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National News

From sprinting to Olympic rugby sevens gold

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 | Josh Papanikolaou

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Former Glenhuntly Athletics Club sprinter Ellia Green can thank her junior athletics experience as one of the factors behind her incredible pace she now shows on the rugby field.

As a key member of the Australian women’s rugby sevens team that won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics, Green's natural ability to accelerate was on full display when she was a junior sprinter, who participated at the Pacific School Games in 2008.

Green's message to the students competing at the 10th edition of the Games in Adelaide next week, as well as the Australian All Schools Championships from the 8-10 of December, is simply to have fun and do not be afraid to try something new regardless of your experience.

Th 24-year-old knows all about chasing dreams and giving it her best shot, which took her from a talented young track and field athlete to an international star of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

“Really, I just remember it being a super exciting competition to compete in, as it was the closest international sport experience I could get as a kid growing up,” Green said.

“It was a goal for me to make the qualifying times for that because I knew I would be competing against Fiji and all the other islander countries which was really special for me.

“Those in it for the first time enjoy the experience because it’s an amazing competition to be a part of and give it your all.”

Green’s life started in Suva, Fiji before she was adopted by Yolanta Green and her late husband while the couple were on a holiday, which made competing at the Pacific School Games in Canberra against her native country even more special.

It was another step towards a dream of Olympic glory as a sprinter racing the fastest women in the world before a chance encounter put her on the path of creating rugby history at the Rio Games.

“If I could give any advice to our youth of today I’d say just try everything, you never know what opportunities can come up for you when you least expect it,” Green explained.

“Such as rugby sevens for me, it was never on the cards for me, but I was just in the right place at the right time as well as just trying new things.

“Even if you’re just there to participate and make new friends, just give it a red hot go.”

On the track, Green was a talented junior with a powerful physique who ran for Australia at the 2009 World School Summer Games and at the under 18 national championships in 2010 placing second and third in the 100m and 200m respectively.

Green is pictured below at the Athletics Victoria State Relays 2011, she is pictured with 2006 Commonwealth Games representative Erica Fountain (nee Sigmont), world champion for the 400m hurdles Jana Pittman, and world championships representative Kelly Hetherington. Photo: Anna Ross

Now she is a well-known and popular rugby player, highlighted by her recent Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Sports Awards nomination, and she takes her position as a role model for young people very seriously.

It is something very important to her because when Green was at school she looked up to many elite athletes like 2009 world 100m champion and second fastest woman ever Carmelita Jeter.

“You just really paint a picture of them from what you see on social media and when you see them compete,” Green said.

“So, it’s important for me and my teammates that we be positive role models on and off the field.”

Last year was a special one for Green and her mum, as she found herself on the world stage representing Australia at the Olympic Games, the first time for rugby sevens.

She was not on the track in Rio as she imagined for all those years as a young kid growing up, but the medal was the same colour and it meant just as much celebrating the occasion with her mum.

“It was everything I could have wanted in a competition and it was amazing to be on the podium, personally I had flashbacks of when I was a child and when my mum was watching me run,” Green recalled.

“She was just standing there in the crowd with tears in her eyes watching us receive our gold medals, so that was my highlight.”

A shoulder reconstruction followed by a left knee reconstruction has left Green on the sidelines in recent times, but she has been training hard and looks set to return in early 2018.

Beyond her sporting career Green has just as big goals off the field eyeing a career as a humanitarian.

“Growing up I’ve actually always wanted to work for the United Nations as a humanitarian aid officer,” she said.

“I did my nursing degree after year 12 at Australian Catholic University and still have a goal of doing that, hopefully one day I see myself working for the UN when I retire.”

The Pacific School Games will run from 3-9 December delivering a sporting, educational, cultural, social and life-long experience to more than 4,000 school-aged students who will compete across 11 sports.

Supporters Passes to the Games are available for purchase which include entry to all sports and functions, along with discounted offers at selected eateries throughout the city.

Travelling via public transport will be free with the Supporters Pass that will also provide access to the Opening Ceremony and Games Village.

The 10th Pacific School Games are proudly supported by the South Australian Tourism Commission through Events South Australia.

 
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