Olympic-winning Australia Women’s Sevens veteran Evania Pelite feels that the world’s fastest and fastest-growing sport, rugby sevens, is making a huge impact in Australia and is driving the standard for women’s sport in the country.
Speaking with Guardian Australia, Pelite pointed out that the Australia women’s sevens are one of the first to become full-time professional female athletes in Australia and that they earn the same amount of money as their male counterparts.
“Sevens is definitely on the up. We’ve always looked at sevens being the front runner for women’s sport – we were one of the first to become full-time professional [female] athletes in Australia; we also last year got pay parity with the men. I feel sevens is really driving the standards for women’s sports in Australia at the moment,” she was quoted as saying.
Pelite was a member of the squad that won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Pelite said the aim of the Olympic-winning team was to boost the popularity of the sport and inspire more girls to join sevens, which she said the team achieved by going home with the gold medal.
“We did our job in Rio in establishing rugby sevens not only as a male-dominated sport, but a female sport. You’ve got young girls that now understand rugby sevens and that there’s a pathway to becoming an Olympic rugby sevens player.”
The veteran realises her experience and success makes her a role model to a lot of people, young and grown up alike, and it’s something she takes very seriously.
“We all know being in the limelight you’re going to have to promote it in a positive way. There are always people watching you – grown men and women, but also young women and boys – that also have aspiration. We can show them that hard work does pay off. Five years ago, I would never have imagined I’d be an Olympian now, so anything is possible.”
With Olympic qualification secured, the team will now focus on next year’s Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan. Nine of the players that won Rio Gold are in the current squad and that will boost their chances of defending their Olympic title.
Pelite also revealed the team is motivated by last year’s Commonwealth final defeat to New Zealand, where Australia lost in extra time after a golden-point try by the Black Ferns.
“That was a heartbreaking loss. As hard as it was to lose that gold medal to New Zealand, it was amazing for us to showcase what rugby sevens is. It was one of the best sevens finals you could have asked for,” she says. “As much as it hurts my heart to lose, we’re still pioneers for the sport and still have to put on a good show for everyone.”
Main photo: World Rugby