Hawaii's Baravilala readies for rugby's return at 2016 Olympic Games

Hawaii's Baravilala readies for rugby's return at 2016 Olympic Games

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When rugby makes its return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next month, it won't just be the sport's first Olympic appearance in nearly 100 years... It will be the first time ever that the world's women's teams compete on the Olympic stage.

Among them will be a Hawaii resident.

"It's a first time thing for all of us," said Bui Baravilala, a Radford High School graduate from Honolulu and member of the U.S. Women's National Team. "I think for the generations ahead to look back on this moment, I hope it's inspiring for the future generations."

Baravilala, a volleyball and basketball star at Radford who graduated in 2009, will be among the 12-member team that competes in women's rugby for the first time at the Rio games. The team's challenge, as they prepare for the Olympics, will be separating their place in history from a desire to make an even bigger mark on the world stage.

"Looking back on this, I'm really gonna feel like I've accomplished something big in my life," said Baravilala. "Just being the first girl's [team] to compete and be back in 92 years [men's rugby was last contested in 1924] is a big accomplishment for me."

Baravilala, who played club rugby in Hawaii before departing to train with Team USA, has been preparing for her Olympic moment since 2012, when it was announced the sport would return to the games.

She and several teammates were at dinner this week when they received emails from the Team USA coaching staff, confirming that they had been selected to the Olympic roster.

"I get a lot of people asking 'Are you excited, ' and all this," Baravilala said. "But it really hasn't hit me. I don't think it'll hit me until I get there. But right now I need to just focus on preparing for our teams that we're gonna go up against."

The U.S. Women's National Team will play their Olympic matches on August 6th, 7th and 8th, and the timing of their first game will force the team to miss the Opening Ceremonies on August 5th. Still, Baravilala and her teammates are focused on the task at hand.

"I guess that's my main focus now, is turning it on when I'm there, regardless of what's going on around me, regardless of how many people are there to watch," said Baravilala. "When my cleats are on, I'm switched on."

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro begin on August 5th and can be seen on KHNL.

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