Canada flyer Charity Williams is hunting a second medal for rugby

DURING HER sporting childhood, it was not sevens rugby players that Charity Williams idolised. In her wildest dreams, she wanted to be just like US gymnast Shawn Johnson on the Olympic stage.

“I was a gymnast for like my entire life, pretty much,” Williams tells Rugby World. “But I realised at a young age that it wasn’t going to take me to the Olympics, which had always been my dream. So I was at a crossroads.”

When the athletic Toronto native took up rugby in Grade Ten, she could not possibly have known that she would go on to win a bronze medal at the Olympic Games, in Rio in 2016 – by her own admission, she didn’t even know rugby was a sport prior to joining high school.

Fittingly, the speedster is also a fast learner and her skill-set learnt on the mats and springboards would eventually set her apart. However, it wasn’t always a guarantee that she would shine.

“I had been let go from the team that year and I was off the team for about six months,” she says of her tumultuous build-up to the Rio Games. “The whole year leading up, I didn’t think I was going to go, so I had a different mindset.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with in my athletic career. I had to really, really think about why exactly I was there and what I wanted to get out of it. So for about six months, I was training by myself and I had to get a job to stay in Victoria.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with”

“Thankfully one of our old S&C coaches helped me a lot. He was taking time out of his own day to train with me, but I was doing three or four sessions a day and then going into work (at a local department store).

Charity Williams

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“It got quite tough but I knew what I wanted and knew this was where I was meant to be. So I battled every single day to try to get back and when I got back I put my head down and worked.”

In the bronze match in Rio, Canada crushed GB 33-10 in what captain Jen Kish called “a freaking historic moment”.

Up to that point, Williams says she was helped by her gymnastics background. She is able to get low in the tackle – “I get folded in my crazy ways, and I’m decently flexible, so I find I’m pretty good really close to the ground” – and she has always had a sharp turn of pace.

She laughs about her ability to spring off the ground and those who watch sevens regularly will clock her pushing off would-be tacklers and diving towards carriers from a distance.

Improvements? “My biggest work-on has been decision-making. I’ve been lucky enough to have decent speed and strength, it just comes naturally to me. But at the level we play at, that doesn’t really cut it anymore.”

Marry athleticism with savviness and Williams may just be jumping for joy at the Tokyo Games, too.

This piece first featured in Rugby World magazine in February.

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