Catching up with Ilona Maher

Burlington native is headed to Tokyo Olympics
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 9:30 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont native Ilona Maher is heading to her first Olympics after being named to the US Women’s Rugby team last week. The Burlington native and former Seahorse and Quinnipiac star has been competing with the side over the last several years.

We caught up with Maher from the team’s San Diego training base, and while she says she’s happy to be on the team, everything that’s happened over the last year is keeping her excitement grounded for now.

“It’s been kind of a weird time,” Maher said. “It’s been such a long lead up for the it’s been an interesting time of being super excited but also not feeling like it’s real. And I don’t think it’ll feel real until I’m actually running out on the field in Tokyo. I think for now I’m just staying hesitant because I’m afraid to get my hopes up for what we saw with COVID. I just want to stay like, “Well ok, let’s see if it happens.”

Team USA traditionally gets to test themselves against the best national sides in the world on a regular basis as part of the World Rugby Sevens Series. But with COVID making international travel difficult, that really hasn’t been the case for the past year plus. But Maher says there may be silver lining to that as her team chases a medal.

“We’ve seen New Zealand and Australia play each other. They’ve been playing each other in like different series,” Maher said. “But we haven’t played against them, we don’t know what they’re doing. So it has been tough. But I do think that everything happens for a reason. I don’t know if we were ready for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics because we ended Sydney sevens, which was right before the shutdown, in like 7th place or 9th place. And that’s not us so COVID has actually been good for just like training, really figuring out what our system is. So there’s good and bad.”

The Olympic Rugby tournament runs from July 29th to 31st in Tokyo.

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