Doyle reflects on Olympic experiences

Former+Eastern+rugby+player+Lauren+Doyle+poses+for+a+photo+during+her+senior+season+in+2012.+Doyle+recently+played+in+the+Tokyo+Olympics+and+previously+played+in+the+2016+Olypmics+in+Rio+de+Janeiro.+

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News

Former Eastern rugby player Lauren Doyle poses for a photo during her senior season in 2012. Doyle recently played in the Tokyo Olympics and previously played in the 2016 Olypmics in Rio de Janeiro.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

Many people dream of participating in the Olympics, but very few people ever have that dream come true.

Former Eastern rugby player Lauren Doyle has now done so twice. 

Doyle, a 2013 graduate of Eastern, has been on the national women’s rugby sevens team since her senior season and has participated in both the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2020 Tokyo games held last month. 

With COVID-19 greatly affecting the games and the city of Tokyo, Doyle said that this year was a much different experience than in 2016. 

“The biggest difference from Rio and Tokyo is obviously COVID, and we couldn’t go outside of the (Olympic) Village at all,” she said. “Obviously there were limitations on exploring, that was the biggest thing, and no fans, which doesn’t really have that big of an impact. If anything it helps your play because you can hear everyone and there’s no excuses.”

On the field, the U.S. team came to Tokyo with expectations of winning a medal. They were unbeaten in pool play, winning against China, Japan and Australia to reach a spot in the quarterfinals against Great Britain.

“We finished our pool play, we topped our pool, and we were really excited because we put ourselves in a position to play Great Britain, and we had just played Great Britain a month ago in L.A. like four times in a row and beat them,” Doyle said. 

She added that the team was not taking Great Britain for granted, but felt more comfortable facing them than Fiji, who they would have played if they lost to Australia in pool play. 

“We haven’t played Fiji in a long time, so we were excited that we put ourselves in that position,” Doyle said. “For the quarterfinal, there was a rain delay, so we were delayed 30 minutes and then it was a little bit wet, which just kind of alters the way you play in general.”

The U.S. team lost to Great Britain 21-12, ending their chances of medaling. They would eventually finish sixth after two more matches against China and Australia. Great Britain would finish fourth after losing the Fiji in the bronze medal match. 

“I just think the Great Britain played amazing. They played great defense against us, we got almost no go-forward ball, and we were just exploited a little bit,” Doyle said. “It hurt for a lot of us. All of us. We really thought that this was the team that was going to go and medal. Ultimately it all rests on your quarterfinal game and it just did not go our way.”

There are some unknowns with U.S. women’s rugby now. Head coach Chris Brown and assistant coach Matt Long announced they were leaving the program after the Olympics wrapped up. 

Doyle is under contract with the team through the end of the year. She said she is going to play out the rest of the year, but the Paris Olympics in 2024 are not on her radar. 

“If anything, I might try to compete in World Cup, which is next year, but that would probably max me out,” she said. 

With her Olympic career now over, Doyle reflected on what that opportunity meant to her going back nearly a decade. 

“It truly is an honor and a privilege to get to do what I love,” she said. “Not many people get to play a sport for as long as I have. It just means a lot to me. Competing in the Olympics is the highest of the high for all athletes, and to be able to accomplish it is truly blessed. It’s an amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]