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Rio 2016: Australia sees Olympic rugby seven’s gold medal as a victory for women’s sport

Rio 2016: Australia sees Olympic rugby seven\'s gold medal as a victory for women\'s sport Co-captain Shannon Parry has hailed Australia’s Olympic gold medal in rugby sevens in Rio as not only a victory for the nation but also women’s sport.

Australia made history by winning the first gold awarded in women’s rugby sevens at the Olympics with a tight 24-17 triumph over trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand at the Deodoro Stadium.

The Australians had been pre-Olympic favourites, courtesy of winning the 2015-16 world series, but were forced to weather an early attacking storm from New Zealand before prevailing with a four tries to three win.

Rugby sevens is among the fastest growing sports in the world and the number of women participating in the sport is enjoying a boom.

The exposure women’s rugby sevens has gained from being a part of the Olympic program in Rio is only expected to accelerate this popularity.

Parry hopes Australia’s victory and the performance of all 12 teams competing in Rio during the past three days will help rugby sevens and women’s sport in general grow even more on the global stage.

“I think the tournament just shows the growth of women’s rugby,” she said.

“Fingers crossed come 2020 (Olympics) it will be there for Tokyo as well.”

Parry’s team-mate Emma Tonegato, who scored Australia’s opening try in the final, expects women’s sevens rugby to reach a new level of participation and interest, especially in Australia.

“I think this is great for rugby sevens and what it can do for rugby sevens in Australia,” she said.

Women’s rugby sevens in Australia was given a kick-start when the sport was announced as part of the Rio Games in 2009.

The Australian Rugby Union began to invest more heavily in the women’s program, with talent identification camps following the 2012 London Olympics used as part of preparations for Rio.

Several of the gold medal-winning squad joined the program following these camps, coming from sports such as rugby league, touch football, athletics and basketball.

It was centralised in Sydney in 2014 and this played a key role in Australia’s Olympic victory and the claiming of the world series crown.

Parry, one of the longest-serving members of Australia’s squad, described winning gold as an “incredible” feeling.

“I’m excited and very elated about what we have achieved here,” she said.

“It’s been a big year for us and I’m looking forward to the following year.”

Australia coach Tim Walsh expressed pride in what his players had achieved, especially in the circumstances of the final where they trailed 5-0 early in the first half.

They fought back to lead 10-5 at half-time and 24-5 late in the match, before the outclassed New Zealand scored two consolation tries.

“I’m absolutely elated and so proud of the way they composed themselves,” Walsh said.

“To put themselves in that (winning) position and then close the game out.” […]

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