Jessica Fox fires in first Tokyo race

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images

Jessica Fox has lived up to her world No.1 ranking, dominating the women's kayak slalom heats to lay down a promising marker at the Tokyo Olympics.

There was never any doubt that Fox, pursuing gold after winning silver in this event at London 2012 then bronze at Rio 2016, would be among the 24 paddlers progressing to Tuesday's K1 semi-final.

But the emphatic fashion in which the Australian topped Sunday's qualification, with a time of 98.46 seconds, will only enhance her status as gold-medal favourite.

Fox trained in her backyard pool when COVID-19 first halted normal life then was forced to rejig plans earlier this year, when flooding damaged the Penrith Whitewater Stadium.

Any doubts about the impact of the suboptimal preparation for these Games were allayed in Sunday's opening run, when she banked a time of 104.05.

Fox was third on the leaderboard when she returned to the course for her second run, which marked Sunday's final race.

The 27-year-old produced a penalty-free run that oozed composure, bettering closest rivals Ricarda Funk and Luuka Jones by 3.1 and 3.26 respectively on the final leaderboard.

Meanwhile, Australian canoeist Daniel Watkins recovered from a disastrous opening run to be one of 15 competitors through to Monday's semi-final.

Watkins' second time of 103.07 was enough for him to finish 10th overall, 6.18 behind Slovak pacesetter Matej Benus.

The Tasmanian incurred multiple penalties in the first C1 heat, admitting his resultant time of 158.43 was "a bit of a shocker".

"I was just so nervous," Watkins said.

"First time at the Games. It has been so long (since competition), you know? Since the last two world champs we haven't really been on the start line.

"The second round I felt so settled, it was all really easy."