With the Olympic rugby rosters now determined, the Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams are one step closer to making their Olympic dreams a reality in Rio. Among these talented 24 athletes who were officially announced Monday is Kelly Griffin.
Those familiar with the Women’s Sevens team are sure to recognize Griffin, who is one of the eight players originally selected for the residency program at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista in 2012. Griffin began playing rugby during her first year at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004. Though her high school did have a rugby team, Griffin’s extracurricular time was dominated by basketball and soccer. As a freshman at UCLA, Griffin wanted to find a new stage on which to compete. While scanning the list of club sports offered by the university, rugby caught her eye, and she quickly contacted the team and participated in her first practice.
While Griffin has found immense success as a member of the Eagles, she did not initially imagine that her rugby career could include competing at the Olympics. When she first heard rugby would be an event at the 2016 Olympic Games, she was at her first Sevens development camp in 2009. She explains, “At the evening meeting, it was announced to the camp that the Olympic Committee had voted to include rugby in the Olympics. At that time, I was still pretty green. I thought it was cool for the sport but never thought I would be one of those athletes. I was still very much a rookie trying to learn and play as much as I could.” Since then, Griffin’s tenacity and unmatched drive have allowed her to become a staple on the national team, and ultimately have given her the opportunity to recognize her Olympic dream and captain the Eagles at the 2016 Games. After winning bronze with the Eagles at the 2013 IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens and silver at the Pan American Games in 2015, Griffin is now ready to bring home the gold from Rio.
But Griffin has not done it alone. She recognizes that the support of her family and teammates has allowed her to flourish in the sport. “Fortunately, my wife has moved to Chula Vista with me,” she says. “I have a son who is one and a half years old…I get a lot of support at home.” Despite her busy schedule, Griffin values her role as a mother: “I love to go home and be a parent. It’s something other than rugby that brings me a lot of joy.”
With the help of her family and teammates, Griffin is staying grounded as the Olympic Games draw nearer. “For me, I play rugby because I love the game and it has given me the most enjoyment, the best friends…it has made my life so much better than if I hadn’t found it,” she says. “The more people who play rugby, the more people will be able to experience that for themselves. It’s important for rugby to grow in this country so more people can experience what I’ve been able to experience.”