By Lethbridge Herald on July 20, 2015.
Ashley Steacy and her Canada rugby sevens teammates won the gold medal at the Pan Am Games last week, then split for Rio de Janeiro, where they did some sightseeing with a single training session. After that, Steacy, the former University of Lethbridge Pronghorn and a stalwart of the national sevens side headed home.
She was greeted at the Lethbridge County Airport by a gathering of fans and family members, welcoming her back to her hometown. Steacy â€” she earned many of her rugby accolades as Ashley Patzer â€” gave the crowd exactly what it wanted as her eyes lit up and her smile spread ear-to-ear. She made her way to husband Sean before finally pulling out her Pan Am Games gold medal and showing it off.
â€œI heard that there might be a few people meeting me,â€ she said. â€œI got a little bit of a hint from my husband. I didnâ€™t expect this many people.
â€œItâ€™s nice to come home to a big crowd and awesome supporters from Lethbridge.â€
Steacy isnâ€™t home much these days. The Canadian sevens team is centralized in Vancouver and she said she has spent close to 10 months a year out there over the past three years. The immersion has paid off as Canadaâ€™s team not only finished second in the HSBC Womenâ€™s Sevens World Series but romped past the Americans 55-7 in the Pan Am final.
â€œLeading up, we knew we could dominate most of the teams, we knew the USA would be our toughest competition, theyâ€™re in the Series and were quite a strong team all year but we didn’t expect to dominate them like we did in the final but we just came out ready to play.â€
Canada didnâ€™t give the U.S. a yard of breathing room, stealing kickoffs, stopping them dead in their tracks and then running past them with the ball. In a game as short as sevens, those turnovers can mean a quick end to the game.
Steacy said the Canadian teamâ€™s post-Pan Am visit to Rio was more sightseeing than anything. The sevens squad has clinched a spot in Rio 2016 and they want to concentrate on rugby when next yearâ€™s Olympics hit the city.
â€œWe were able to really experience Rio, we got to do a bunch of the sights,â€ she said. â€œWe went to Sugarloaf (Mountain) and we went to Christ the Redeemer and the Spanish Steps and Copacabana and kind of nailed all those major sights that people would do over there, so when weâ€™re there next year we really get to focus.â€
For now, Steacy said the Canadian team trainer told them to enjoy some time off. Sean said he still has sausage and meat left over from last hunting season and after Canadaâ€™s most successful rugby season ever, sheâ€™s earned the right to decompress with friends and family.
â€œNow that I have some time off, Iâ€™ll rest recover and then start getting ready for next season, all of us are already starting to think about that.â€