Catching up with Kehla

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By Kehla Guimond, Vikes women’s rugby team

August 5, 2013 (ISN) –  Women’s rugby player Kehla Guimond writes her thoughts after helping Canada to a bronze medal at this year’s World Universiade Games

My name is Kehla Guimond and I am presently a 5th year Vikes Women’s Rugby player. In the early spring, while playing with my Vikes rugby team in the National Rugby Seven’s tournament in Langford, I was approached and asked whether or not I would be interested in playing for the FISU Canada sevens women’s rugby team in the 27th Universiade in Kazan, Russia this summer. Of course it sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime so I sent in my application. It was the first time in history that rugby sevens would be played at an Olympic level.

It was official that I made the team roster in late April. The coaches selected twelve female student athletes from across Canada. I was fortunate enough to be the only female selected from BC. I felt a great honor from this, especially coming from Vancouver Island. My only intentions were to do my best by training hard, making history and to be an inspiration for future athletes that would come to be a part of the Vikes Women’s rugby program. My ultimate goal was to keep dreaming that I would bring home a medal to my country, province and especially the Vikes.

Throughout the spring I did fundraising events with the Bayside Middle school girl’s rugby team, which I have been coaching for two years while studying at Uvic. We did carwashes, movie and pizza day at the school and I also sold coffee on the side to family and friends to raise money to pay for my trip. I also received generous help from Uvic to help me fund for this incredible adventure, which I am enormously thankful for.

Finally on July 5th, the adventure began. I flew to Toronto where I met my teammates for the first time. We trained together as a team for four days in Kingston while staying on the base at the Royal Military College where we ate in the cafeteria and slept in the dorms. We trained hard throughout the heat, rain, sun for about three, nearly four hours a day. It was hard work but it was amazing to see how such high level athletes were able to connect with each other in such a short time and learn patterns and improve skills so quickly. I truly did admire this, along with the amount of passion and drive that each player had while training together. We would be sore and tired throughout the day but we always pushed through because we all knew that our hard work would pay off in Russia.

On July 10th we left for Russia. We drove from Kingston back to Toronto where we flew to Moscow and then Kazan. The trip took us roughly thirty hours from the time we left in the morning from Kingston to arriving in the Athlete’s Village in Kazan. I’ll never forget when we first arrived. There were volunteers from the Universiade everywhere helping athlete’s find their way. They were so incredibly welcoming. It was like being celebrities because people wanted pictures taken with us and they were clapping for us in the airport. The feeling was indescribable.

We spent the next eight days in Russia living in the Athlete’s village. Throughout the two weeks of competition in the Universiade, there were twenty-seven different sports, roughly thirteen thousand athletes and hundred and sixty-two countries that came and went from the village. Each country had their own building that had a medical staff available all day for the athlete’s – from doctors, to physiotherapy, massage – we were extremely well taken care of. The cafeteria was world class and open from 5am-2am every day. They had food options from all over the world, including McDonalds. It was amazing!

Once we arrived in Russia we only had two hours of training over two days before our competition started. The weather was hot, but not humid like Ontario. I noticed when we first landed that the air was crisp like in BC. It rained once while we were there during the eight days, but competing and training in the sun wasn’t unbearable.

In our competition pool there was Russia, Ukraine, France and Japan. During the days of competition we lost to Russia twice and Ukraine but then beat France and Japan. We played Great Britain in the finals for Bronze and had a solid win against them, 36-0. The feeling of winning a medal was breathtaking. I actually couldn’t believe it until we literally had the medals placed over our heads three hours later by the officials while being congratulated shaking hands during the medal ceremony. That moment was by far one of the coolest moments of my life.

This was definitely highest level of rugby I’ve ever experienced. Russia won gold and Italy came in second for silver. All the players in rugby sevens were very fit and talented. It was unfortunate to lose to Russia, however they had carried over six of their national players from the Rugby Sevens World Cup in Moscow two weeks before, therefore they were incredibly hard to defeat. Considering this, I was incredibly proud of our team since we had only been together for less than two weeks. We were very strong and passionate as a team; after all our hard work individually and as a team, we brought home a medal to our country.

Overall, my favourite moments were always right before our games waiting in the tunnel to run onto the field. We were lined up as a team beside our opponents, speaking in different languages, pumping each other up for the game. Every time running onto the field as a team was exhilarating. Everyone was cheering, cameras were everywhere. It was one of the most intense and focused times I’ve ever experienced. My next most exhilarating moment was the evening after we received our medal going to the closing ceremony. I have never seen so many people in my life cheering, smiling, happy, and overall just so supportive of all the athletes that competed over the two weeks in Russia.

Representing my country at a World level of competition and bringing home a medal was definitely one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve ever achieved in my life. I am incredibly grateful for all the support that I received from my friends, family and also Uvic to help me make this dream come true. My future plans are to bring my knowledge and passion back to the Vikes for my final year as a Varsity athlete to inspire future Vikes to reach for their highest goals and never settle for less than their biggest dreams.

– Kehla