<< Back to In the News

Canadian women’s rugby: Support the key to success

Posted on October 24, 2016

Bronze-medallist Olympian Bianca Farella labelled it the Canadian women’s sevens rugby team’s “Tour de Vic.”

The national squad conducted a swing through the region Monday to thank all those places and venues that over the past four years helped the team rise to the podium at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, making stops at Langford City Hall, Bear Mountain Resort and the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence on the Camosun College Interurban campus.

The players are more used to the training turf of Westhills Stadium, but they took over the Langford council members’ chairs Monday in chambers before being presented with keys to the city by Mayor Stew Young. Also on hand was B.C. cabinet minister Shirley Bond, who said she watched the rugby players perform in Rio on a small TV in an RV while camping with her family in Penticton and that the Canadian team “made summer a lot more exciting in Canada.”

Somebody in the gallery quipped that Mayor Young and bronze-medallist Olympian Charity Williams have something in common in that both attended Belmont Secondary.

“And not the new [Belmont] building, either, I missed out,” smiled Williams.

Williams, from Toronto, and Hannah Darling, from Warsaw, Ont., are now 20 but were the youngest members of the Canadian team, and both still in high school, when they relocated to the Island to be with the centralized national program. While Williams finished school at Belmont, Darling graduated from Shawnigan Lake School. Both return to the Island full circle with Olympic medals hanging from their necks.

“I was only 16 and it was crazy and hectic at first, but Victoria welcomed me in,” said Williams.

She then looked down at her Olympic medal and said: “Did this really happen? Did we do something so amazing?”

Yes, you did.

“It was incredible and scary to be leaving my family at 16 and going to a place where you can’t get any further in Canada,” said Darling. “But Shawnigan Lake and the national rugby team family in Victoria was so accepting and welcoming.”

Darling said she doesn’t mind that her Olympic medal has a few scruff marks on it since Rio. She loves passing it around and sharing it in many hands: “I’m not upset if it gets banged up. The medal is not just for me. It’s for everybody else and all Canadians to feel connected to the Olympics.”

And now the great wheel keeps churning into a new quadrennial. The long road to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will go through the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, and 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. It all begins anew with the first tournament of the 2016-17 Women’s Rugby Sevens World Series on Dec. 1-2 in Dubai.

For the third consecutive year, the Canadian stop on the Tour will take place at Westhills Stadium with the 2017 HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens tournament May 27-28. It will be the fifth of six stops on the Tour and will feature all the podium teams from the Rio Olympics — gold-medallist Australia, silver-medallist New Zealand and host and bronze-medallist Canada.

The national team used Monday’s thank-you tour to kick off ticket sales. Early-bird tickets can be registered for and go on sale at 10 a.m. this morning. General sales begin at 10 a.m. on Nov. 1 at canadasevens.com/women’s. General admission is $40 and includes all games over two days.

The players said they got “goose bumps” charging out of the chute to a home-nation crowd the past two years at Westhills Stadium. Now as Olympic medallists, that run out will be even more emotionally charged in May.

“Sport brings people together,” said Farella. “This Olympic medal was not for ourselves, but for Canada.”

Story by: Cleeve Dheenshaw