Olympic veteran Lauren Doyle already made history when she competed in the 2016 Rio Games, marking the first time rugby sevens had ever been played in an Olympics and the first time the sport had been featured since 1924.
But this time, the Illinois native is looking to make a different kind of history.
She wants to help lead her team to its first medal.
“It was an amazing experience to go the first time and compete there, I just think that this time around I want to win,” Doyle told NBC Chicago. “So it does feel amazing [to be heading to Tokyo], feels great, but we’re out there to, you know, come back with a gold.”
Doyle is now the oldest player on her team, marking a big shift in her role heading into the Olympic Games.
“Just comparing 2016 to now, my role on the team has changed drastically,” she said. “I am much more in a leadership role now and the younger players come to me, they ask me questions, senior players we discuss a lot of things and a lot of strategy,” she said. “So I’m definitely more brain now this time around than last time. So yeah, it is an empowering role to know that you have, like, a lot of people look to you for things, but you know, I also have the support of my whole team anytime I need them.”
With history on the line, Doyle hopes she can bring her sport a new kind of attention, particularly for young girls.
“The younger generation, you know, particularly in America where rugby hasn’t really caught on or isn’t as big as other countries, you know, just reach out and find those clubs in your area because they are there, you just have to look a little bit harder,” she said.
It’s a story she knows all too well, being a track star who switched to rugby late in her athletic career.
“I was a multi-sport athlete all through high school, but the one thing that got me the most recognition was track,” she said. “But I was burnt out on track so I did not want to run in college and I got a package in the mail one day and it was from Eastern Illinois, a rugby package and I was like, ‘Mom, dad, I’m going to go play rugby.”
And the rest is, well, history.
If there’s any advice Doyle has for other athletes still looking to make their mark, it’s this:
“Keep with your dreams and always have fun,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing is if you’re not having fun and things get too serious, you know, you’re going to get burnt out just like I did in track.”