X-Women rugby graduate Olivia DeMerchant was back on campus recently during training camp and chatted with her about her recent silver medal finish with Team Canada at the Women's Rugby World Cup in Paris.
Olivia was one of four StFX alumni who played on the senior women's national team that had an incredible run at the World Cup, earning their highest ever finish. A native of Woodstock, N.B., she played four seasons with the X-Women and was a two-time AUS all-star in the prop position.
What was it like to represent Canada on the international scale?
I have been playing with the senior national team since last November, I went to France on my first tour and would have played in the Nations Cup but I tore my hamstring last summer. It was a big turn-around from tearing my hamstring to being able to play in this event. I played club rugby in England last year to improve my play as my goal was to play in this World Cup, so it was actually pretty cool to reach my goal.
How did the team come together leading up to the World Cup?
We came together great, we played a lot of games beforehand and ended up playing really well. We beat Australia by 32 points, we beat the USA handily twice and the defending world champions New Zealand didn't even come in the top four, we lost to them only by a try leading up to the World Cup.
What did it mean to you wear the maple leaf?
I've represented Canada in junior and senior and the feeling never changes, it's so surreal when you hear your anthem, its everything – it's not just your family or your town it's your whole country. You see it on TV, people supporting you, it is a big thing.
There was a lot of television exposure and national attention from this World Cup. What do you think that means to the sport of rugby moving forward?
I think it means a lot, having a female team getting that much exposure is a big thing in itself. Female athletes don't usually get a lot of media exposure but this event really showed that we can play at a high level and it really inspired the next generation of rugby players. While we were in Paris we received an email from a father back home who said that his daughter just picked up a rugby ball and wanted to play since she saw us on TV so it's really great to know that we are inspiring other people.
Do you have any advice to young rugby players who may be in the game now or new athletes who may want to take up the sport?
My advice is to just get involved as much as you can and have different coaches and different opinions - take a mesh of everyone and put it together to become better. You have to train hard and put everything into it, I spend hours at the gym and I work on all my skills.
What are your immediate plans moving forward with your rugby career?
Right now I'm on a bit of a hiatus but I plan to either go back to England or go to Victoria to train with the national team leading up to the next World Cup, the senior team is on hiatus until April.
What are some of your most memorable rugby highlights?
I probably have three highlights, when we (X-Women) won the CIS championship in 2010 in Trent in overtime, scoring the overtime try, then winning again at home in 2012 in front of our home town crowd. Then just representing my country at all levels, it is amazing to play with people who love the sport just as much as you do and work as hard as you do.