Being a pioneer is not easy, but Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi knows no other way.
The French-born coach has been at the forefront of canoe slalom all her life.
After representing France in K1 in Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, where she won a bronze medal, Fox-Jerusalmi has built a successful coaching career over the last 25 years in her adopted country, Australia.
In addition to helping her daughter Jessica Fox win 12 world titles and four Olympic medals, she was instrumental in developing the women’s canoe slalom Olympic program to achieve gender equality.
“When I started kayaking in France and competing, we only had one event for women and three for men,” Fox told Jeresalmi Olympics.com.
“When I moved to Australia, I realized that women were taking part in (C1) competitions at the national level, even though they were not offered them internationally. So when I started training, I realized yes, why not? Yes, let’s do a C1 canoe competition that was only allowed for guys.
“We started training little girls in this event and supported the women. We advocated for women to be able to race internationally and to train and encourage other countries and other women to advance. Finally, with the Tokyo 2020 agenda where the IOC wanted gender equality, we held this event in Tokyo.”
At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, C1 women’s canoe slalom made its Olympic debut, marking the first time gender parity was used in the sport at the Olympics.
After championing the event and women’s empowerment for so long, it was fitting that her daughter Jessica won the inaugural gold.
This victory made the 28-year-old Fox the best canoe slalom competitor of all time.
In addition to her success in Tokyo, the Australian won twelve world titles, silver in London in 2012 and bronze in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. She also took gold at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
There is no doubt that her mum had a helping hand throughout this success.
The family bond strengthens the relationship between the coach and the athlete
Understandably, Jessica and Myriam share a unique relationship, but the duo have found a rhythm that works well for them both on and off the water.
“She’s a tough coach,” Fox tells Olympics.com, “but she’s passionate and motivated. Sometimes she wakes up in the morning and comes to training as if she wants to get on the water and show you how to do it She is just the most driven and driven person who tries to get the best out of her athletes to push them to their potential and support them in and out of sport.
“For us on the water, he tries to make us give our best and reach the level of excellence that he knows we are capable of, and beyond that, how can he support us in our studies or our professional commitments? “
Coach Myriam also believes that female coaches have a unique opportunity.
“We always say women care a little more, but as a woman I’ve been active in the sport, so I think maybe I understand better and go deeper when it comes to the overall view of an athlete. more about the general aspect, not just about sports. So I am curious, support and try to encourage them. – Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi.
When it comes to training her daughter, she says it was simple, but she was always careful to treat her the same as all the athletes she coaches.
“I think we have a unique relationship. I know when to put on my coach hat and when to put on my mom, especially when she was younger. I told you Jess was my guinea pig. When I started rowing, I trained her and saw that she had an open mind, she picked things up very quickly, and she enjoyed teaching.
“I was the coach of the national team when she came to the national team as a senior and I don’t think she had it easy because I was very worried about what people would think of us. So she was very independent, automatically. observed, she was not a demanding athlete. It wasn’t until she became the leader of the team that I suddenly became really, openly, her coach, and she was basically my top athlete, but she deserved it.
Aside from her family connections, Fox believes her mother’s influence on coaching and canoe slalom around the world has been invaluable.
“I think she really was one of those women who support the all-around athlete. Of course she’s always been passionate about gender equality in our sport and she’s one of the few coaches in the world so she’s always really there like a mentor to other coaches to support women because there aren’t that many on the riverbank and in the gym so really she’s there to help other women get up.” — Jessica Fox on her mother and trainer, Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi
In Fox’s eyes, she couldn’t have asked for a better role model and mentor to guide her.
“I’m incredibly proud of her coaching career, but also of who she is as a woman, the way she has instilled her values, work ethic and passion in me, our family and the way she lives every day.”
“I think she’s a phenomenal person and I’m so proud and grateful for her being my coach and for the experiences we had as a coach and athlete and as mother and daughter.”
Thanks for her commitment to women in sport
To celebrate all that Fox-Jerusalmi has achieved in helping to create new paths for women athletes and coaches, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) presented the 61-year-old with the IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony in Lausanne.
“Receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award was a big surprise, but I feel very honored. I am lucky because I think there are many coaches around the world who also deserve this award,” she said.
“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in my coaching career. This award is the pinnacle of athletic achievement for coaches and I am extremely proud of it.”
She credits herself with paving a unique path in a male-dominated career. Over the past 10 years, only 10% of accredited coaches have been women at the Summer and Winter Games. In Tokyo 2020, that number increased to 13%.
Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi admits how far kayaking slalom has come since she started the sport, but she wants more to follow in her footsteps.
“It’s unique because maybe now it shows that it’s possible and there’s recognition for the job of coaching because there aren’t enough female coaches around the world.” – Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi.
He believes that seeing is believing.
“The more people we have at the top of the organization, the more women will understand and maybe give women more opportunities. I’m not saying men can’t, but I’m saying the more women we have, the more women think they can do these jobs and that it’s okay to be a coach, and it’s okay because the door is open for them to be a coach “.
She is also keen to highlight the positive work that has been done down there.
“As a coach, I am passionate about our sport and want to help our athletes reach their potential,” says Fox. “This award is unique because it recognizes my contribution to the sport at a high level as a coach for so many years, but also puts kayaking and Australia in the international Olympic spotlight.”
Her daughter and excellent student, Jess, says: “Myriam is one of the few trainers to train canoe slalom in Australia and around the world. people before athletes.
She credits her mother’s influence on the sport with helping her become an Olympic champion in an event not previously open to women.
“That’s one of the reasons Tokyo was so special,” says Fox. “Winning the first ever Olympic gold medal in women’s canoeing was an amazing moment to share together. I was lucky to have her as a coach, her passion and vision for the sport is inspiring and you can’t slow her down! As one of her players (and also as her daughter!) I am very proud that she received this award and was recognized in this way.”
Positive impact and positive change – the WISH program
In an attempt to build pathways and increase the chances of women in coaching roles, the IOC created Women’s High Performance Track in Sport (WISH).
The initiative was created to help female coaches who have already demonstrated their potential and desire to achieve the highest level in their sport in key coaching roles.
The WISH program is supported by Olympic Solidarity, which is investing USD 1 million. More than 100 female coaches will gain valuable resources to aid in a successful career as an elite sports coach.
Fox-Jerusalimi’s advice is clear: believe and act.
“WISH Program participants and even women who want to be coached and cannot be in this program, follow your dreams and be persistent in what you want to do. Try to educate and gain experience to be able to achieve your goal.
“If your goal is to be an Olympic coach, you have to prove that you can be an Olympic coach. I would say man or woman, you have to start and show that you are motivated, dedicated and doing what needs to be done to become an Olympic coach.”