Parry: The Olympic effect not lost on me

Shannon  Parry Profile
by Shannon Parry

It's been almost two months now since we claimed the first Rugby Sevens gold medal, but the real impact is only just starting to show.

The Olympic journey was a phenomenal one, on-field as well as far away from it, with the thousands of messages we received from everyone back home.

From hardy rugby fans to new supporters of the game, it was incredible to feel the way we could capture an entire nation.

Going into the Olympics was like being blind folded, with little idea what to expect nor how to deal with what was to come.

The actual gold medal match flew by. Photo; Getty imagesThe journey went quickly, suddenly it was time to make a mark and make the best of our most important opportunity of the next four years.

Running out in Deodoro, hearing the strains of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and chants of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi’ made it feel like home.

The ground was flooded in green and gold and we fed off every speck of energy from the crowd, particularly when we faced a challenge.

The Australian Sevens have won  Olympic gold. Photo: AFPThree days of tournament play sped by and there we were, shoulder to shoulder signing the Australian national anthem ahead of the gold medal match against New Zealand.

I felt numb, as the words reverberated around the stadium, but then the sound disappeared in a vacuum as the opening whistle blew, a brief slice of peace before the frenetic game began.

Twenty minutes was done and a final New Zealand score could not change the result – we were, and are, finally gold medallists.

From there, adrenaline took over. We were clambering into the stands, finding our families and partners, all of whom have shared this ride with us through the good times and the bad.

The next morning was when it really started to hit home, my phone flooded with messages of support and congratulations, an inkling of the buzz that had been generated in Australia.

It was the first time we really had any perspective on that, having put ourselves in a bubble for the tournament, not wanting to veer off course.

Our faces were plastered on the front page of newspapers across the country, a feat rarely achieved by female athletes .

Being told about these things happening while we were still in Rio was one thing but then to experience our homecoming made the adulation real.

We went from being relatively anonymous in our Olympic quest to being stopped in shopping centres or cafes, with people wanting photos or just giving us their congratulations for making Olympic history.

The greatest gift that we have been given in the past month, though, is the news that so many young girls want to take up rugby.

It is so fantastic to see girls and young women wanting to follow in our footsteps and also that the governing bodies are responding to that demand, in what is a monumental shift in their mentality.

This is only the beginning of what the Australian Women’s Sevens team is capable of, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.