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Sara Kaljuvee

Canadian National Player

7s caps: 23
15s caps: 3

Career:

•   X2 PanAmerican Gold Medalist (2015 & 2019)

•   Rio Summer Olympic Bronze medalist alt. (2016)

•   Competed at Commonwealth Games (2018 - first time women’s rugby 7s debuted at the games)

•   Competed at Rugby Sevens World Cup (2018)

•   U20 (capt) & Senior Women’s 15’s Nations Cup Champions (2013)

How did you start playing rugby, and what made you fall in love with the sport?

I started playing rugby when I was 14 years old at Pickering High School in my hometown of Ajax, ON. My older cousins had played the sport in high school, and because I competed in boys ice hockey, which is a contact sport, they suggested I try rugby, and I fell in love from the first game I played. I was playing on my high school varsity rugby team and I remember going out and making my first tackle, and looking around waiting to get a penalty. Obviously, I didn’t, and from that moment on I loved the physicality of the sport. 

What do you think makes rugby such a powerful experience for women and girls?

Rugby is such a powerful experience for women and girls because it promotes equality, acceptance and is empowering. This sport is inclusive for all diverse groups of people with varying abilities, as well as it creates friendships that last a lifetime. There are many people who have made a difference in my rugby career; one of them was my high school rugby coach, Kelly Sadowski. She coached me throughout my four years of high school and was the one who motivated me to try out for my provincial team at 16. Trying out and making the provincial squad kick-started my pathway through rugby.

Who are the role models or mentors who made a difference in your career?

My main role model is my late mother, Lynne. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 12 years old, and she had battled cancer for 10 years. On December 31st, 2015 after a long fight she passed away, just six months before Rugby 7s made its debut at the 2016 Olympics. In July 2016 I was named as one of the travelling alternates to the Olympic squad. I was both surprised and heartbroken as this has been my dream ever since I was a little girl, and something I talked endlessly about with my mom. It was hard to realize I would have to wait a little longer to have another shot at my dream. But if anything, my mother showed me what real strength and resiliency is. She is the strongest person I know, and I know she is with me every step of the way on this rollercoaster of a journey. Nobody said it would be easy, but I can tell you: it has been worth it.

TIGHT FIVE

1. What’s your middle name?

Lynn

2. What position do you play? Have you played others as well or before?

In rugby 7s I am a forward & in rugby 15s I am an inside center, but I have played positions 1-4 in 7s and in 15s I have had the odd game playing flank.

3. Do you have a lucky game day hairstyle or item of clothing or tape with words- any game day turnout rituals

I have a gameday morning ritual that includes an ice-cold shower, my favourite game day spandex, my game day playlist, and when we were allowed to write on the tape I would write ‘Mommadukes’ for my late Mom.

4. Favourite workout

I love Olympic lifting, especially power cleans.

5. How do you want to leave the jersey (and the sport) better for the next generation of female athletes?

It’s important that women's sports have visible role models. I want to leave the jersey inspiring young girls to follow their athletic dreams, no matter the sport. The narrative needs to change around stereotypes, social ideologies of girls in sport, and perceived gender roles. I want to leave the sport better for the next generation by continuing to challenge restrictive notions about female physical abilities and appearances. A big way this sport will be left better is through engaging within the community and fighting for the power of representation. When women's sports are seen, audiences grow, salaries increase, and the confidence of girls who want to chase their dreams rise.

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