Ghislaine Landry on her role as captain of the national women’s rugby sevens team
Image: Canadian Olympic Committee
The Olympics was never part of the plan. When Ghislaine Landry began her professional rugby career playing for the women’s rugby sevens team in 2007, no version of the sport had been part of the Olympic Games since 1924. Now the 29-year-old Toronto native is captain of the team and represented Team Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics where they took home bronze.
“As a young athlete, a lot of us dream about going to the Olympics, but when I decided to play rugby that was taken off the table,” she says.
Landry says her family used to watch the Olympics together, and she recalls seeing the athletes march out, “being successful and representing their country.” To live that experience was surreal, she says.
“To come home with a medal, for us, we were going for gold, but when we came home with bronze, it felt just as good as gold. For that to represent all the years of work you put in, with your teammates and program, it was something I’ll never forget and hopefully something I can do again.”
Prior to her professional rugby days, Landry was a student at Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute where she played a variety of sports, not content with just one.
“I played as many sports as I could, given the schedule: volleyball, swim teams, soccer, basketball, rugby, and I was part of the athletic council,” she says.
Landry is thankful in hindsight to a faculty that really supported student athletics.
Landry then went on to St. Francis Xavier University, where she studied human kinetics.
After graduating in 2010, Landry spent the next year living in England to play club rugby.
When it was announced in 2011 that the sport would be added to the 2016 Olympic Games, things changed. The entire Canadian women’s team moved to Victoria, B.C., where they now live and train full-time.
“We spend more time with our teammates than we do with our own families and partners, so it’s definitely a familial relationship, when you’re going through hell and back with these girls training, and I think the biggest thing you come to appreciate is, when you’re having a bad day, someone’s there to pick you up,” says Landry.
Playing rugby has added many stamps to Landry’s passport. The team is currently competing in the World Rugby Sevens Series and has already made a stop in Dubai in November and will be in Sydney from Jan. 26 to 28.
Next up will be trips to Victoria, Paris and Kitakyushu, Japan. In July, they’ll compete at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco.
Fans around the world are fun, Landry says, and they really get into it.
“At most of the tournaments the fans will dress up. There’s definitely a lot of alcohol being consumed, and it’s just a massive party in terms of an event,” she says.
While the teams are giving it their all on the pitch, the fans seem to appreciate it. When there’s a big break or a big try, she says, “the entire stadium is electric and so loud.”
Landry is also thankful for her family’s support of her passion. From the days of “playing north Toronto soccer at Eglinton Park every Saturday morning since I could run, basically,” she says, “now they travel the world to watch me and support me, and I think that’s a huge factor in being successful as an athlete.”