before.
With gymnastics always in the Olympic spotlight and Biles the face of the American team, Fox felt for the gymnast superstar.
“I can’t imagine what Simone’s going through,” Fox told AAP.
“It’s very tough to be doing this and I haven’t really been watching the news and been on social media as much as normal.
“I’ve definitely felt that load and that pressure and there was a lot of relief at the finishing line.
“It was very taxing. I had to do a lot of mental work over the past 48 hours.
“It just shows that I have done the work over the last five years to get to this moment so I am just really proud of that.”