Massachusetts athletes set to go for Olympic gold for US in Tokyo – Boston Herald
Those with the kind of dedication it takes to become an Olympic-caliber athlete don’t give in easily. But it’s a good thing Kristi Kirshe gave in, just this time.
The former Franklin High School high school star and record soccer player at Williams College was looking to fuel her post-graduate competitive spirit; and kicking the ball in the weekly games was not enough.
Former Franklin teammate Grace Conley suggested rugby as an outlet, having played for the Boston University club team. Kirshe said no, hesitant to try to learn a new sport at the age of 23, and continued to decline invitations to train with a group of local players for the next eight months.
But persistence paid off, and Kirshe finally gave in in February 2018. Just three and a half years later, Kirshe will participate in the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics as a member of the US team.
“It was a whirlwind. It’s still a little surreal, ”Kirshe said of his rushed trip. “If you had asked me when I was a kid, I would have answered that I would be an Olympic football player. I would never have said rugby, that’s for sure.
While Kirshe says her story is not that rare among her teammates – as most female rugby players come into the sport late with rare high school programs – her lightning-fast rise from novice to elite is still amazing. Just 11 months after holding a rugby ball for the first time, Kirshe was playing in international competitions representing his country.
Kirshe did not immediately jump into the new business, particularly with training indoors on a basketball court during the winter. But once she got out onto the field to compete, it started to kick in.
She says rugby combines many elements of its other sports, like the hand-eye coordination needed in basketball and lacrosse and the fluid nature of football. It was her Pop Warner football background that might serve her the best, however, as she learned to tackle at the age of 8 by playing youth football.
But it was the essence of rugby that really got her hooked.
“Rugby in general has the most amazing culture,” Kirshe said. “I don’t think there is another sport like this. It takes a special group of people to come out and hit each other and go have beers after. It is the hardest sport I have ever played. It demands everything of you and you are totally dependent on the people next to you.
When the US Women’s Rugby Sevens qualified for the Olympics, the team was ranked No.2 in the world. But due to COVID-19, they haven’t faced many of their main rivals for medals in the past year and a half, countries like Australia and New Zealand, which have won gold. and silver at the Rio Games in 2016.
COVID-19 is affecting the team again as a recent spike in cases in Japan resulted in a spectator ban, a disappointing development for Kirshe as her family and a group of around 15 friends who helped start her career in rugby were planning to attend.
Instead, she hopes to bring them back a souvenir.
“In recent years we’ve really established ourselves as a force to be reckoned with,” said Kirshe. “We are aiming for this gold medal and we are all set for it.”
While Kirshe may have believed growing up that her best chance of competing for an Olympic medal was in women’s football, it became a reality for the sisters. Kristie and Sam mewis, who both starred in Whitman-Hanson.
Sam, the younger of the two and a replacement for the 2016 Olympics, has been a member of the women’s national football team for several years, including playing on the winning team of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. In 2020, the Manchester City midfielder was named American football player of the year.
Kristie, a midfielder with the Houston Dash, had to struggle to come back into consideration for the team, however, spending more than five years between national team appearances while battling injury. Now they are heading to Tokyo together.
The largest local contingent wearing red, white and blue are the rowers. Pierre de Gevvie of Newton and Kristina wagner de Weston team up to compete in the women’s duo. Cicely madden of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School and Weston is in a torque quadruple, while the eight women’s boat will take Rochester’s Gia Doonan from Tabor Academy and native of Methuen Regina salmon.
The men’s side features a pair of Belmont Hill graduates with Wayland’s Andrew Reed in four-legged men and in Watertown Alexandre richard in the Eight Gentlemen, where he is joined by Conor Harrity from BC High and Harvard University.
Former Peabody High Star Heather MacLean will compete on the track within 1500 meters. She entered the Olympic Trials as an underdog to be part of the squad, but clocked a massive personal best 4: 02.09 to grab the bottom of three spots. Ella Purrier Saint-Pierre, her training partner with New Balance Boston, is the top American at the event.
Doherty alum Wadeline Jonathas, who began her college career at UMass Boston, will compete in the women’s 400m. Gabby thomas, a Harvard graduate who now comes from Florence to Western Mass., has an excellent chance of winning a medal in the women’s 200 and 4 × 100 relay. from Boston Molly seidel is in the field of women’s marathon.
A couple of local fencers will face off in a men’s saber duel – Sherborn’s Eli Dershwitz and Westwood Andrew Mackiewicz, who both train at Zeta Fencing in Natick. Dershwitz is the # 2 ranked currency in the world.
Amherst Michael hixon is an Olympic vet, having won a silver medal from Rio in the men’s 3-meter synchronized diving in 2016. He will compete in the 3-meter individual this year. Also in the pool but for her first Olympic experience will be an artistic swimmer Lindi Schröder, who will play with his partner Anita alvarez.
Massachusetts also have an in-ring medal hope at Lynn’s Rashida ellis, who will mix in the lightweight division for the women’s boxing team.
Kirshe won’t be the only American rugby player with local ties. Madison Hugues, who was born in England but spent his summers growing up in Lancaster and now calls him home, will for the second time be part of an Olympic team with the United States men’s rugby team.
Jayson tatum will represent the Celtics in the United States men’s basketball team, while top prospect Triston Casas is one of four players from the Red Sox organization participating in the baseball tournament.