“ I think my speed hit 8.8 meters per second, which is a very good statistic for a striker ”
June 1 is a special day for Heather Fisher, the rugby Olympian as she prepares for what she hopes will be her last Games appearance later this summer for the GB team in Tokyo. The rugby sevens star, who first made a name for himself with the England XVs while spending 18 months as a British junior bobsleigh competitor, is now a poster looking for more than 13,000 volunteers to Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
It’s a celebration of the sport close to her heart as a local Brummie fully aware of the power of activity and how it can change lives. It changed hers. Struggling to fit into a myriad of schools, she developed severe anorexia in her mid-teens only for the sport to eventually pull her over the edge.
Not that this passion was not without problems. His short-lived bobsled experience did not lead to the Vancouver Olympics. Instead, rugby drew her in, and the stress of the 2010 World Cup coincided with the emergence of her alopecia. But she continued to fight fiercely for the good fight, becoming a 2014 World Cup winner and a 2016 Olympian, and while athletes are expected to wither away as they get older, the 37-year-old. inspiringly rages against the dying. light.
“I had a PB in my gear last year,” Fisher said enthusiastically. RugbyPass from Birmingham Moseley where the Team GB player was hosting a surprise training session for young players to coincide with the launch of the volunteer recruiting program (click here to watch the video). “Before Covid I had a PB in my speed so I don’t actually think my tank is empty. I think my speed was 8.8 meters per second which is a very good stat for a forward.
Does she still have that gas? “I know I wouldn’t be selected for a team for Tokyo or England if I wasn’t at my best. It’s not enough to have experience these days if I’m being honest. I think I’ve reached my peak and I’m probably still here and I’m holding on because I want to get to Tokyo. I could have easily retired last year, but chose to continue for another year.
The wait is over. Applications for volunteering are now open!
Apply Now: https://t.co/xwpbr4Ffm2 pic.twitter.com/aXokV99ixH
– Birmingham 2022 (@ birminghamcg22) June 1, 2021
There is still a lot of pandemic speculation about the status of the Tokyo Games and their possible continuation. Fisher tries to avoid all of the ifs and maybes that surround the GB team, but getting to this point where Rugby Sevens is only eight weeks away has been an ordeal. “I’m avoiding all of this,” she said of the on-off speculation. “Every time someone asks me a question, I don’t really commit to it because you can be very frustrated. As an athlete, I have a job and that is to be in good shape.
“I’m so impatient, I think most athletes are. It’s very hard. Everyone has their way, everyone has their story of what happened through the Covid situation but for the athletes it’s so difficult because we had to keep training because you don’t know just not what’s going to happen.
“Mentally you try to push, but physically you can’t push that far because you don’t have the physios and everyone to pick up the pieces. When you were locked out you couldn’t really push that far because your body couldn’t go without picking up the pieces.
“It was a challenge and I doubted myself a few times and everyone did. Everyone picked up concerns. I recently had a problem with my ankle ligaments for the past five weeks. We have problems but the finish line is approaching.
After all these years, how adept is she now to deal with the stress involved? “I’m probably a lot better at it, but the closer you get to a tournament where you know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the more stress you get. It’s still difficult but it’s one of those that we learn to manage better but we could all manage things better and there is always stress there.
“There have been a lot of challenges in my career – from losing my hair to breaking my back, a broken thumb in the World Cup semi-finals, missing the world championships and everything, overtraining, glandular fever… these are just a few to list, but the higher you go, the more you fall.
“When you take the top you have to understand that you can fall and for me it affected my health, I had glandular fever two or three times and I lost all my hair, it just shows you the stress that your body goes through to get to where you want to be. But none of that defines me, it’s just a bump in the road.
RugbyPass She only had a 15-minute interview with Fisher over a pesky phone connection while in Moseley, but that was more than enough to appreciate how inspiring the Team GB 7s player is. . And yet, there are still parts of her life-giving story that won’t unlock until her playing days are over and she can finally take a well-deserved breath.
“I feel like I can talk about it, but I feel like while I’m in the sport, I can’t really talk about it,” she explained, conflicted. “There is so much you can do and say because at the end of the day you still represent who you play for in the British squad and in England so that makes it difficult, but when you play a role athlete. you are taller than you.
“These are all the people you represent in your jersey behind the games, your family, your friends, each physiotherapist, doctors who put you back on the field. You represent everyone, so the sport is always bigger than you, the game is bigger than a person and it’s the whole community, so from that point of view, when I feel like I can open up and talking about it I’m sure I will naturally but there are still things I care about that I think I probably can’t talk about.
“People keep saying, ‘Oh, when are you retiring, what are you looking to do next?’ As an athlete, you are always looking for the next medal, the next thing. There is a lot to be said about being present and only being present in what you are doing now because it allows you to take care of your head.
“I have been fortunate to have an incredible career in two different sports. It hasn’t been easy and it’s been a tough journey, but at the same time it’s the hard part which is also the most amazing part because you are pushing so high. I don’t think anything compares to putting on an England or GB team jersey. The transition over the next few years will always be difficult.
– GB Rugby Sevens (@GBRugbySevens) May 30, 2021
“From the age of 13, my goal was to be an Olympian. I’ve never done sports but just for me to have the confidence to be myself, to stay true to who I am, it gave me my identity but it’s really hard because when you take your retirement is where is your identity located? It’s really hard to switch from who you are on stage to who you are in human life. It is really difficult.
First capped by England at XV level in 2009 after returning to the sport of bobsleigh, Fisher describes the transformation of women’s rugby night and day in terms of the resources now available to them, but the intensity of professionalism also undermined some of the original fun that existed at the time.
“We didn’t really bring our own sandwiches, but you can as well,” he says. “But when you’re paid to do something and it’s your job, you have to hold back a certain amount of yourself and that’s a whole different thing. When I started it wasn’t my job, it was just my part-time job. We had a few more laughs and you could mess around with some more.
“You always knew it wasn’t about the money, it wasn’t the contract you were going to sign or the opportunity you had, you were doing it for the love of the game and for the love of playing for some. others. and it produced a camaraderie that helped out on the pitch, but that didn’t always mean you were playing the best. But playing for each other and knowing that you always had a job to go back to and then come back to rugby, you loved it so much that you wanted to be there… but now there’s a lot of expectation.
Over the past decade, Fisher has been easily identified as the Hairless Girl. Wondering if this lazy stereotype has ever taken away from the caliber of its coin all the credit it deserves? “It’s a very good point. People judge you for the way you play on the pitch and I do but far from it it’s always been about the lack of hair which is difficult but I also have to understand that I have to learn how to deal with it .
“Part of me is that I don’t have hair and it’s just part of who I am, but it hasn’t been difficult. I don’t think it obscured performance. If anything, I stand out because everyone is blonde and dark and I have nothing. So it’s not like no one can see me when they are commenting, that’s for sure. It’s a tough challenge in itself that rugby has helped me overcome. It doesn’t define who I am, but at the same time, it allowed me to deal with everything, the fact that it is what it is.
- Heather Fisher was speaking at the candidacy launch for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Apply now to volunteer and be part of the Commonwealth Collective at: https://www.birmingham2022.com/
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly roundup of the vast world of rugby.