Rugby Sevens debuts at the Rio Olympics, and with it the Australian women’s team and Charlotte Caslick, who’s determined to win gold.
In Charlotte Caslick’s estimation, she hasn’t yet had her breakout moment. Not even the two consecutive nominations she received for World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year, in 2014 and 2015, left the 21-year-old rugby player feeling like she had arrived. To be fair, her sights have been set on a different target for her entire sporting career. “The reason I started playing rugby was to go to the Olympics,” she says, recalling the poster that hung on the bedroom wall of her childhood home, emblazoned with the words “Olympic dreams do come true”.
Caslick, who plays scrum-half, began pursuing her dream three years ago, moving from Brisbane to Sydney, where she now lives with her boyfriend, men’s sevens player Lewis Holland. In that time, the women’s sevens team (aka the Pearls) have made history, claiming Australia’s first-ever Sevens World Series title in France in May. At the Games in Rio de Janeiro, rugby sevens makes its Olympic debut – and the women are gold-medal favourites. “It’s sort of a relief that it’s happening,” laughs Caslick, adding, “It’s so exciting that it’s finally here.”
Whatever the outcome, she may already have achieved the impossible: inspiring a born All Blacks supporter to cheer for the green and gold. “When we played in France, a former All Blacks player was watching with his family. His daughter, who had an Australian passport, wanted to cheer for us but her family wouldn’t let her. So I gave her an Australian jersey.” Soon, Caslick received some mail – a picture of the girl, triumphant in the Aussie colours. Says Caslick, smiling: “It’s pretty cool when you can convert All Blacks’ children.”
Do you have any superstitions or pre-match rituals?
I take a ragdoll with me wherever I go. I’ve had her since I was 10 and she comes with me, just in case. And I wear yellow or green ribbons in my hair. When I started playing rugby, I thought, “I still want to look like a girl!” so I wore ribbons and now I’ve started a bit of a trend. Little girls send in pictures of themselves with ribbons in their braids.
Where is your favourite place to play?
Sydney is amazing for that home support. But if not at home then it would be Dubai. It has such a strong expat community that loves rugby so our sevens tournaments over there are on another level. And I love going to England as well – we played at Twickenham, which was amazing.
What music do you listen to, to get fired up?
Our team song now is Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band. We get in a huddle and sing it together. It’s a country song about the simple things in life.
What’s the upside of sharing a room in the Olympic Village?
We usually have the same roommate on every tour; I share with Emilee Cherry. We’re very similar in that we don’t do anything [laughs]. We watch movies together; on one tour, we watched the entire Harry Potter series!
She goes to sleep early and I’m messy. I’m the downfall.
What dish would you break your pre-Games diet for?
Three months out from Rio, we cut out all the bad foods. I’d break for ice-cream – anything with caramel in it.
Who is going to Rio to watch you compete?
Mum, Dad, my brothers, my Nanna and two aunties! The Australian Olympic Committee organised a place called The Edge [near the Olympic Village], where we can meet with our parents. When we compete, we’ll get 10 minutes or so to talk to them after we play and then it’s back into lockdown.
If you had a leave pass from the village, where would you go?
We played in São Paulo earlier in the year and the beaches looked really cool. I’d go to one of those.
Besides a medal, what do you want to bring home from Rio?
More bikinis! I have so many; I bought three pairs in Brazil. And I’m going to take my GoPro camera – it’s on a selfie stick – and hopefully make a good video to bring home.
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