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Apps still set to captain Canada in Paris Olympics despite cougar attack

Rugby star bitten in Strathcona Provincial Park
Canada’s Olivia Apps is expected to resume full training after being bitten by a cougar. (ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST)

Olivia Apps is used to avoiding tacklers as captain of the Paris Olympics-bound Canadian women’s rugby sevens team, which is based in Langford. But she probably never figured on having to swerve around a cougar.

Apps was bitten by a cougar last weekend while hiking in Strathcona Provincial Park with another woman. One of their two off-leash dogs was also attacked by the cougar. The women bear-sprayed the cougar, which then fled. The women and their dogs were taken by helicopter out of the Landslide Lake area, which is described as a remote region of the park.

Apps’ injuries are described as minor and she was treated at Campbell River Hospital and released. She is back training with the Olympic team at ­Starlight Stadium. The dog will also recover.

In a response to the Times Colonist, Rugby Canada said, “As her focus remains on preparing for the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics, [Apps] will not be available for interviews at this time.”

Rugby Canada added: “Olivia was treated in hospital shortly after for a minor injury and was able to return to training with the national team immediately following the incident. She is very appreciative to the conservation officers, local medical services, and the hikers who supported her and partner.”

The B.C. Conservation ­Service said it was a defensive attack and that no further action will be taken.

The versatile 25-year-old Apps, a native of Lindsay, Ont., is a dual sevens and XVs player, having played for Canada in both versions of rugby. Her feistiness has helped her overcome a lot, including being five-foot-five and 154 pounds in a rugged and physical sport. Apps has also talked about her alopecia and losing her hair at age seven.

Apps captained Canada, ranked in the world top-five, to its berth in the 2024 Paris Summer Games by winning the North American and Caribbean Olympic qualifying tournament at Starlight Stadium last August.

“The Olympic dream for Paris is something that is very real for us,” said Apps, at the time.

It still is, but not without an unexpected encounter in the wilds of Vancouver Island.

The women’s rugby sevens competition in the Paris Olympics takes place July 28-30 at the Stade de France.

This is the second time an injury has occurred to an Olympic-bound athlete in Strathcona Park. Rower Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski tumbled during a bike crash at Strathcona Lodge just one month before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and broke her collarbone and received more than 50 stitches. In perhaps a good omen for Apps and the Canadian rugby team, Gruchalla-Wesierski remarkably recovered in time to win the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo with the Elk Lake-based Canadian women’s eight.

— With a file from Darron Kloster, Times Colonist