The first part of the pan-Pacific dream has been realized: From Westhills to Tokyo, the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team has qualified for the 2020 Olympics.
The next part, reaching the podium, will play out next summer.
The Langford-based national team stamped its ticket to Tokyo 2020 at the final World Series tournament of the season in Biarritz, France.
Canada beat Spain 22-19 and then rallied from a 10-point deficit to defeat Ireland 27-10 Saturday to assure an Olympic berth. The third game of pool play, a 27-14 loss to Australia, proved meaningless as Canada had already clinched its place at Tokyo 2020 and a quarter-final game today in Biarritz against France.
The top-four teams in the final World Series standings qualify automatically for the 2020 Summer Games.
Three of those spots have gone to New Zealand, Canada and the U.S. The fourth will be decided today.
That will make five qualifiers so far, along with host Japan. The final seven teams will be decided through regional qualifiers this summer.
Canada and the U.S. avoided having to go through the North American, Central American and Caribbean Olympic qualifier on July 6-7 in the Cayman Islands.
“That was our goal the whole year to qualify and get top four,” said veteran Canadian player Bianca Farella, who scored five tries on Saturday.
“We are so ecstatic, so happy and so relieved. We are happy to have achieved our long-term goal.”
The Canadians came close to clinching their Olympic spot at the Canada Sevens last month at Westhills Stadium in Langford, but fell short. They made sure they locked it down in Olympian fashion in Biarritz.
The veteran-laden Canadian team is captained by Ghislaine Landry, the all-time career leading scorer in women’s sevens World Series history.
“It’s always an honour to represent your country on the world stage and the 2016 Olympic Games [where Canada won bronze in Rio] was new territory for all of us,” she said.
“We’ll be giving it everything we have to get back onto that podium next summer in Tokyo.”
Meanwhile, Raptors-mania bled across the field to the court. The Canadian players, on the Rugby Canada Twitter account, sent out a video before the France Sevens with the players saying: “Hey Raptors Nation: The national women’s sevens have got your backs. We’re going for Olympic qualification this weekend and you guys are going for an NBA championship. Big things happening up north. Let’s show them what Canada can do.”
It was mission accomplished on both field and court.