2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series leading points scorer, Canada's Ghislaine Landry, expects the Rio 2016 rugby sevens competition to take the sport to new heights.
World Rugby: Congratulations on being selected in Canada’s squad for Rio 2016, can you describe how you felt as selection D-day neared and then to be told you’d made it?
Ghislaine Landry: Selection day and the days that followed were filled with all kinds of emotion. While some people (myself included) who were elated with selection, and there were others who were crushed. We’ve spent so much time with each other that you can’t help but feel other people’s pain, so that was tough. As high performance athletes we feed off of competition, but that part sport is not easy.
World Rugby: How did coach John Tait break the news to you?
GL: We all had individual meetings, and then had a few hours to call family and share the news before reconnecting as a group.
World Rugby: Now that you’ve had time to reflect on the fact you’re going to Rio, what does it mean to you to be part of the first Canadian rugby sevens who will play in an Olympics?
GL: As a kid I loved all Olympic sports and Canadian athletes. I didn’t follow professional sports very much, but I knew who Clara Hughes, Donavan Bailey and Simon Whitfield were. I dreamed of being that athlete winning the race or singing 'Oh Canada' on the top of the podium. To now be going to the Olympics is childhood dream realised, and to be doing it playing rugby is the gravy on top. Sports can give a person so much and if even one kid sees me playing rugby and decides to pursue that path, how cool is that?
World Rugby: It’s been a long road to get to this point, how do you look back over the journey, the highs and the lows?
GL: Highs and lows are the heartbeat of sport, and I’ve had plenty. I remember the highs with great pride; for what our team has accomplished, my own personal achievements and the way we’ve grown and changed the face of women’s rugby in Canada. But I’m also very thankful for the lows. As a team, some our greatest performances followed our biggest lows. For myself, I think the lows are what made me the athlete and person that I am today.
World Rugby: Did you ever doubt that you’d realise the Olympic dream?
GL: My biggest worry around the Olympics was injury, which I’ve struggled with on and off through my career. I was confident that if I was healthy I would be able to play quality rugby and have a lot to offer to the team.
World Rugby: What are you most looking forward to about going to the Games in Rio?
GL: Two things, first being a part of Team Canada. Representing our country is always an honour but only 4000 people have ever represented Canada at the Olympics - what an honour. Second, I’m excited to see what the world is going to do when they see rugby sevens for the first time. I’ve never met anyone who’s just watched rugby sevens for the first time who wasn’t impressed with the speed, power and athleticism of the game. I think it’s going to explode!
World Rugby: What is your favourite memory from the Olympics and why?
GL: My favourite moment is when the camera zooms in on an athlete standing on top of the podium, singing their national anthem, and the rush of emotions that overtakes them. You can see it in their eyes, it’s magic.
World Rugby: What is the mood like in the Canadian camp now the squad has been selected and the days are counting down?
GL: We are now in Toronto for our staging camp and the group is feeling good and focused on ourselves now. It’s an exciting time, we are enjoying the moment and what’s to come, but also focused on the job at hand.
World Rugby: What are you expecting from the teams you will face in the pool stages – GB, Brazil and Japan?
GL: Each team in our pool will challenge us in different ways and I think that’s important in the pool stages. Japan and Brazil have been improving over the last few years and GB (essentially an England team) is a team that we’ve played frequently and know what they’re about.
World Rugby: How will the Olympic Games compare to playing in a world series tournament?
GL: I think when we are at the venue, it will be very similar to a series tournament. Each tournament is slightly different in terms of food, change room setups and fields, but they are all generally the same, and the Deodoro venue will be no different. The biggest difference will be the village and everything that goes along with that.
World Rugby: What can people expect from sevens – and in particular the women’s event – in Rio?
GL: For those who haven’t seen women’s sevens before, I think they will be pleasantly surprised with the quality of rugby in the women’s game. As a collective it’s incredible how far teams have come in the last few years. The speed, the tackling and the quality and style of attack are better than they’ve ever been.
World Rugby: What will the prize of an Olympic medal add to the competitive stakes – have we seen the best of the teams yet this season?
GL: The Olympics are a new stage for almost every athlete competing in rugby, so it’s hard to say how that will play out. Every programme has been building for this tournament, players will be on form, I think adrenaline levels will be a little higher, heart rates will be a little faster and the rugby will be exciting.
World Rugby: What will it take if Canada are to win a medal in Rio?
GL: I think if we play our systems as a team and control the controllables we will put ourselves in a good position to contest for a medal.