Sarnia’s Julia Greenshields off to the Tokyo Olympics

Julia GreenshieldsSarnia’s Julia Greenshields with Canadian Women’s Rugby Sevens coach Mick Byrne. Kevin Light photo

Troy Shantz

It was just a five-minute phone call, but one in which Sarnia’s Julia Greenshields realized a decade-long dream.

The former Sarnia Saints rugby player had been officially invited to represent Canada at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games this month.

“It didn’t quite hit me right away. They just said, ‘Everyone clear your schedule,’” said Greenshields, 29.

“A couple days ago when we got the sweater, we did the team photos and everything. It started to feel more real.”

Greenshields set her sights on reaching the Olympics after she moved in 2012 to British Columbia, home to Canada’s National Rugby program. Since then she’s become a regular on the national team in the Rugby Sevens Series.

She was nominated for Player of the Year in 2017 and is one of four women to appear in 30 or more Series matches.

The Canadian team was building momentum in the Series when COVID-19 shut down the world, but the time off hasn’t been entirely bad for her personally, she said.

In last tournament game played, Canada fell to New Zealand. And though the squad brought home silver, Greenshields sustained a concussion after connecting with the hip of an opponent.

“I just fell to the ground. My eyes were open, I was awake, but I don’t remember a thing,” she said. “There was like an hour and a half of my memory gone.”

Soon after, the 2020 calendar was scrubbed.

“The Olympics were postponed and everything was shutting down. And I was like, ‘Well, I guess I have over a year to recover.’”

For Greenshields and the rest of the 13-member Sevens squad, Australia and New Zealand are once again the teams to beat. Canada won bronze in 2016, while the Aussies took silver and New Zealand took gold.

As soon as it was announced she’d made the team, former coaches and teammates from Sarnia sent congratulatory texts.

“They all just expressed so much excitement for me,” she said. “They’ve been supporting me and my dreams as long as I’ve been on this team. Sarnia will always be beside my name on the roster. It’s my hometown.”

There is one downside, however. Because of pandemic restrictions her family can’t be there in Tokyo.

“That just means I’ve got to stick it out for three years so they can all come to Paris and watch me compete in the 2024 Olympics,” she said.

The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games run from July 23 to Aug. 8.