The first Rugby Sevens competition at the Youth Olympic Games gets underway in Nanjing on Sunday and for Australian teenager Tiana Penitani that day simply can’t come soon enough.
That is hardly surprising as the 18-year-old has been stuck on the sidelines for the last year after suffering a knee injury at Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow last June.
“It’s been a long 13 months for me in rehab after being injured at the World Cup last year so I have been working so hard to get back and fortunately for me I’ve got the Youth Olympic Games as my comeback tournament and I cannot wait to play,” Penitani told Total Rugby Radio.
“It is always daunting to put the green and gold jersey on and to be able to represent your nation.
“Not only do you represent your country, you are representing your family and your neighbours and everyone else at home that is watching and supporting you so it is of course quite daunting, but I like to use that energy in a positive way and feed off it and boost my confidence even more.
“Even though there are nerves it is more excitement than anything else.”
A rising star in Sevens despite her tender age, Penitani has been named co-captain of the Australian side with Brooke Anderson and was this week also given the honour of carrying her country’s flag at the opening ceremony in China.
“It is a honour itself just to be given the privilege to wear the green and gold jersey but a massive sense of pride comes over me when I think about being made co-captain of the Rugby Sevens side.
“Hopefully I can be a role model for the other athletes while carrying the flag and do my best.”
A former sprint hurdler who has tried her hand at a number of sports, she came into rugby by chance, asked by friends to play for their Fifteens club team that led to Sevens and within a few months she was playing for Australia on the international stage.
That took her to the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series and RWC Sevens but now her focus is on trying to win a gold medal for Australia, who will face at the Youth Olympic Games against Tunisia, China, USA, Spain and Canada with the top four progressing to the semi-finals.
CLICK HERE FOR NANJING RUGBY SEVENS INFO & SCHEDULE >>
“I know that Spain, Canada and USA are definitely strong competitors on the Sevens circuit, so hopefully that will carry through to the Games and we’ll have some good competition. I know that Canada are quite confident.
“I guess leading to 2016 for us to win as many gold medals as we can will build our confidence and promote our sports even more. If we can come away with gold that would be amazing and I am confident we can do that if we put our best performances out on the field.”
The carrot of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is also one that excites Penitani.
“Rugby is already one of the fastest growing sports in Australia, especially for women, and this will just give us another boost around the world and in Australia and give young girls more opportunities to aspire to be part of the national women’s squad.
“Twenty girls have just been contracted as full-time professional athletes. The centralised programme is really good for us, it has kick-started our Sevens careers and hopefully it can only get better and continue to grow and the squad can get a lot stronger leading into the Olympics.
“Although the countdown to two years to 2016 was last week, and two years seems like a long way away but for us it feels so close. We are training so hard and working towards Olympic qualification and we are going to give it our best shot next year. These are exciting times.”
Mark Egan, IRB Head of Competitions and Performance, on the Youth Olympic Games
Also on this week's Total Rugby Radio show, former England captain Catherine Spencer on WRWC 2014 and the IRB Women's Player of the Year shortlist, we catch up with Argentina and new Springbok Handre Pollard ahead of The Rugby Championship opening weekend and Zinzan Brooke is the latest to 'Tackle These'. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN >>
- Latest News
- Rugby In The Olympics : History
- Rugby In The Olympics : Future
- What is Sevens ?
- Qualification & Resources
- Olympic Solidarity
Player Quotes of Support
“More than anything, Sevens embodies the Olympic ideals of camaraderie, fair play and respect on and off the field of play.” – Shane Williams, Wales
“You play sport at the highest level to challenge yourself to be the best that you can possibly be and to compete with the best from all over the world, and what better stage to do that on than at the Olympics?” – Sue Day, England
“Going to the Commonwealth Games was amazing and to have the chance to go to the Olympics would be right up there with anything you could possibly dream of doing in sport.” – Tamati Ellison, New Zealand
CLICK HERE FOR MORE SUPPORT QUOTES >>
- 20 August - Heather Moyse on the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing
- 20 August - An emotional Dom du Toit on Australia's victory at the Youth Olympic Games
- 20 August - France captain Alex Arrate and coach Thierry Janeczeck on winning the men's event at the Youth Olympic Games