“We’re no longer Canada’s best kept secret,” says Jen Kish.
The 28-year-old Edmontonian is fresh off captaining the Canadian women’s sevens rugby team to a bronze medal in Rio. Many Canadians found themselves glued to the television, watching a sport they hadn’t heard of until this year.
“We’re so blessed to be in this position. We wanted to inspire a nation in the sport that we love, and we’ve done that,” says Kish. “We’re getting messages from people saying they’ve never watched sevens or rugby before, and now they’re hooked and they want to join.”
Kish started playing rugby while attending W.P. Wagner High School. Ten years ago, she met Nikki Cloutier of the Edmonton Rockers rugby club. The two have become close as teammates and friends.
“That’s amazing! That’s my friend!” is how Cloutier describes her reaction to seeing Kish and Canada beat Great Britain 33-10 in Monday’s bronze medal match.
Cloutier has seen rugby grow in popularity and become more of a mainstream sport.
“I started playing 21 years ago. Even then, it was fairly new to women. Girls started playing in high school,” Cloutier says. “Now it’s even better. I coach a U5 league in the summer. We get kids as young as two who come out and play with the rugby ball and do little rugby games. Now they’re starting rugby in elementary and junior high school.”
Kish realizes she can play a role in the direction rugby takes in Canada. However, she’s not sure yet what that role is going to be.
“I will stay training, and I will try to compete. I want to stick around and compete as long as I can. But I also want to build the sport of rugby in Canada and inspire the next generation,” Kish says. “I’m not ruling out 2020. You never know what happens. As long as I can stay healthy, take care of my body, and compete with all these young guns that are up-and-coming, rest assured that I’ll be on the field.” (jrw/dc)