21 February 2020

Maggie Alphonsi focused on road to Rio 2016

May 12, 2015

Rugby World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi believes her transition from rugby to shot put in a bid to qualify for next year’s Rio Olympics signals the strength of women’s rugby.
The ex-England and Saracens captain retired from international and club duty in January to turn her attention towards the Olympic discipline.

With her final game in the Women’s Premiership resulting in victory over Wasps and title success, the former Saracens flanker is hoping to bring the physicality of women’s rugby into her preparations for Rio qualification.

She said: “Rugby requires a high level of power and strength to be able to compete as an athlete on the big stage.

“The skills and conditioning I have developed over my time as a women’s rugby player have provided me with the ingredients to make the transition between the two sports.”

Alphonsi made reference to the crossover between rugby and shot put and how it has helped with her transition:

“Upper and lower body strength combined with the ability to throw and pass a rugby ball has provided me with an extra advantage when securing a high ranking at indoor competitions.”

The 2010 Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year can be found twice a week at Lee Valley Athletics Centre training for her place in the Olympic Great Britain squad.

With an 11-year international rugby career and a World Cup final triumph over Canada last year, Alphonsi reminisced on where it all began as a young girl in education.

She said: “At school, I would often find myself standing outside in the corridor rather than inside of the classroom.

I was the class clown and one of the tough girls who used to get into the odd fight now and again. My PE teacher and the Welsh Women’s captain at the time, Liza Burgess, encouraged me to channel my aggression through rugby.”

It paid off for Alphonsi who transferred her discipline from the game into further education, completing a degree in Sport and Exercise Science at De Montfort University and a masters in Sport and Exercise Assessment at the University of Roehampton.

“Finding sport at the age of 13 or 14 made a huge difference to my personal development with an early involvement enabling me to push for achievement in every aspect of life,” she said.

The former flanker confirmed there is more to do when attempting to increase women’s participation from a grassroots level in order to promote representative rugby.

Alphonsi said: “The RFU need to continue building the vital link between school, club and international rugby to bring future players through.”

She made reference to the participation opportunities, which currently exist within the women’s football structure, where girls have every team to choose from.

“Every football club has a women’s section with impressive training facilities. We now have the international profile in rugby but our club presence still needs improving if we are to offer young girls every chance of getting involved,” Alphonsi said.

With the women’s squad experiencing a disappointing Six Nations campaign, Alphonsi is remaining optimistic.

The World Cup winner believes the team are currently experiencing a transition phase where the coaching staff are having to re-build in the absence of players to the Sevens programme.

She said: “It was a difficult tournament and the girls were working through positional changes after their World Cup success, with many now full-time Sevens athletes.

“This is a new look England side who have only been playing together for a short period. We want to win the World Cup in three years time so as long as we continue to strengthen as a squad, results will come eventually.”

Returning to Alphonsi’s personal ambitions, her shot put PB currently stands at 11.44 metres with the required distance for Rio qualification set at 17.80 metres.

There are improvements to be made if she is to make the cut. However, Alphonsi is taking each day as it comes.

“I’m aiming to be throwing 14 or even 15 metres come the end of this summer. I’m training hard so hopefully the work will pay off in the form of results.”

Megan Joyce, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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