By Dan Plouffe
Coming off 55-0, 60-0 and 45-0 victories over Colombia, Mexico and Argentina, Team Canada was about to receive its first real test of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games against USA. Before you could barely blink an eye from the opening kickoff, there was Natasha Watcham-Roy blazing towards the try zone, igniting the first of many roars from the Canadian crowd.
“I saw the gap and I took it,” Watcham-Roy recounts.
The 23-year-old was describing the first scoring play that launched Canada towards a 34-0 advantage before the U.S. got on the scoreboard late, but she could have just as easily been talking about her rise onto the Canadian national women’s rugby sevens team.
The former University of Ottawa Gee-Gees captain was indeed a strong university player, earning All-Canadian honours and playing in three FISU World University Games, but her emergence into the group of a dozen women leading Canada towards the sport’s Olympic debut next summer in Rio de Janeiro was lightning quick.
Watcham-Roy had been working part-time as a physiotherapist in the fall of 2013 when she was invited to join the Canadian women’s national rugby program in Langford, B.C. She jumped at the opportunity and now finds herself part of a world powerhouse team that finished 2nd in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series standings to secure their Olympic berths.
“We’ve been building since the series and we’ve only become better as a team,” Watcham-Roy cautions.
The world #5 Americans fully learned that lesson at the Pan Am Games. After the drubbing in the preliminary round, the championship game was even worse, with Canada responding to USA’s opening try by scoring 55 unanswered points to soundly capture the gold medal.
“It feels amazing,” signals the former Hull Volant player, who’d celebrated with her mom, dad, boyfriends and many more friends watching from the stands. “I’m so thankful we had a big victory against the U.S. in front of our home crowd.”
The atmosphere for the rugby sevens medal matches was a spectacular blast-off point early on in the Toronto Pan Am Games as a crowd approaching 20,000 was electrified by Canadian women’s and men’s gold medals.
Many of those assembled at Toronto FC’s BMO Field home were witnessing the spectacle of high-level rugby sevens action for the first time and were treated to a thoroughly entertaining high-speed, high-drama sport. And the puck-mad country also quickly found out that our women are darn good at this emerging summer sport.
“I think we gave them a pretty good intro,” smiles Watcham-Roy. “I hope it attracts them to play rugby and build the sport in Canada. I can’t wait to see what it does to the game in Canada.
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