WHITEFISH — In an interview with MTN Sports, Whitefish native Nicole Heavirland reflected on her time in Tokyo representing Team USA on the Olympic women's sevens rugby team.
Team USA won its pool, beating China, Japan, and Australia but lost to Great Britain in the quarterfinal round. But Heavirland said nothing could replace that feeling of being an Olympian.
“Pretty special moment against China," Heavirland said. "With our sport injuries happen more often than not and to be just running out on that field and knowing like, wow, I am going to be an Olympian soon, like right when the whistle blows, it's a really special moment.”
Growing up, Heavirland always knew she wanted to compete at the highest level possible no matter what the sport was. But those dreams manifested into a reality as she took the field for opening ceremony.
“We were in a tunnel with Team France and we started chanting, 'USA, USA,' and they chanted one of their chants and it was back and forth for a couple minutes," said Heavirland. "That was super powerful for me because there was just athletes there and we were just getting ready to go out in this big stadium for open ceremony.”
There was a moment after Team USA beat Australia to finish pool play and advance to the quarterfinals. Heavirland fell to the ground, and her team surrounded her as they realized this was a moment they would all never forget.
“My teammates had my back, I had their back and for them to just celebrate with me in that moment was really special,” said Heavirland.
Performing on the world's biggest stage is what this Olympian was meant for as pressure has always been something that fuels her.
“I talked to my sports psych leading up to the games and he was like you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, this pressure is where you thrive and I was like you are right and he was like just go enjoy it and embrace it because it is going to be gone in the blink of an eye," Heavirland said.
And if you ask Heavirland if her rugby journey is over, she will tell you it is just getting started.
“I definitely want to shoot for Paris 2024, that is in three years. Talking to my dad recently he said just go until your body can’t go anymore and I was like that is right let's do this. And I am so excited because I know it is going to grow even more,” said Heavirland.