Burlington native set for Olympic debut

Ilona Maher and US women’s rugby team face China
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 7:43 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TOKYO (WCAX) - The Olympics are in full swing over in Tokyo, and on Wednesday, one Vermonter will make her debut as the US women’s rubgy 7s side takes on China.

“I’m ready to step on the field,” said Ilona Maher, a Burlington native and member of the squad. “I’m ready to just play rugby, we haven’t been able to play in a tournament style like this where we play a lot of teams in so long so I’m ready to play and step on and be able to call myself an Olympian.”

Burlington native Ilona Maher is expected to get the chance to do just that on Wednesday night our time, Thursday morning Japanese time, as she and team USA open pool play against China. Maher is a member of the US rugby 7′s side. Now for those with only a passing knowledge of the sport, rubgy 7s looks pretty different than the traditional 15-player version.

“Yeah rugby 7s is so special because its really anybody’s game any time some one brings it,” Maher said. “So for us, everyone keeps asking me, ‘Oh, what’s your most important game? Who are you most excited to play?’ And for us, that first game is our most important. We need to start winning, we need to start racking up points to put ourselves in a better place for quarterfinals and what not. So as sevens goes, it’s just 14 minutes of so much action and so much can happen in that time.”

While Maher and her team are excited to get out on the field, they have also made a point to take in their surroundings: both from the standpoint of being ready to play, but also so they don’t lose track of just how special this time is.

“Yeah I mean it’s been a wild ride,” Maher said. “It’s super hot over here, super humid, so that’s definitely something to get adjusted to. The timezone is completely different so when we’re going to bed, our parents are waking up. And then the village was something to get adjusted to as well and our coaching staff gave us a couple days to actually kind of bask in the excitement of it and take it all in before we started training and getting into the rugby part of it because I mean the excitement is just so immense when you enter that village.”

But make no mistake. Maher is ready to do whatever she can to help her team chase Olympic glory.

“I mean for me, it’s something I write in my journal before every game is just do you job,” Maher said. “So do your job and enjoy is all I say. And I just want to go out and put on, be the best teammate and best player my teammates need out there. So I’m not trying to do anything too fancy, anything too crazy, I just want to make them proud and know that my teammates can rely on me when I’m out there.”

Team USA’s game with China starts at 9 p.m. Eastern Wednesday night.

Copyright 2021 WCAX. All rights reserved.