CELEBRATING: Emilee Cherry, our Olympic golden girl.
CELEBRATING: Emilee Cherry, our Olympic golden girl. Contributed

Our six-day chat with Olympic gold medallist Emilee Cherry

EMILEE Cherry might have conquered the world - but that doesn't mean she's stopped being a country girl.

The Olympic gold medallist in rugby sevens will return to Roma very soon, but in the meantime the Western Star spoke to her in an interview over the internet that took six days.

WS: I spoke to your dad yesterday and as you can imagine he was over the moon. How important have your parents Fred and Laurie been in shaping you as a sportswoman?

Cherry: My parents and whole family have played a huge part in shaping my career. Most importantly though, they always focused on being the best I can be as an athlete and a person.

I am so thankful for all the sacrifices they have taken to put me into the position that I am in today. They always believed in me and I know they will always be there supporting.

WS: Apart from the match against the US, Australia's actual competition went completely to plan. How well did you think preparation went while you were in Rio ahead of the Olympics?

EC: The team's preparations were great leading into the Olympics. Obviously winning the World Series was a huge confidence booster for all of us.

Personally, my preparations weren't 100% after suffering a shoulder injury in France at our last World Series.

I hadn't done contact in over six weeks and made one tackle five days before the tournament, then injured my hamstring three days before. So preparations for myself were a little rusty but I was always confident in mine and my teammates' abilities.

WS: When NZ scored first in that final, things were looking a bit shaky. How did you as a group respond to that initial challenge?

EC: NZ had the ball on our line for a few minutes. In sevens, to withstand pressure like that for so long was a great effort by everyone. As a team we are always confident if we have the ball, we know points will come. So for us it was about being extremely disciplined and when we had the ball, treasure it.

WS: Portia Woodman (NZ playmaker) was pretty upset at full time and you guys looked ragged but jubilant. Was that the most intense of all the matches you played?

EC: Yes, any time you play New Zealand you know it's going to be extremely tough and physical. They have some incredibly talented players in their team. You've definitely got to step up and match their intensity.

The final, though, was played at such a high intensity and with every moment you knew the gold medal was on the line, so we weren't going to leave anything out there on the field.

WS: The All Blacks gave it to the Wallabies on the weekend in the traditional format of the game. How do you think your side's gold medal will push the popularity of the sevens format into the Australian sporting landscape?

EC: The increased medal attention to women's sevens is definitely an advantageous move for the future. At the moment there is no real grassroots level, so to raise awareness of the sport to young people who might see themselves wanting to play rugby sevens is a great thing.

There is still a long way to go though. As athletes and a program, we are less funded and less broadcasted in Australia. To see that gender gap close would be a great thing over the next few years.

Once people watch sevens, we know they will be hooked. It's fast, exciting, plenty of tries, big physical tackles and the party atmosphere for the crowd - there is something for everyone to enjoy.

So I definitely hope this gold medal will push the popularity of the sevens format into the foreground of Australian sport.

WS: Final question - how do you plan to celebrate the win? I understand you don't have much time off before the new Series starts.

EC: My only plans for celebrations are coming back to Queensland to see all my family and friends. I'm so excited to be able to come home and share this experience with all of them. They have been such a great support along my journey, so it will be so nice just to be home and relax.

Firstly though we have the Qantas Hangar celebration when we land, then I'll be doing the Sydney and Brisbane official Olympic welcoming home parades.

After that I will be going to Toowoomba and Roma to see my family.

We have three weeks off, then we are back training in Sydney.

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