Determination and commitment paid off when Gloucester-Hartpury's Hannah Jones won an opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream and represent Great Britain at the 2021 Olympic Games in Japan.
The Welsh international and Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s player was named in the 19-women GB Sevens training squad last month for the showpiece event this summer, with the final squad set to be announced in July.
The outstanding achievement was reward for the vision and foresight she has shown, on and off the pitch, to improve her chances of playing on one of the biggest stages in sport, in front of a global TV audience of billions.
Two years ago, Hannah and Wales team-mate Jasmine Joyce (also in the training squad) decided to head Down Under to sharpen up their sevens skills following two Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series tournaments, in France and Ukraine respectively.
“We both felt that the best chance for us to get selected for the Olympic squad was to play more sevens rugby,” said Hannah.
“Fortunately, we were able to put funding together to play professional sevens in Australia for six months, which was a great experience – it really pushed me and improved my game.
“Sevens is a very different game to 15s rugby. You’ve got to be much fitter, much faster and mentally and physically strong too, to prepare yourself for playing three or four games in successive days.”
A trainee teacher, Hannah embraced another major challenge following her return to the UK – the coronavirus pandemic and the related lockdown restrictions.
With pupils’ learning going online, Hannah created a gym at home to ensure she stayed in the best possible shape for when rugby returned, training before and after the school day.
“As amateur rugby players, we have to work full-time and try and train full-time alongside it as much as we can,” said Hannah.
“A benefit of lockdown was that it gave me the time to recover from exercise, eat the right food and focus more on training, so there wasn’t a day I didn’t think about the Olympics.
“I just didn’t want any obstacles to get in the way of me following my dreams.”
Hannah couldn’t quite believe it when she was informed by selectors that she had been included in the initial training squad.
With the training camps now under way, ahead of pre-OIympic tournaments in the summer, Hannah will be pulling out all the stops to win a place in the 13-player squad and secure a place on the plane for Japan.
Hannah said: “I’ve put absolutely everything into giving myself the best possible chance of going to the Olympics, but when I found out I’d been selected for the GB training squad, words can’t really explain how I felt.
“It meant the hard work and the sacrifices we make as rugby players are all worth it and everyone named in the training squad has a chance to play at probably the biggest tournament in sevens rugby.
“I have been looking forward to the training camps ever since the announcement was made. Now it’s down to me to train and play as well as I can and hopefully win a place in the final squad.”
Hannah knows she can depend on strong support and encouragement from everyone involved at Gloucester-Hartpury Women as she pursues her Olympic ambitions.
“I’m delighted to be playing for Gloucester-Hartpury,” said Hannah. “My team-mates are great and head coach Sean Lynn has such an amazing passion for the game.”
Sean Lynn, Head of Women’s Rugby at Hartpury and Head Coach of Gloucester-Hartpury Women, said: “This is a great opportunity for Hannah. As a club, we are supporting her 100% and we believe it to be a privilege and a once-in-a-life-time experience.
“This is a great outlet for her to show off her talent and skill set. It came as no surprise that she has the ability to make the squad. She is a true professional on and off the field.”