Evania Pelite is part of the Australian team which this week starts the defence of its Olympic Women’s Rugby Sevens crown in Tokyo.
Thursday will be another milestone for the former pupil at Hercules Rd State School, Kippa-Ring, who has travelled the world as one of Sevens biggest stars.
But the 25 year old's next challenge, on the world's greatest sporting stage, is a far cry from the Ken Hayward Oval in Deception Bay where it all started.
In fact, the first time Pelite played she felt there was a “target” on her head.
It was an Under 12 rugby league match at Deception Bay Raiders (now Moreton Bay Raiders) with Pelite “one of the only girls” in a boys’ side.
“I always liked physical sport and the first time I got the ball I’m pretty sure I copped it,” she said laughing.
“But after a while the boys were saying ‘actually she’s quite fast’!”
That remarkable speed was to take Pelite to Touch Football and then Rugby Sevens - her first taste being at a Reds Rugby Clinic. By the age of 17 she was playing for the Australian team.
Pelite has won national schools, Olympic Youth and Olympic Games gold - scoring in the final against New Zealand - and silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Indeed, YouTube clips show her electrifying pace in try-saving tackles at international tournaments in Paris and Dubai.
Pelite’s speed will be a key weapon when Australia starts its Pool C program against hosts Japan on Thursday at 11.30am and China at 6.30pm.
Australia faces the US at 11.30am on Friday before the quarter-finals. Then, hopefully, semi-finals and medal matches on Saturday.
Preparations have been disrupted by COVID. The Australian team would usually have arrived earlier than nine days before its first Olympic match.
However, the players had warm-up games – six in Auckland against New Zealand and six in Townsville at the Oceania Women’s Sevens Championships.
“It has been different and with COVID it is very different,” said Pelite, speaking after the squad’s first gym session after arriving in Tokyo.
“Not many teams will know much about each other, but we’re working hard and experience will be really important here.”
Pelite’s family still lives in the Moreton Bay Region, though she has been based in Sydney for several years
She is also an Australian Touch Football international and last year was named the New Zealand Warriors women’s rugby league Player of the Year.
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