From Eastern to Rio: Doyle represents USA in Olympics

EIU alumna Lauren Doyle was recognized by the University during a special ceremony between the first and second quarters of the football game agaisnt Western on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Justin Brown

EIU alumna Lauren Doyle was recognized by the University during a special ceremony between the first and second quarters of the football game agaisnt Western on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Lauren Doyle has been in the residency program for USA Rugby since Jan. 1, 2013 and finally reached her end goal: to play in the Olympics in Rio.

Although she was in the residency program for the U. S. Women’s Eagle Sevens for the last three years, she was not officially named to the Olympic team until mid-July of this year.

Doyle and the rest of the women in the residency program train all the time, but with the team being named in July, they had practiced together for four weeks leading up to the Games.

All the years of training came down to just a few days for Doyle, and it went by in the blink of an eye.

“There’s four years of build-up to it and then it’s literally over,” she said. “I remember sitting in my room and being like ‘look at that, we played.’ You get one chance. It was very fast.”

For any athlete, the Olympics are the biggest stage they can play on. It is the time to represent the country they live in and love.

Everyone in the world can watch the Olympics and watch these athletes, who are arguably the best athletes in the world compete. They are in Rio for a reason, and the support the Doyle received was great.

“It was awesome being there and to see the support I got back from people, and people I didn’t even know,” she said. “That was really great.”

Before, during, and after, Doyle was getting support from everywhere, simply just telling her that they were there for her throughout her biggest journey.

As a rugby player, injuries are almost inevitable. The physicality in the game is almost unmatched to other sports. Yes, there is hockey and football, but rugby is something else. And Doyle has had to deal with injuries in her rugby career, including in Rio.

She tore here ACL back in 2013, the year she was put in the residency program, and at the time, she was not as fully vested in the sport. Due to the injury, Doyle missed the World Cup that year.

She said she did not know what she was missing when she dealt with the ACL injury, but an injury in the 2016 Rio Olympics was tough to deal with. Four years of training, and she could not be 100 percent.

Doyle’s injury was nagging, but it did not stop her from playing in the tournament she had worked so hard for. Doyle rolled her ankle in the first game Team USA played.

“That was a very hard thing physically and mentally to try and play through because I knew I wasn’t going to be playing at 100 percent, and just trying to be satisfied with what I could do,” Doyle said. “That was tough to get through.”

Doyle did a bunch of rehab and recovery on it, and she gave what she could.

Just four years ago, Doyle was suiting up in blue and grey for the Panthers during her senior season. Now, she has gone to the Olympics and is back in the United States.

And the way she approached the games in Rio was no different. She put herself in frame of mind to think, “this is just a regular tournament” because if she put too much pressure on it, she would start playing weird, she said.

In her time back in the States, Doyle has used the past couple weeks to see friends and family. She was also honored at the Eastern football team’s home opening game Sept. 1 against Western in between the first and second quarter.

She was also honored by her high school at their football game.

“I’ve just been trying to catch up with some people,” she said. “I went to Chicago last weekend and saw my best friends. Been just trying to live it up until we go back and start training in October.”

The offseason for a rugby player is not long, and the next Olympics are not for another four years, but the World Cup is just two years away.

The toll rugby takes on Doyle, and other players is significant, so Doyle is looking at short-term goals.

“Honestly, my goal right now is to go to the World Cup in 2018 in San Francisco,” Doyle said. “With the life expectancy of a rugby player, it gets a little short. We get nagging injuries and eventually they don’t go away and you never get back to 100 percent, so I’m going to shoot for 2018.”

Being in the Olympics, the experience of the games goes beyond being on the field and Doyle and the rest of the team took in some sights, and met some of their fellow Olympic athletes.

Doyle got to meet tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps. They’re all there for the same goal, so it was just like meeting any other person, she said.

But there was one person that blew Doyle away. Matthew McConaughey was at the Olympics and Doyle got to meet him.

“That was a completely different experience meeting Matthew McConaughey,” she said. “The whole world knows him and he’s in movies. It was crazy. That was my favorite part.”

She was even able to catch some of the other events live, and hang out at the USA house in Copa Cabana.

She said they had 100 screens that played all the sports, all the time.

Rugby is a growing sport, and Doyle and the rest of the women on the team just hope to inspire younger generations to get out and play, girls especially she said.

“Our coach would share with us how many views we were getting and how many hits on the Internet,” she said. “That was just crazy to see because USA has never seen Rugby. I just hope that we get a lot more support throughout the United States.”

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]