Evania Pelite: ‘Rugby sevens is driving standards for girls’s game in Australia’
Heading to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, Evania Pelite’s consciousness was no longer totally on returning to Australia with a gold medal packed in her luggage. She and her teammates have been similarly intent on exposing the sport of rugby sevens to the relaxation of the arena and doing their fine to inspire a new era of girls to pick up an oval-formed ball.
Fast forward 3 years, and with the Tokyo Games just 12 months away, matters have modified for the 24-yr-vintage from Brisbane – and the sport. After Australia secured that gold medal when the game made its debut appearance on the Games in Brazil, sevens is on an upward trajectory, and Pelite can permit herself to concentrate completely on triumphing again-to-back Olympic titles in Japan.
“We did our job in Rio in setting up rugby sevens not best as a male-dominated game, but a female game,” Pelite tells Guardian Australia. “You’ve got younger girls that now apprehend rugby sevens and that there’s a pathway to turning into an Olympic rugby sevens participant.
“We got here out with that intention. Winning the gold medal was amazing for us, however this year the pressure of getting received that gold medal – and now having to return it up – has shifted the focus.”
Pelite, who took up the game simplest after transitioning from contact football at the past due to the age of 17, sees herself as some thing of a pioneer in a sport that has struggled for mainstream publicity, in spite of extended and storied records dating lower back to its roots in nineteenth-century Scotland. The ladies’ sport especially has emerged into the spotlight simplest surprisingly currently, helped in large part with the aid of its inclusion as an Olympic sport for the primary time in Rio – and the subsequent feats of Pelite and her teammates.
The men’s recreation changed into included within the Commonwealth Games for the primary time in 1998, however women had to wait to make their debut till last year at the Gold Coast, in which the event proved a big achievement despite the fact that it led to gut-wrenching defeat for Pelite and Australia within the very last in opposition to New Zealand.
“Sevens is without a doubt on the up,” Pelite says. “We’ve continually looked at sevens being the front runner for women’s sport – we had been one of the first to emerge as full-time professional [female] athletes in Australia; we also last year got pay parity with the guys. I experience sevens is honestly riding the requirements for girls’ sports in Australia in the meanwhile.”
The variety of athletes Australia dispatches to Tokyo may eclipse the contingent of 482 sent to Athens in 2004, to date the maximum despatched to a remote places Games. And next year may be Australia’s most gender-balanced Games in Olympic history, with girls making up forty-nine % of the athletes.
“It’s awesome for younger girls for you to appearance up and understand that there’s an identical opportunity for them to symbolize Australia in an Olympics and to recognize ladies are competing for fifty% of the medal tally,” Pelite says. “It’s an amazing reputation for the tough paintings the women installed.”
Pelite is familiar with her function as a function version to younger human beings across Australia and the sector, an honor she does now not take gently. “We all recognize being within the limelight you’re going to need to sell it in a positive manner,” she says. “There are continually humans looking you – grown women and men, however also younger girls and boys – that also have aspiration. We can show them that difficult paintings do pay off. Five years ago, I could by no means have imagined I’d be an Olympian now, so anything is viable.”
The girls’ sevens team is one 3 Australian teams, along with side inventive swimming and guys’ archery, to have secured their area in Tokyo. The subsequent 365 days might be spent preparing for a tilt at a second consecutive Olympic gold medal, and with nine individuals of the squad remaining from 2016, they have the revel in to realize a way to cross approximately it.
But there is some thing else spurring them on the frustration of that epic Commonwealth very last defeat at Robina Stadium closing yr when Australia misplaced to New Zealand’s golden-factor attempt deep into extra-time. “That becomes a heartbreaking loss,” Pelite says. But notwithstanding the heartache, a yr on she is capable of seeing the positives from what changed into an extraordinary advert for the sport and women’s recreation.
“As tough because it becomes to lose that gold medal to New Zealand, it becomes excellent for us to exhibit what rugby sevens are. It became one of the satisfactory sevens finals you could have requested for,” she says. “As a good deal, because it hurts my coronary heart to lose, we’re nevertheless pioneers for the game and nevertheless ought to put on an amazing display for everybody.”