One of Australia’s gold medal defending stars has pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics, admitting the uncertainty over Covid-19 played a key role.
Australian women’s Sevens rugby star Emilee Cherry – dubbed “GOAT” by her teammates – has made the shock decision to call time on her career and pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics.
It was the intention of the 28-year-old to go out on top in Tokyo and help defend the gold medal Australia won in Rio four years ago.
But Cherry said her body post pregnancy and the uncertainty of Covid-19 had convinced her to retire – just 56 days before the start of the Games on July 23.
Cherry, renowned for her cool head and on-field vision, had forced her way back into the national side after the birth of daughter Alice in June 2019 with husband Dan.
Mentally and physically, Cherry had planned for the Tokyo Games to be her final stint in an Aussie jersey, but the 12-month delay was too much of a juggle.
“My body has told me it’s had enough, and the Covid situation with schedules changing so much, and juggling Alice and childcare and Dan’s schedule … we made the decision to step back and play a support role going into Tokyo,” Cherry said.
Australian coach John Maneti said: “Emilee has given so much to the team, program and jersey, and it’s sad to see her go.”
“The timing of her departure is unfortunate as I know the whole team was excited to give her the send-off which she deserves however, I know this won’t affect the squad heading into the Games.
“On behalf of the entire Rugby Sevens program, I would like to thank Em for everything she has given and will continue to give.”
Cherry added: “I have been emotional about the decision and some of the girls have tried to talk me out of it.”
“I think some of the others believe it’s a joke and I’ll still come back and play. But now I feel relief and just think myself lucky to have had an amazing 10-years with the team.”
The 2014 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, hence the nickname “GOAT” (greatest of all time) is still working with the squad in the lead-up to Tokyo, helping out with analysis and skills.
While other teammates have had higher profiles, Cherry is a once in a generation player and the Australia side will miss her vision and pressure plays.
But while the postponement was too much load for Cherry to carry, the superstar centre said the delay will put her teammates in good stead.
A gold medal might have been out of the side’s reach 12 months ago, but that is not the case now.
“The delay will help the girls. They’ve had an extra 12 months and in that time they’ve improved speed, fitness and strength,” Cherry said.
“We still have another Oceania series against New Zealand before the Games and I think compared to the rest of the world, we’ve had a better preparation.
“This team can win Olympic gold and be the best team in the world.”