Evania Pelite: ‘Rugby sevens is driving requirements for girls’s recreation in Australia’
Heading to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, Evania Pelite’s recognition changed into no longer solely on returning to Australia with a gold medal packed in her baggage. She and her teammates have been equally rationale on exposing the sport of rugby sevens to the relaxation of the sector and doing their pleasant to encourage a new technology of ladies to select up an oval-formed ball.
Fast forward 3 years, and with the Tokyo Games just one year away, things have changed for the 24-year-old from Brisbane – and the game. After Australia secured that gold medal whilst the game made its debut appearance at the Games in Brazil, sevens are on an upward trajectory, and Pelite can allow herself to concentrate absolutely on winning lower back-to-lower back Olympic titles in Japan.
“We did our activity in Rio in organizing rugby sevens no longer only as a male-dominated sport, however a female sport,” Pelite tells Guardian Australia. “You’ve got young ladies that now apprehend rugby sevens and that there’s a pathway to turning into an Olympic rugby sevens player.
“We got here out with that purpose. Winning the gold medal became outstanding for us, but this yr the stress of getting gained that gold medal – and now having to again it up – has shifted the focus.”
Pelite, who took up the sport simplest after transitioning from touch football at the late age of 17, sees herself as something of a pioneer in a game that has struggled for mainstream publicity, no matter a long and storied records relationship back to its roots in 19th century Scotland. The women’s sport particularly has emerged into the spotlight handiest surprisingly lately, helped largely by its inclusion as an Olympic game for the first time in Rio – and the subsequent feats of Pelite and her teammates.
The guys’ recreation become covered in the Commonwealth Games for the first time in 1998, but girls had to wait to make their debut till last year on the Gold Coast, in which the event proved a huge achievement even supposing it ended in gut-wrenching defeat for Pelite and Australia within the final in opposition to New Zealand.
“Sevens is truly at the up,” Pelite says. “We’ve usually checked out sevens being the front runner for women’s recreation – we were one of the first to become complete-time expert [female] athletes in Australia; we also last year were given pay parity with the guys. I feel sevens is actually using the requirements for girls’ sports activities in Australia at the moment.”
The quantity of athletes Australia dispatches to Tokyo may additionally eclipse the contingent of 482 despatched to Athens in 2004, so far the maximum sent to a distant places Games. And subsequent yr will be Australia’s most gender-balanced Games in Olympic history, with ladies making up 49% of the athletes.
“It’s top-notch for younger women so that you can appearance up and understand that there’s an identical opportunity for them to symbolize Australia in an Olympics and to recognize women are competing for 50% of the medal tally,” Pelite says. “It’s awesome popularity for the difficult paintings the ladies installed.”
Pelite understands her position as a position version to younger human beings throughout Australia and the sector, an honor she does no longer take lightly. “We all recognize being within the limelight you’re going to need to sell it in a nice way,” she says. “There are continually human beings watching you – grown men and women, however also younger girls and boys – that still have aspiration. We can display them that difficult work does repay. Five years ago, I might never have imagined I’d be an Olympian now, so something is possible.”
The girls’ sevens crew is one 3 Australian groups, at the side of artistic swimming and men’s archery, to have secured their area in Tokyo. The next twelve months might be spent preparing for a tilt at a second consecutive Olympic gold medal, and with nine contributors of the squad ultimate from 2016, they have got the enjoy to recognize how to cross approximately it.
But there may be something else spurring them on: the disappointment of that epic Commonwealth very last defeat at Robina Stadium ultimate yr, when Australia lost to New Zealand’s golden-factor attempt deep into more-time. “That became a heartbreaking loss,” Pelite says. But regardless of the heartache, a year on she is able to see the positives from what changed into an excellent ad for the game and girls’ recreation.
“As hard as it becomes to lose that gold medal to New Zealand, it turned into exquisite for us to show off what rugby sevens are. It becomes one of the quality sevens finals you could have asked for,” she says. “As a whole lot as it hurts my coronary heart to lose, we’re nevertheless pioneers for the game and nevertheless must put on a great display for anybody.”