Rugby sevens team shows off Olympic medals

International tourney returns to Langford in May 2017

Kelly Russell shows off her Olympic bronze medal to Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell and Mayor Stew Young. Blackwell was shocked by the weight of the medal.

Langford council chambers were filled with eager fans as the members of Team Canada’s women’s sevens rugby team showed off their bronze medals Monday.

Since finishing third at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, the players and coaches have been spending time in their hometowns recuperating. Their meeting in Langford was one of the first times the team has reassembled since returning to Canada.

But the support the team received this summer didn’t just start in August, Ghislaine Landry noted, it started last spring in Langford while the team was hosting the 2016 HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens tournament, where they finished a disappointing fifth despite going 5-1.

“The community of Langford and the City of Langford, they were just so happy to support us,” she said, recounting how surprised they were to see so many genuine fans cheering them on, even when they came up short.

That support carried right through the Olympics, she said, joking their medals are so heavy they have to rest them on the table to give their necks a break.

Teammate Kayla Moleschi from Williams Lake added, “we brought home a bronze medal for our team and our program, but also for you.”

The team nodded to the support they received from all of Canada’s Olympic athletes, not just rugby players. It was the first time many had experienced something like that and some struggled to find the right words to describe it.

Kelly Russell, one of Canada’s most decorated players, said “I’ve been fortunate to be involved in a number of Rugby Canada’s pinnacle events … we definitely feel the love and support.”

She acknowledged some of the young girls in attendance. “We’re not just inspiring the next female athletes, but the young boys as well and we take that to heart … It was so awesome for us to get the feedback.”

Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and minister responsible for labour, said, “you made summer a lot more exciting … Way to go, girl power.”

Langford Mayor Stew Young thanked the team for their achievement and elaborated on what it will mean for Canadian and local athletes. “You’re going to have more people playing your sport across Canada because of what you’ve done,” he said. Young turned to the team, “You’re trail blazers … What you’ve been able to do with rugby … allowed us to build other facilities.”

Young said a number of years ago council was looking for something to align itself with and help the community grow. While many councils were promoting tourism, Langford decided to look at recreation as a driving force for the community. “We said ‘why don’t we do sports,’” he said. That push didn’t happen overnight, he noted, it was a gradual process over 15 years, with council always looking at creating opportunities for athletes to compete on the world stage in Langford.

“Langford’s always ready,” he added.

Young, on behalf of the City, presented each of the players with their own key to the City.

But the ladies weren’t just there to reflect on their time at the Summer Olympics in Rio.

The HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens tournament will return to Westhills Stadium on May 27 and 28, 2017 and will feature 12 of the world’s best women’s rugby sevens teams, including all three medalists from Rio. This will be the third year the tournament will be hosted in Langford and it will be the fourth stop in a five-stop world tour.

The tournament will be the first opportunity for the team to compete in front of a home crowd since winning Olympic bronze.

Early bird tickets went on sale yesterday and regular ticket sales open on Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. Two-day tournament passes start at $40 and range in price up to $99. For more information go to canada sevens.com.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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